Service, Emotional Support Animals, and Pets: A Complete Guide

Service, Emotional Support Animals, and Pets: A Complete Guide

The Dallas/Fort Worth area is a real estate investor's dream. A strong, diversified economy and growing business environment promote high rent prices and ongoing demand for housing.

Being a landlord isn't as simple as finding a great place to invest. Landlords have many responsibilities and decisions to make, including whether to allow pets in their rental property.

When it comes to service and support animals, though, you don't always have a choice. Read on to explore the difference between these animals and garden-variety pets.

What Are Service Animals?

Service animals are trained animals, usually dogs or miniature horses, that assist people with disabilities. They carry out a range of tasks to help these people navigate daily life.

These include:

  • Helping blind people get around
  • Assisting deaf people with identifying sounds
  • Accessing things on behalf of people in wheelchairs
  • Offering support in the event of an epileptic fit

Landlords may not discriminate against people with service animals in any way. You must make reasonable accommodations for these tenants, i.e., waive your no-pet policy and pet deposit.

Defining Support Animals

The mental health benefits and emotional support pets provide are well documented, but they pale in comparison to the benefits offered by support animals.

Support animals help people with mental and psychological issues face up to their fears in daily life. They can assist with the following:

  • Overcoming phobias
  • Support in times of social anxiety
  • Boosting confidence
  • Alleviating depression
  • Calming anxiety
  • Stress management

While they're often highly trained, these animals don't perform specific actions for their owners. This means they aren't entitled to as many freedoms as service animals are.

You must still make reasonable accommodations for these animals.

You can ask the tenant for proof of ESA certification as part of your tenant screening process. In Texas, a letter from a licensed health professional is sufficient.

Therapy animals are different from support animals in that they usually perform their duties in a clinical setting. They don't belong to the patient.

What About Pets?

Allowing pets in your rental property is the landlord's choice. A pet-friendly policy has many benefits but also carries some risks.

To limit these risks, you can charge a pet deposit, limit the types of pets allowed on your property, and perform regular property inspections. The tenant is always liable for any damage caused by their pets.

You can interview the family with the pet present as part of your tenant screening process. This may help you gauge the animal's behavior before you allow them into your rental unit.

Make Good Choices for Your Texas Rental Units

In Texas, people with assistance animals, like service or support animals, enjoy widespread protection. You can't charge a pet deposit for these animals, and no-pet policies don't apply to them.

PMI Premier can help you navigate the legalities surrounding service and support animals. We are an established Dallas/Fort Worth property management company backed by a growing national franchise.

Our range of services includes property inspections, lease negotiations, and tenant screening. Let us help you make the best choices for your Texas investment property.