For the last few years, service animals have become a hot topic for landlords and professionals providing property management in Miami. There are a few things you need to know as a landlord. Please remember that I’m not an attorney, and you should always consult with your attorney on all legal matters. The laws are always changing.
Service Animals and Comfort or Support Animals
Service animals are considered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to be certified, trained animals. Examples include Seeing Eye dogs or a pet that can detect the onset of a seizure. Comfort and emotional support pets are not trained, but they are used by people who need them for things such as depression and anxiety. According to the federal Fair Housing Administration, support animals do not need to be trained, they just need to provide a service. There are some things you can and cannot do with service and support animals.
Service and Support Animals: What You Can Do
You can ask for a signed and notarized letter from a healthcare professional indicating a person’s need for the service animal. There are websites out there where people can obtain a certificate, a badge, a vest, and other documentation that doesn’t necessarily come from a doctor. If a resident presents this as documentation, don’t discount it immediately. You might run into a case where the resident has been under the care of a doctor for a long time, but they felt it was quicker and easier to get one of these. You need to do a little due diligence.
You can ask if the animal is up to date on vaccines. You can ask what type of pet it is, but no matter what the answer is, you have to allow it – even if it’s a snake. Find out the type of animal the resident needs, because if you’re doing an inspection and you find the tenant has, in addition to the service animal, other pets, that’s a different story. The service animal has to be designated, and any other animals you might find can be treated as pets.
In Miami-Dade County pit bulls are illegal but, if a pit bull is deemed to be a service animal, you must allow it.
Service and Support Animals: What You Cannot Do
You cannot ask what the disability is that your tenant has. You also cannot ask for pet fees or deposits for service animals.
Tenants with service animals still need to follow the regulations for condo associations and municipal laws and ordinances.