Understanding the legalities surrounding assistance animals, particularly in the context of housing and rental agreements, is vital for both landlords and tenants. This knowledge is crucial when discussing whether landlords in Texas can charge a pet deposit for an Emotional Support Animal (ESA).
The Law Surrounding Assistance Animals
It’s a common misconception that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to private housing issues; rather, it primarily mandates accessibility in public accommodations and is not the presiding statute for rental housing in Texas. Instead, housing providers must adhere to the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, commonly called “Section 504,” which mandate the allowance of assistance animals for individuals with disabilities.
Under the FHA, “assistance animal” is an umbrella term that encompasses both service animals (trained to perform specific tasks for a person with a disability) and emotional support animals (provide therapeutic benefits through companionship).
Can Landlords Charge Pet Deposits, Pet Rent or Other Fees?
Here’s the crux of the matter: an assistance animal is not considered a pet. Consequently, the standard pet policies set forth by a housing provider don’t apply to them. This distinction means that landlords cannot impose breed or size restrictions, nor can they require tenants to pay pet deposits or fees for their assistance animals.
However, this doesn’t provide absolute immunity against charges. Landlords retain the right to charge a tenant for any damages caused by their assistance animal. This charge can be deducted from the general security deposit, assuming a security deposit is standard practice for that landlord.
What Type of Evidence May a Landlord Request?
When a tenant requests accommodation for an assistance animal, what can a landlord legally require as proof? The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) advises that tenants should provide documentation from a reliable health care provider. This document should state the tenant’s name, specify the professional relationship, describe the type of animal, and include the following disability-related information:
- Confirmation that the tenant has a physical or mental impairment.
- A statement that the impairment substantially limits one or more major life activities.
- An assertion that the tenant requires the assistance animal.
- An explanation of the specific ways the animal helps the tenant, emphasizing that the animal is not merely a pet.
Importantly, the landlord must treat this information with confidentiality, and it’s critical to note that they cannot demand details about the diagnosis, severity of the disa