If you are a Virginia Beach renter and have a service or emotional support animal, you must know your rights. Various renters are unaware that, despite the property owner’s rules, they can keep a service or emotional support animal in their rental homes. This blog post will address the laws that protect renters who own service or emotional support animals. We will also deliver tips on communicating with your property owner if there is an issue with keeping your service or emotional support animal in your home.
What is a service or emotional support animal, and what rights do you have under the law?
Service animals are defined as animals trained to perform tasks for individuals with disabilities. These duties can include but are not limited to guiding people who are blind, bringing awareness to people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, alerting and shielding a person who is having a seizure, or comforting a person with post-traumatic stress disorder.
An emotional support animal doesn’t have to be trained to perform a specific service to provide benefits to its owners. Multiple companion animals can qualify as emotional support animals if you give a letter from your medical provider or therapist that certifies you need the animal.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), service animals are authorized in public places, including rental homes. Emotional support animals are not protected under the ADA but are allowed in rental homes, even if a landlord has a “no pet” policy. Service and emotional support animals are not recognized as pets under the law, and therefore, property owners cannot charge pet fees or deposits for them.
How to handle deposits, fees, and other costs associated with having a service or emotional support animal.
You are not compelled to pay any pet fees or deposits if you have a service or emotional support animal. Yet, you may be held accountable for damages caused by your animal. For example, if your animal chews on furniture or urinates on the flooring, or if you refuse to remove the animal’s waste, you will certainly be charged for those repairs. Before signing a lease, it is critical to have a conversation with your property owner about your service or emotional support animal. This can help lessen misunderstandings about your rights and responsibilities as a renter.
Some landlords may ask that you show proof of insurance for your service or emotional support animal. This is not required by law, but it is something you should be prepared to handle with your Virginia Beach property manager.
What to do if your landlord tries to evict you for having a service or emotional support animal.
Assume your landlord is seeking to evict you (or refuses to rent to you) for having a service or emotional support animal. Due to that, you may have grounds to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The department’s Civil Rights Division enforces the Fair Housing Act, which precludes discrimination in housing based on disability.
You can also file a complaint with your state’s attorney general’s office or the human rights commission. These agencies can verify your complaint and take legal action against your landlord if they see that you have been discriminated against.
If you are encountering eviction due to your service or emotional support animal, you should seek legal help as soon as possible. An experienced attorney can assist you in recognizing your rights and options under the law.
Resources for further information on renters’ rights and service or emotional support animals.
For more information on your rights as a renter, you can visit the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HUD enforces the Fair Housing Act and can investigate complaints of discrimination in housing.
You can also access additional information on service and emotional support animals at the ADA National Network website. The ADA National Network is a tool to gather information and technical emotional support on the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Recognizing your rights will help you, and your service or emotional support animal live comfortably in your rental property. But if your landlord is trying to meddle with your rights, it might be time to move to a place managed by professionals who know and follow the law. Browse our listings for service animal-friendly rental homes in your area.
We are pledged to the letter and spirit of U.S. policy for the achievement of equal housing opportunity throughout the Nation. See Equal Housing Opportunity Statement for more information.