Support Animals & Rental Properties: A Guide for Landlords in New Bedford, Massachusetts

Support Animals & Rental Properties: A Guide for Landlords in New Bedford, Massachusetts

State and federal laws prohibit discrimination in rental housing by property owners, landlords, and managers. As a New Bedford, Massachusetts, landlord, it's essential to follow the laws to avoid legal issues and fees.

Understanding Fair Housing laws is a great way to do this. But, what do the laws say about support animals and rental properties? Keep reading to find out.

Fair Housing Laws

In New Bedford, Massachusetts, the Fair Housing Act protects tenants with emotional support animals (ESAs). The specific law outlines rules related to assistance animals, which includes service animals and ESAs.

Landlords have the right to request an ESA letter when an applicant requests accommodations for their service animal. A verified letter is written and signed by a mental health professional.

Landlords are limited to how and what they can ask of an applicant. They are only permitted to ask these questions:

  • Does the person seeking to use and live with the animal have a disability?
  • Does the person making the request have a disability-related need for an assistance animal?

You are allowed to ask these questions when the disability is not obvious. You can also request proof of animal vaccinations.

There are additional guidelines related to assistance animals that landlords must follow.

Emotional Support Animal Laws and Guidelines

To stay compliant with disability rights, landlords cannot place weight, size, or breed limitations on assistance animals. Dogs are common disability animals, but they are not the only type of assistance animal.

The decision to accept an applicant with an ESA must be based on objective evidence of the conduct of the animal. You cannot speculate that the animal will cause damage or harm.

Even with these rights, you can still expect the tenant and the ESA to conform to the property rules, which may include:

  • Picking up animal waste
  • Maintaining the unit
  • Keeping animals leashed in communal areas

Most importantly, you cannot ask for pet deposits or pet fees for assistance animals. This means you can't increase the security deposit amount for pets either.

Legitimate ESA Letter

To obtain housing rights for an emotional support animal, tenants must present you with an ESA letter. This is the only requirement by law.

You cannot ask for any training, licenses, or certifications. You also can't require that the assistance animal wear a special vest, harness, emblem, collar, or other means of identification.

The letter must be valid and legitimate. Make sure the tenant's letter is issued by a psychiatrist, doctor, or therapist. A full-service property management company can help you identify a valid letter.

Should You Allow Support Animals in Your Rentals?

It's required by law in Massachusetts to allow support animals in your rentals. You do have some rights as a landlord. For instance, tenants must still abide by property rules.

It's important to stay up to date on Fair Housing laws in the area to stay compliant with ESA regulations and other laws about owning a rental.

If you don't have time to handle the ins and outs of property management, hire us! PMI Spruce Tree is a full-service property management company with years of local industry experience.

Contact us today to learn more about staying compliant as a landlord.