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Property Management | Landlord Education Blog

Difference Between Service, Emotional Support Animals and Pets

Difference Between Service, Emotional Support Animals and Pets

Pets are animals people keep for companionship, pleasure, or some other reason unrelated to a disability.

When it comes to tenancy, pets are governed by a landlord's pet policy. As such, landlords can charge pet rent, deposits, and fees to tenants keeping dogs, cats, and other animals on the property.

Service and support animals are different. Learn why in this guide.

What Are Emotional Support Animals?

Emotional support animals or assistance animals help alleviate the symptoms of a physical or mental disability. However, they are not the same as service animals.

Individuals with disabilities must receive a prescription for an emotional support animal. People commonly have emotional support dogs, though cats and other animals can also qualify.

Landlords can't refuse tenants with assistance animals, and they can't charge pet rent, deposits, or fees for them either. However, you can legally request valid documentation to verify the validity of the tenant's animal.

What Are Service Animals?

Service animals help people with physical and mental disabilities perform tasks needed to go about their daily lives. These animals are specially trained to work with people who are blind, deaf, or suffer from certain health conditions.

The only types of animals that can be service animals are dogs or, rarely, miniature horses.

These animals enjoy many of the same tenancy benefits as support animals. Additionally, applications refused tenancy on the basis of their service animal can request a reasonable accommodation, and landlords must then comply.

Emotional Support Animals vs. Service Animals vs. Pets

Understanding the difference between emotional support and service animals and pets is crucial. Landlords can't apply the same pet policies to owners of these types of animals.

Landlords Can't Refuse Tenants With Support or Service Animals

Landlords do not have to accept pets on their properties in Virginia. They can enforce no-pet policies and charge tenants fees for violating these policies. Support and service animals are different.

As long as the tenant has valid documentation, a landlord can't refuse tenancy on the basis of their service or support animal alone.

Property Rules Apply to Pets and Service or Support Animals

Pets, service animals, and emotional support animals must abide by the rules set forward by the property. This includes that the animal is not a threat to others or the property and that they must follow leashing rules.

The only rule landlords can't apply for service or assistance animals is the breed restriction rule required for other pets.

Landlords Can Ask Tenants to Remove Pets and Service or Support Animals

Landlords can't ban service or assistance animals that have the proper documentation. However, pets, service animals, and support animals are treated the same when it comes to removing them from the property.

If any tenant does not abide by the community's pet rules or the state's assistance animal rules, landlords can legally evict the pet.

Does Your Pet-Friendly Rental Need Help Navigating These Laws?

Landlords must distinguish between pets, assistance animals, and service animals. The latter two have special privileges under the Fair Housing Act. Understanding them is crucial for protecting your property from lawsuits.

Do you need help navigating Virginia's laws around service and support animals? RentersWarehouse Hampton Roads offers expert advice for landlords like you. Contact us to learn more about our property management services.