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Orlando Landlord FAQ: Emotional Support Animal Pet Fees, Evictions and More

Orlando Landlord FAQ: Emotional Support Animal Pet Fees, Evictions and More

Emotional support animals (ESA) are becoming more prevalent. That's because 74% of pet owners said their pet improved their mental health. But ESAs are even more complex for landlords with strict pet rules — you can't deny a tenant because they have an ESA.

While the ADA doesn't cover ESAs, the FHA considers an ESA a medical tool essential for tenants. These laws extend to the state of Florida.

As a landlord, you may have more questions about ESAs and your property — especially if you prohibit pets. Read our emotional support animal FAQs so you can understand a tenant's needs and your rights.

What Do Florida Housing Laws Say About ESAs?

In 2021, Florida released a new statute for discrimination and treatment of tenants. Included in this law is a section on individuals who require an emotional support animal. This law prohibits discrimination against those who need a pet due to a disability or have a certified emotional support animal.

The reason why is the ESA isn't your average pet. The animal provides therapeutic emotional support for the owner. The owner needs a special prescription and certification for the animal. That means the owner may have a specific mental health disorder, such as anxiety, PTSD, and depression.

Dogs and cats are the most common ESAs, though the owner may choose another animal such as a pig, ferret, monkey, or even a horse.

What's the Difference Between an ESA vs. a Service Animal?

A service animal is one that requires special training to help the owner perform certain tasks, work, and provide other assistance.

These animals are protected under the ADA. They require accommodations and are allowed to be in public places. Most service animals are dogs since dogs have the strength and discipline to carry out these tasks. Landlords can't prohibit tenants who have a service dog.

How Do I Check the Verification of an ESA?

Landlords can't deny a tenant with an ESA but you should still check the validity of their certification. Any of these bodies can prescribe an ESA:

  • A doctor or other medical professional
  • Non-medical service agency
  • AA or another support group
  • Caregiver or other third-party

Don't ask the tenant why they have an ESA. Instead, ask where they received the certification. Reach out to that body with a written request.

If a tenant has a service dog, the dog needs to wear a special vest. Do not ask your tenant what their disability is and why they need a service dog. You can verify the animal on the US Service Animal Registrar.

Can I Still Charge a Pet Deposit?

No. Under the FHA and ADA, the individual must keep the emotional support animal in their dwelling because of a medical need. This means you can't charge any fees for the animal, including a pet deposit. In addition, you can't require the tenant to carry proof of pet insurance.

What About Evictions and a Tenant With an ESA?

You can't evict a tenant because you don't want their ESA on your property. However, you can evict the tenant if they lied about their animal's certification and/or their disability. You can also evict the tenant if their animal is aggressive or if anyone else living in the dwelling has a pet allergy.

Handle an Emotional Support Animal as a Landlord

After reading this emotional support animal FAQ guide, you may realize you need more help managing your property. We're a property management company based in Orlando. Take a look at our services and see how we can help.