Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Service Animals and Housing in Florida

Service Animals and Housing in Florida
Your question about Florida service animal policies~

Florida laws prohibit discriminating against service animals. Service animals are defined as an animal that is trained to perform tasks for an individual with a disability.

An emotional support animal is a companion animal that provides a therapeutic benefit to its owner through companionship but is not trained to perform a specific task.

Under the Federal Fair Housing Act. the law provides that property owners require reasonable accommodations for both service animals and emotional support animals. Landlords (and homeowners/condo associations) are unable to dictate no pet policies as landlords are required to accept service and emotional support animals. 

The FL statutes state, "An individual with a disability is entitled to rent, lease, or purchase, as other members of the general public, any housing accommodations offered for rent, lease, or other compensation in this state, subject to the conditions and limitations established by law and applicable alike to all persons." 

What you can require:
-Statement from a medical professional documenting a disability (the disability does not need to be disclosed)
-Tenant to pay any damages animal may cause
-Current vaccination records
-Animal insurance

What you cannot require:
-Animal application fee
-Animal deposit (refundable or nonrefundable)
-Animal or pet rent

Most surprisingly to landlords, you can not place breed or size restrictions on service animals.  This applies even when a homeowners association dictates "no pets for tenants" and when property owners have severe allergies to animal dander.

As service animals increase in popularity, several online websites have begun offering emotional support certificates for animals.  These certificates often come with a service animal vest and claim to add your animal to the "Service Dog Registry."  These certificates cost around $100 and are not legitimate documentation for a service animal. 

We have seen several pet owners with aggressive breed dogs trying to use online support animal certificates to bypass breed restrictions and increased pet fees. As more people try to use the internet to certify their dogs as service animals, it takes away from the real mission and purpose of service animals and emotional support animals.

Service animal policies are regulated by the Americans with Disability Act, Fair Housing, and your states local statutes.  Specific laws apply to public accommodations and housing. You can read Florida's statutes regarding service animals and housing here.

The Fair Housing Act applies to the sale and rental of most single family housing including apartments, condos and homes with a few exceptions.

Of course, I'm not an attorney, so please do not consider this legal advice and consult your attorney or the ADA with any further questions! Call their ADA Information line at 800-514-0301 (Voice) and 800-514-0383 (TTY).

Thanks and have a great day,
Nicole St. Aubin, Broker Associate
Realty Masters of FL~ #1 in Pensacola Rentals!
4400 Bayou Blvd. #58B, Pensacola, FL 32503
Call us at (850) 473-3983

Over 45 Pensacola Rental Homes at www.PensacolaRealtyMasters.com

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