If your property normally does not allow pets, it may be tempting to deny an ESA outright, but there are multiple reasons why this may not be the best course of action. You want to avoid any legal problems that relate to the denial of these pets, so staying informed is essential.
There are several circumstances in which you can legally deny an ESA. These animals are protected by the Fair Housing Act for people with disabilities. That being said, there are certain types of rentals that are not usually covered by the Fair Housing Act, which include: owner-occupied buildings with four or fewer units, single-family housing sold or rented without the use of a broker, and housing operated by organizations and private clubs that limit occupancy to members. If your property falls under one of these categories, you are legally able to deny an ESA.
If your property doesn’t fall under one of these categories, there are two circumstances in which an owner may deny an accommodation request, according to HUD. If the ESA would either impose a fundamental alteration to the nature of the provider’s operations or impose an undue financial and administrative burden on the provider, then the provider can deny the ESA.
There is one other instance in which you can deny an ESA, and that is if another tenant who has lived there longer has severe pet allergies. In Iowa, the state’s Supreme Court set this precedent. According to the case, the resident who was first on a floor or first in a building (i.e., the first to sign the lease) is a consideration for when a tenant’s accommodation requests are incompatible with each other.
If you do have the right to deny an ESA, you can try to accommodate them in another way, if possible. For instance, you could offer a comparable apartment in another building where it would not be an issue.
When all is said and done, denying an ESA may not be your best course of action. In cases as such, it’s important to fully verify the status of an ESA. Mental health professionals will most commonly provide a letter that verifies their client’s need for an ESA. When confirming these letters, landlords can look up the mental health professional’s licensing and confirm their legal ability to practice in their state. These letters are easy to forge, though, so it’s encouraged to partner with a solution provider with experience verifying these letters through their all-in-one software platform, like OurPetPolicy.
There are countless other rules and regulations surrounding ESA approval and status confirmation, including traditional animals that serve in the role of an ESA and tiered fines for improperly denying an ESA. To learn more about the process of verifying, denying, or allowing ESAs on your property, download our latest e-book, What Landlords Need To Know About ESAs In 2023.