As a real estate agent, you’re probably no stranger to the occasional oddity. But some requests—like emotional support animals (ESAs)—can be particularly tricky to navigate. Here are three things as a real estate agent you need to know in order to protect yourself and your clients when it comes to ESAs.
First, let’s discuss what is an emotional support animal and its rights under the law. There are many people who need assistance with tasks such as anxiety, depression, or other mental illnesses; these individuals may be able to relieve their symptoms by using a companion animal like cats or dogs that can provide physical contact without causing any harm (Emotional Support Animals). Instead of taking medication to alleviate a symptom, an ESA can be utilized. These animals receive protection under the Fair Housing Act, a federal law that protects renters or buyers from discrimination in housing. The law covers 7 federal protections, while some local states, counties, or cities may have additional coverage. The federal law covers discrimination against:
- National Origin
- Familial Status
The ESA falls under the Disability category.
Secondly, the person must have a disability. ESA’s fall under the Assistance Animal category. An assistance animal in the Emotional Support Animal category provides emotional support that alleviates one or more identified effects of a person’s disability. There are many disabilities that fall under the Fair Housing Act’s protection, and some are obvious, and some aren’t. For instance, if the person is restricted to using a wheelchair, that’s obvious to the eye. If a person has an intellectual impairment, such as autism, that might not be so obvious.
Third, we must understand reasonable accommodations. When a buyer or tenant has a disability, we must provide a reasonable accommodation, or modification, based on the disability. For an emotional support animal, it would mean we would allow the animal. Even if there is a no pet policy, the animal is not considered a pet and therefore an assistance animal for their disability, meaning the animal is allowed.
I literally could go on for hours and hours regarding this topic. As many of you know, this subject is very close to my heart. I have taught countless hours on the subject and even traveled to Washington DC to meet with HUD representatives. Since there’s so much more to talk about, and not enough time, you might want to check out my ebook on Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals. It provides more in-depth information. You might also check out HUD’s Guidance issued a few years ago.
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Until next time…