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Your Property and Your Tenants' Emotional Support Animal - Part 1

 Posted on May 08, 2024 in Civil law

IL real estate lawyerEmotional support animals are a relatively new phenomenon. ESAs are not service animals and do not have the same set of rights. In general, if your tenant has a qualified emotional support animal, you must allow the animal to live with the tenant. However, you can request documentation proving that your tenant has a legitimate need for the animal as verified by his or her mental health provider. You are also only required to make reasonable accommodations to allow the ESA to live on your property, meaning that if the animal is causing significant problems, you may be able to ask your tenant to remove the animal or evict him or her. A DuPage County landlord representation lawyer can help you determine what your rights are if your tenant has an ESA.

What is a Qualified ESA and What Proof Can I Require? 

Under Illinois law, an ESA is an animal that is needed by its handler to provide assistance with a mental health disorder. A licensed mental health provider must make the determination that his or her patient needs the animal for emotional support to help him or her cope with the symptoms of a diagnosed mental illness such as PTSD or depression.

Landlords can require a letter from a qualified mental health provider who is treating the tenant verifying that the animal is necessary to assist your tenant with his or her mental health. You are not entitled to know your tenant’s specific diagnosis, only that he or she has a verified mental health concern.

Unlike service animals, ESAs do not need to be trained to perform any specific task or provide any specific service other than providing comfort to the handler.

What Accommodations Must I Make for a Tenant With an ESA? 

Under the Fair Housing Act, you must allow your tenant to live with his or her ESA. This is true even if you do not allow pets in your rental units. A mental health condition can be considered a disability, and disallowing emotional support animals can be deemed unlawful discrimination. You cannot deny a tenant housing because he or she has a mental or emotional disability and relies on the assistance of a support animal.

You may also need to provide other reasonable accommodations that allow your tenant to adequately care for his or her ESA. This usually means permitting the tenant to walk an emotional support dog around the grounds - although you can require the tenant to clean up an emotional support dog’s messes. You may not, however, need to permit the animal in indoor common spaces like an apartment building’s clubhouse, pool, or gym.

Contact a Naperville, IL Landlord Representation Attorney

Appelman Law LLC is experienced in helping landlords provide reasonable accommodations to ESAs while still protecting the rights of the landlord and other tenants. DuPage County, IL landlord evictions lawyer Brett Appelman has spent his entire legal career in Illinois and is well-versed in our state’s housing laws. Contact us at 630-717-7801 for a free consultation.

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