The landscape for service animals has recently changed, especially concerning online certificates. As of July 1, 2020, laws have tightened to prevent misuse of such online credentials.
You might find it surprising, but those online certificates claiming your pet as a service animal might not be valid. Well, they’re not as valid as they once were.
Florida Statute 760.27‘s recent update specifically states that online registrations for emotional support animals don’t reliably prove a disability or need for such an animal. This change targets the ease with which anyone could obtain these certifications with just a payment.
Pet owners now need more than just an internet certificate or ID card to qualify their pets as emotional support animals (ESAs).
This update holds particular significance for landlords who typically prohibit pets in their leased spaces.
It’s illegal to deny a lease due to an emotional support animal for a person with a disability. The law requires housing accommodations for such animals. However, landlords can now deny a lease to a person without proper documentation that would show the pet’s qualification.
What can you ask a person with an ESA?
It’s not always obvious when someone has a disability. So, if you’re a landlord and someone submits an application for a lease in one of your apartments (which does not allow pets) you can ask the prospective tenant for “reliable information that reasonably supports that the person has a disability.”
Questions to establish that a person has a disability and the need for an ESA:
The statute refers to documents that serve as sufficient documentation as proof that a person has a disability that is not readily apparent, which includes:
- A determination of disability from any federal, state, or local government agency;
- Receipt of disability benefits or services from any federal, state, or local government agency;
- Proof of eligibility for housing assistance or a housing voucher received because of a disability;
- Information from a qualified health care practitioner, telehealth provider, or any other similarly licensed or certified practitioner or provider in good standing with his or her profession’s regulatory body in another state, but only if such out-of-state practitioner has provided in-person care or services to the tenant on at least one occasion. Such information is reliable if the practitioner or provider has personal knowledge of the person’s disability and is acting within the scope of his or her practice to provide the supporting information; and
- Information from any other source that the housing provider reasonably determines to be reliable in accordance with the federal Fair Housing Act and s. 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
Landlords can also request proof of vaccinations for the ESA.
Questions you CANNOT ask:
Landlords may not request information that may disclose or reveal the actual diagnosis or the severity of a person’s disability. Landlords are also prohibited from requesting medical records relating to that disability. However, a person may choose to provide this information at their own discretion.
Also, landlords can’t charge a pet fee/deposit for a service animal.
The days when an online certificate was enough to qualify your pet as an ESA are over. This shift ensures that only those who genuinely need these animals for support can have them. If you’re a landlord or a tenant with questions about these new regulations, it’s wise to consult a legal professional for guidance.
The legal process can get difficult, which is why we always recommend that you seek the assistance of counsel; or at least have a consultation. Schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today to review the issues of your case, the legal options you may have, and certain rights that pertain to your unique situation.
Have more questions? Let us know by sending an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org and we will do our best to develop content to provide you with direction and insight!
For more information:
Check out and subscribe to our YouTube Channel
Follow us on Instagram
Like us on Facebook
Visit our website
Shop our Legal Templates
No Attorney-Client Relationship or Legal Advice: Communication of information by, in, to or through this Website and your receipt or use of it: (1) is not provided in the course of and does not create or constitute an attorney-client relationship; (2) is not intended as a solicitation; (3) is not intended to convey or constitute legal advice; and (4) is not a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a qualified attorney. You should not act upon any such information without first seeking qualified professional counsel on you specific matter. The hiring of an attorney is an important decision that should not be based solely upon Web site communications or advertisements. Feel free to contact us if you need legal assistance.