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Emotional Support Animal Laws: Regulations on Allowing Service Animals in San Diego Rental Properties

An emotional support dog, service animal, or assistance animal mean different things, but they are all protected by law. For the sake of this conversation, I use the term assistance, service, and emotional support animal interchangeably. The most important thing you need to know is that they are not pets. These are animals that work. They provide emotional or additional assistance to people with disabilities.

DISCLAIMER: Please check with your attorney regarding all matters pertaining to assistance animals. My advice is general in nature and should not be relied upon without checking with your attorney.

Laws Regarding Service Dogs and Other Support Animals

Property managers and landlords need to allow for reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities. Under the law, these accommodations include service or emotional support animals. You have to allow them even if you have a no-pet policy. You cannot charge extra pet rent or a pet deposit or extra cleaning fees. You must rent to these tenants with the same terms as other tenants.

Assistance Animal Letter

When the disability is obvious, you may not ask for proof of need for an assistance animal. For example, if an applicant comes with a Seeing Eye dog, the disability is apparent. You cannot ask for anything from the tenant. You have to allow the animal and process the application. But, if the tenant’s disability is not apparent, and they say they need an assistance animal, you can ask for a letter from a qualified professional saying they require a service or emotional support animal. There are some online companies that will print out a service animal badge for any tenant who is willing to pay for it. Those are scams. You can require an actual letter from professional verifying the need.

California Service Dog Laws: Denying an Animal

You can deny a support animal request for a couple of reasons. First, you can say no if it poses a direct threat to the health and safety of others. Second, you can say no if it would cause substantial damage to the property of others. We have never used either of those reasons, and I encourage you not to without strong reason. Disability complaints are the most common complaints that the fair housing office gets. If you’re seen as denying a fair accommodation for someone who needs a service animal, you could face very stiff monetary penalties. So, be careful. You generally cannot reject a service or support animal based on breed, size, or weight.

Service Animal Regulations

What if you do an inspection, and you find your tenant has a pet but there are no pets listed on the application? The tenant might tell you it’s an emotional support animal. California law says the tenants are not required to disclose their need for an assistance animal. You can request that letter any time, so if this should happen, ask for the letter from a qualified professional. You can and should do your due diligence to verify the letter if you think it may be fake.

Remember that this is general information we’re providing based on our experience. Please check with your attorney regarding your specific circumstances.

If we can help you with anything regarding emotional support animal laws, please contact us at Good Life Property Management.

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Hi there, Steve Welty, broker/owner at Good Life Property Management, here to give you some information on service and emotional support animals that you need when managing your property. So, emotional support animals, service animals, assistant animals, they’re different but for the sake of this topic, we’re going to call them the same thing. They’re not pets, first off. They’rean animal that works, provides assistance or emotional support for someone with a disability. So property managers and landlords need to allow for what’s called a reasonable accommodation for people with disabilities, that includes allowing service animals or emotional support animals, even if your property might have a no pet policy. You cannot charge an extra pet rent, you cannot charge an extra deposit, extra cleaning fee, you must rent to them at the same terms. Now, if the applicant comes in and has a seeing eye dog, and obviously the disability is apparent, you cannot ask for anything. You need to just allow the pet and process your application just like anyone else. Now, if their disability is not apparent and someone says they have a service dog on their application, you can ask for a letter from a qualified professional verifying that they require a service or emotional support animal.There are some companies that tenants can go online and get a service animal badge and just pay ten bucks and it just prints online, those companies are scams, so those don’t fly. You can require an actual letter from a medical professional that verifies their need for an assistant animal. Now, there are a couple reasons you could deny. One is if it posed a direct threat to the health and safety of others. And two is if it would cause substantial damage to the property of others. Now, we never used either of those at Good Life and I would encourage you to never use either of those because disability complaints is the number one complaints Fair Housing gets, and so if you’re seen as denying a reasonable accommodation for someone with a legitimate service animal, then you could face very, very stiff monetary penalties. So, be very careful of that. And you cannot reject a service animal or assistant animal just because of the breed, size or weight, so it’s very important. Now, what if you do an inspection and you find your tenant has a pet and there’s no pet listed on the application and then your tenant tells you ‘well it’s an emotional support animal’? Now, first, California law states that a tenant is not required to disclose if they need an assistant animal upfront. So, you can request that letter anytime. So, if that happens, ask the tenant for the letter from a qualified professional. You can and should do your due diligence by getting the letter that verifies that they require it, but you cannot ask what their disability is, you cannot keep poking around all sorts of questions. Your only question to ask: ‘let me see the letter’. Once you get the letter, you can do your due diligence. If you feel the letter’s fake, you can go a little deeper and try to make sure it’s a legitimate letter. But as long as they have the letter, you need to allow them reasonable accommodation and not charge any extra pet rent or deposit. If we can help you with anything regarding this matter or if you have additional questions, let us know! Appreciate you watching, and make it a great day!