Emotional Support Animals And Landlord Rights in California

Dogs are the most frequent ESA

A growing awareness

As American society becomes more aware of the prevalence of mental health issues, new treatment options to alleviate those ailments have appeared. Many are pharmaceutical, but some treatments rely on adding elements to the patient’s daily life experience. 

Emotional Support Animals (ESA) are an example of non-pharmaceutical treatment for mental health conditions. 

ESAs are different from other support animals

ESA are animals that provide emotional, cognitive, or other types of support to a person with a disability. Users employ mostly dogs as ESA, but can also opt for other animals. 

ESAs are different from service, signal, and guide dogs. Those animals get training to help persons with mostly motion, hearing, or visual disabilities overcome those impairments. An ESA does not have any training, as it is only with their companionship that they help patients. 

ESAs and “no pets” policies

But what if a user of ESA wants to rent a unit with a strict “No pets” policy? Does he or she need to disclose the ESA before signing the lease? What documentation does the tenant need to provide to show the need for an ESA living in the unit?

Renters who use ESA are protected by the federal Fair Housing Act. In California, tenants need to provide a letter from a licensed medical professional stating that the ESA is part of the treatment for a qualifying mental condition. How much information is required to disclose is a tenant’s decision. The medical health professional needs at least 30 days of a client-provider relationship with the patient to issue a valid letter. 

Mental health professionals are involved

Once the tenant shows a letter to the landlord, the owner must accept the animal into the rented property. The landlord can not ask for a pet deposit, as the ESA is not classified as “pet”. The law requires landlords to make reasonable accommodations for this situation. Those accommodations include waiving or changing policies, fares, and charges. 

The ESA user must ensure that the animal is well-behaved and controlled and does not affect the rights of other property users and neighbors. 

The Cal Agents team

At The Cal Agents, we understand that animals are an increased risk when renting your property. And we also want your lease and tenant-landlord relationship to be within the law. If you have any questions regarding ESA and the rights of your current or prospective tenants, let us know so we can guide you through the process. We are here to help you get the most value from your property, with the least amount of risk and hassle.  

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