A rental property is a very convenient source of additional income, but it also places certain legal obligations on the landlord. Laws regarding pets and support animals can prove to be some of the most confusing.

Here is our basic guide to your rights and responsibilities if a tenant intends to live on your premises with an animal. We advise that you consult with an attorney for the most current information and for any local laws that might apply.

Pets Allowed

Over 40 percent of renters say that they will not consider a home that does not allow pets. This means that barring pets might cut you off from a significant portion of the market. If you do permit pets, though, you still have the right to include clauses for your own peace of mind or to comply with building regulations.

Two of the most common clauses deal with the number of pets and their size. For example, a landlord may advertise “One dog under 60 pounds allowed” or “Two cats permitted”. These reasonable requests are completely legal.

You also have the power to take it a step further, requiring that all pets are licensed, spayed or neutered, and adequately vaccinated. Some homeowners ask to meet the pet first, so they can gauge its temperament.

If your rental home is insured, check that the presence of the animal does not conflict with the insurance clauses. Some contracts specify restrictions on breeds and similar criteria.

Pets Not Allowed

You are entirely within your rights to not rent to anyone with pets. However, that does not include assistance animals and support animals.

Most of us are familiar with assistance animals – they are most commonly dogs that help individuals with visual impairment of other physical disabilities. Assistance animals can take many forms; some are trained to pull a wheelchair, help their owner navigate traffic, or even assist with complex tasks within the home.

The issue of emotional support animals is slightly more complex. While they are also considered assistance animals, they might not have any specialized training. Instead, they provide emotional support for people dealing with phobias, loneliness, depression, or anxiety.

We must make one point absolutely clear:

You are required to allow assistance animals and emotional support animals even if you have a “No Pets” policy.

There are protections in place to prevent abuse of this rule. As a landlord, you can ask a prospective tenant if an assistance animal is required because of a disability and what training the animal has undergone to perform its role.

You cannot ask for the animal’s documentation or demand that it demonstrate its training.

You cannot impose breed or size restrictions on the animal.

If you believe that the tenant has not been truthful, make a note of your concerns and your rationale. Follow up with a lawyer who specializes in such matters for advice on how to proceed.