5 Things Owners Should Know About Service Animals and Tenants Rights

In Tennessee, there is public law with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) that applies to service animals. There are some differences between Tennessee’s specific law and what falls under the ADA. When it comes to a tenant renting a home with a pet or service animal, every state has different stipulations for these laws. For Tennessee, it’s even more specific when it comes to having a service animal as a renting tenant. The laws can get complex. See some tips below to be prepared if potential tenants with a service or support animal apply.

1. There is a Difference Between Service and Support Animals

Service animals, or referred to as “guide dogs” in Tennessee and Support animals do have a lot of similarities. Both are there to provide support to humans but they have different roles. Service animals are specifically trained to perform and assist individuals who may be physically disabled, blind, deaf or hard of hearing, and are unable to perform activities such as retrieving items, guiding, or alerting them of dangers. Service animals are professionally trained and they are registered and provided with documentation.

Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) support individuals with emotional or psychiatric disabilities or conditions. They provide a sense of safety and comfort but are not professionally trained to perform specific tasks like a service animal and they do not get legal documentation. These animals are not included in the Tennessee or the ADA laws, therefore public facilities are not required to permit them on the premises. Support animals are surging in popularity and it has landlords worried.

2. Know Housing Laws About Service Animals

There are many laws that protect tenants with disabilities and landlords are required to make reasonable accommodations for them to live in a rental property. Lawmakers have determined that in most cases, assistance animals are not outside the definition of reasonable accommodations for disabilities. Housing facilities must allow all service dogs and emotional support animals necessary for the tenant to be considered, and to reside in the property, according to the federal Fair Housing Act.

3. What Documentation Can an Owner Ask For?

The biggest worry for landlords and owners is that tenants may try to pass a pet off as a service or support animal. How can you know for sure? Certain documentation can help you decipher. You may ask for a letter from their mental health professionals like a psychiatrist or therapist. There are a number of ways to verify this once you receive the information. You can also ask for the animal’s medical records or a confirmed statement from a family member or caretaker.

For service animals, you may ask for proof of the role they play, but the ADA orders that you may not ask for their certification. There are certain questions you must refrain from asking as well.

We are experts in dealing with tenants and their pets. We know what information to ask for and how to properly verify service animal status.

4. The Costs of Services Animals

With pets, most landlords require an animal fee or a non-refundable. For service or support animals, a landlord may not charge upfront or extra fees. If there is any property damage, a landlord can charge tenant fees for anything that may have been caused by the animal.

At Meridian Property Management, we build this into our pricing model. We have some of the best cleaners and home service vendors to keep our properties looking their best. As an experienced property management company, we can save our homeowners a lot of money when it comes to dealing with service animals and pets.

5. Property Managers offer Protection

Hiring a property management company can do more than just save homeowners money. They also can protect homeowners. There are many laws regarding housing, service animals, people with disabilities and general home accessibilities. It is easy for a homeowner to get caught up with legal issues if they are unfamiliar with state laws and tenant rights. We take that worry away for our clients. We understand local housing laws and protect our clients.

Give our office a call! We are happy to walk through the steps and provide you with more information.