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The Difference Between Service, Emotional Support Animals and Pets: A Guide for Salt Lake City Landlords

The Difference Between Service, Emotional Support Animals and Pets: A Guide for Salt Lake City Landlords

You've given our real estate investment strategy a try and found a great rental property in Salt Lake City. Now, you're wondering what tenant rights are when it comes to animals.

Generally speaking, landlords are entitled to develop a pet policy however they see fit. On one end of the spectrum, they may not allow pets of any kind. On the other end, they may allow pets as long as tenants pay a set fee.

How do service and emotional support animals fit into the picture? This is an important question to ask before you start screening applicants. Read on to learn the key differences between assistance animals and pets.

What Does the Law Say About Service and Support Animals?

Regardless of how strict your pet policy may be, you can't discriminate against tenants with service or support animals.

These working animals (typically dogs) and their handlers are protected by the Fair Housing Act, which applies to tenants and landlords across the country.

You also can't charge pet fees for service or emotional support animals. It's useful to remember that assistance animals perform a specific function for their handlers, and aren't considered pets under federal housing laws.

What Questions Can You Ask About Assistance Animals?

An applicant with an assistance animal should disclose that information during the screening process.

You do have the right to ask for documentation proving that the animal provides assistance or therapeutic support. This may come in the form of a letter from a doctor or therapist, though this isn't always the case.

You can't ask any further questions about the applicant or tenant's disability. Many disabilities aren't immediately visible or noticeable. Asking what disability a tenant has (or for proof of their disability) is a form of discrimination.

Should You Allow Pets in Your Rental Property?

Last year, news outlets were ablaze with the story that more Salt Lake City households have dogs than children. Some even went as far as dubbing the town Bark Lake City!

What should this tell you as a landlord? Offering a more relaxed pet policy will give you a larger pool of applicants to choose from. It may also encourage lease renewals because pet-friendly rentals aren't always easy to come by.

How can you protect your investment and still allow pets? One option is to limit the number or type of pets tenants can have. Another is to charge a non-refundable pet fee to account for potential damage a pet can cause.

Get More Landlord Advice from Utah Property Solutions

As a Salt Lake City landlord, you have the right to set your own pet policy. However, service and emotional support animals don't fall under the same parameters. No matter how strict your pet policy is, you can't discriminate against tenants with assistance animals.

Are landlord and tenant rights more complicated than you expected? Utah Property Solutions is a veteran-owned property management company that can help you achieve legal compliance and a passive income. Contact us today to learn more about our services.