Can A Landlord Refuse A Service Or Emotional Support Dog?

For landlords that prefer not to rent to tenants with pets, a tenant with an emotional support dog may not be ideal. However, you cannot discriminate against these individuals and should be accommodating to their needs. That being said, there are some instances where you can refuse a service or emotional support dog. We’ll tell you everything you need to know.

What is a service or emotional support dog?

An emotional support dog offers assistance to people with mental or physical disabilities. Their companionship can comfort individuals during distress and help ease pain. Emotional support dogs do exactly that - they provide an emotional benefit to their owners. It’s been found that emotional support dogs can lower anxiety and feelings of loneliness and improve the physical health of their owners.

Although service dogs can also provide emotional support, they typically bring physical benefits. For example, a guide dog can help its blind owner carry out everyday tasks, whilst a seizure alert dog is an essential companion for those at risk of seizures. 

These animals aren’t considered pets. Instead, they are viewed as a medical tool. Due to this medical standpoint, tenants with a service or emotional support dog can get around a no-pets policy in your property.

What to do if your tenant requests an emotional support dog

When your tenant requests an emotional support dog, you’re allowed to verify the function of the animal. Any healthcare professional such as a doctor or therapist can complete this check. They should confirm the tenants’ disability and identify how the emotional support dog alleviates their symptoms. The following questions should be answered:

  • Does the tenant have a disability?
  • Does the animal assist with the disability?
  • Is the request reasonable? 

A disability limits major life activities and can be mental or physical. Major life activities include seeing, hearing, walking, learning and taking care of yourself. Although you can ask for proof that the tenant qualifies as disabled, they don’t have to reveal this.

Next, the doctor should confirm that the support dog helps the tenant perform these life activities. This can include both physical and mental assistance. 

Finally, is the request reasonable? If the tenant qualifies for the previous two criteria, their request is reasonable, and you should accommodate them.

Even if you have a no-pets policy, you cannot discriminate against a tenant with a service or emotional support dog. Remember, they aren’t considered pets. As a landlord, you should try your best to make adjustments to your property to accommodate a support animal.

When can a landlord legally reject an emotional support dog?

Although landlords are expected to accept an emotional support dog, there are a few instances where you can reject them. These situations include:

  • The animal is too large for the property size - e.g. you may reject a horse from a studio apartment
  • If the building has four units or less, and the landlord lives in one of those units
  • The property is a single-family house that was rented without an estate agent and the owner owns less than 3 single-family homes
  • If making accommodations for the animal results in undue financial hardship to the landlord
  • If the animal causes damage or harm to others in the building
  • If the tenant doesn’t meet the landlord’s qualifying standards that are in place for all tenants.

What to do if the emotional support dog becomes disruptive

At the end of the day, emotional support dogs are animals, so they can still cause disruption. Whether it’s excessive barking or scaring other residents in the building, you may need to intervene. For example, you may request that the support dog has training to calm their temperament. It’s only fair for you to give the animal a chance, so you shouldn’t rush into evicting the tenant purely based on minor disruption.

The actions you can take with emotional support dogs are similar to those with pets. To protect yourself in the event of property damage from pets, you can take a larger deposit, as there is a higher risk of property damage. As well as this, your property may require professional cleaning a the end of the tenancy due to pet fouling and odours. The costs of this, in addition to the higher tenancy deposit, should be clearly stated in the tenancy agreement

Get protected with landlord insurance

Figuring out how to respond to a request for an emotional support dog is one thing, but landlords have many more circumstances to tackle. Do you feel prepared for events such as fire, theft or loss of rent? If your answer is no, you may want to consider landlord insurance. With CIA Landlords, you can compare landlord insurance to find the best quote for your needs. Just give us a call on 01788 818 670 or get a quote now.