Here in Texas, you do not have to allow pets in your property, and there is no limit on the deposit you can charge someone moving in with a pet. At Austin Landmark, we restrict size and breed when it comes to pets. Most of our properties do accept pets and we encourage landlords to accept pets unless there are circumstances like you’re terribly allergic to cats and you might move back into the property one day. Some natural hardwood floors are also very susceptible to dogs and cats. And, some landlords have had terrible experiences and don’t want pets. So there are times when we do say no to pets.
You should always charge a pet deposit. We charge $300 per pet, and it’s refundable. Today, however, we aren’t talking about pets. We are talking about service animals and emotional support animals. These are covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act. It’s a federal law that you have to allow service animals and emotional support animals when required.
Federal Law and Accommodations
You have to make reasonable accommodations, which means you have to allow service and emotional support animals, and you cannot charge any extra deposits or fees when you allow these animals. You can charge for damage after they move out, but you cannot disallow them in any way, and you cannot charge any kinds of fees. This is my best understanding of our requirements and rules. I’ve attended workshops and classes, but I’m not an attorney.
Service Animal Housing Laws
A service animal is defined as a dog or a small horse trained to help a disabled person with a specific disability. In these circumstances, where someone says they have a service animal, we can ask for proof of that animal’s training. We do ask for the animal’s certificate to show it is trained to assist with a specific disability. All service animals have been trained and have this paperwork. We do not create a pet agreement because it’s actually an occupant, not a pet.
Emotional Support Animal Landlord
A lot of people get confused with emotional support animals. This is any animal that a health professional has determined is beneficial for an individual with a health problem or emotional setback. You can ask for a letter from the tenant’s health professional. There are some websites where people can get these certificates easily, and we do our best to vet those. We want a letter from a health professional saying the animal qualifies as an emotional support animal. Once it’s deemed an emotional support animal, the requirements are the same as with service animals; you cannot have a pet agreement, a pet fee, or a deposit.
Some people have reactions to this because they don’t want to have animals in their properties. However, it’s a federal law and you have to allow it. Know where you are required to act. If you have any questions about service animal housing laws or property management in Austin, TX, please contact us at Austin Landmark Property Services.