Service Animals, Companion Animals, and Pets | A Guide for Atlanta Landlords

Service Animals, Companion Animals, and Pets | A Guide for Atlanta Landlords

Pets have always been popular with Atlanta tenants. Over the last few years, more than half of the rental households across the country have been home to at least one dog or cat. 

Since the pandemic, pet ownership has increased. More and more people began bringing home pets in order to make their time at home more pleasant and less lonely. 

A lot of the tenants looking for homes in Atlanta have pets. If you want to increase what you earn and reduce your vacancy time, you’ll allow pets. But, you don’t have to. It’s your right as a rental property owner to decide whether or not you’ll provide a pet-friendly property. 

This is not true when we’re talking about service animals and companion animals. Those animals are legally considered accommodations for people with disabilities - not pets. 

We know this can be confusing. Can you charge a pet deposit or fee when someone moves in with a service animal? Can you ask for documentation to prove they have a disability? 

We’re covering all of these questions in today’s blog.

Pets in Atlanta Rental Homes

There is not a single law that requires you to allow pets. It’s a good idea if you want to rent your property quickly and earn extra income on pet fees and pet rent. But, if you absolutely do not want to allow pets in your rental home, you don’t have to. 

Federal Laws: The Fair Housing Act and the ADA

The Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act speak to service animals and companion animals. 

Both of these laws protect people with physical, emotional, and intellectual disabilities against discrimination. According to these laws, you cannot deny a tenant the use of a service animal or a companion animal, which is most frequently an emotional support animal or a therapy animal. 

When you allow pets in your property, you can charge a pet deposit or a pet fee. You can also charge extra rent every month and call it pet rent. These additional charges are not permitted when your tenant has a service or companion animal.

Service Animals vs. Companion Animals: What’s the Difference? 

Service AnimalsService animals are trained to help a person do a specific task. When your Atlanta tenant needs a service animal for a physical or intellectual disability, it’s usually obvious what that animal is needed for, and therefore you can’t ask for details or specifics. You wouldn’t ask a blind person why they need a Seeing Eye Dog.  

Companion animals are not trained or certified in any way, but they do support and comfort the person who owns them, and they’re acquired at the direction of a healthcare professional. You can ask for documentation if the disability is not immediately apparent and your tenant is requesting an emotional support animal or a companion animal.

Understanding how pets are different from service and support animals is not always easy. Fair housing laws are always changing and it’s important to stay up to date on the latest when it comes to pets and service or companion animals. If you’re struggling to wrap your head around these issues, please contact us at Clients 1st Property Management Specialists. We can help you stay compliant and/or put together a great pet policy to protect your property against the damage animals can do.

The Clients 1st Team brings you decades of combined real estate industry experience and over 30+ years of experience in property management in metro-Atlanta and the surrounding areas. Our award-winning team provides quality, reliable services for our homeowners, buyers, sellers, tenants and investors.

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