ESA Rental Property Pet Limit

Do ESA Pets Count Against Pet Limits on a Rental Property?

In the sometimes controversial world of property management, especially here in Philadelphia, we often navigate complex scenarios that require a nuanced understanding of both legal obligations and ethical considerations. A question from Morgan, featured in a recent episode of the Grow Real Estate Investing Podcast, brought to light a particularly challenging situation that many property managers and landlords may face: How do we handle a rental application from someone with two dogs and two cats, especially when two of the pets are Emotional Support Animals (ESAs)?

Understanding Emotional Support Animals (ESAs)

Firstly, it's crucial to understand what ESAs represent. Unlike pets, ESAs are certified animals that provide emotional support to individuals with mental or emotional disabilities. The distinction here is important because ESAs are not considered pets under the Fair Housing Act. This means that, as a property manager or landlord, you're required to accommodate ESAs, regardless of pet policies that may otherwise limit the number or type of animals allowed in a rental property.

Navigating Rental Property Pet Limits with ESAs

In the scenario Morgan presented, a potential tenant applies to a rental property that has a clear policy of a two-pet limit. However, the applicant has two dogs that are certified ESAs and two cats that are pets. The key point here is that the ESAs must be excluded from the pet count due to their status. Therefore, in this specific instance, the two ESAs are not subject to the property's pet limit policy. This leaves the two cats, which fall within the established two-pet limit, making the application compliant with the property's rules.

Our Approach as a Philadelphia Property Management Company

As a leading Philadelphia property management company, our approach to situations like these is guided by a commitment to uphold not only the law but also to ensure fairness and accommodation for all tenants, including those with ESAs. Here's how we navigate these challenges:

  • Education and Awareness: We ensure that our team is well-informed about the rights of tenants with ESAs and the legal distinctions between pets and ESAs.
  • Clear Policies and Communication: Our lease agreements and property policies clearly outline the treatment of ESAs, ensuring transparency and understanding among all parties.
  • Compassionate Consideration: We handle each application on a case-by-case basis, recognizing the unique needs of potential tenants while balancing the interests of property owners.

Conclusion: Balancing Legal Requirements with Property Policies

Handling rental applications involving ESAs, especially in cases where pet limits are in place, illustrates the complexity of property management. It requires a delicate balance between adhering to legal requirements and maintaining the integrity of property policies. In Philadelphia, a city known for its diverse rental market and inclusive community values, we strive to navigate these situations with empathy, legality, and a deep understanding of our responsibilities as property managers.

To our fellow property managers, landlords, and tenants, remember that situations involving ESAs are opportunities to demonstrate compassion, understanding, and respect for the laws that protect individuals with disabilities. Whether you're managing a single rental property or a large portfolio, it's essential to stay informed, be proactive in your approach to property management, and always seek to uphold the principles of fairness and accommodation.

Navigating the legal landscape of ESAs and rental properties may not always feel straightforward, but with the right knowledge and approach, it's possible to create a welcoming and inclusive environment for all tenants, ensuring a positive and compliant rental experience in the City of Brotherly Love.


Joe White

Joe White is a Philadelphia Property Manager and Real Estate Broker. He is the owner of Grow Property Management and has been involved in the management, sales and purchases of Philadelphia area rental investment properties since 2008. He is an author and works as a real estate investment consultant and construction manager.

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