ESA and Insurance: Balancing Compliance and Coverage

ESA and Insurance

Do You Have to Allow an Emotional Support Animal When Insurance Coverage Would Cancel?

Navigating the complexities of accommodating Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) can be challenging for landlords, especially when it conflicts with insurance coverage. In an online landlord forum, one landlord shared their dilemma: after a difficult tenant search, they found a suitable applicant who has an ESA dog not covered by their insurance. This raises a critical question: must landlords allow an ESA if it jeopardizes their insurance coverage? In this article, we will explore this issue, examining the requirements under Fair Housing law and offering practical steps landlords can take to address such situations while maintaining compliance and protecting their interests.

Identifying Insurance Coverage Challenges for Landlords

The following question was posed in an online landlord forum,

I have been struggling to find a good tenant. I won’t go into the challenges but finally found somebody good. They have a ESA dog that my insurance doesn’t cover. Is there anything that can be done ? Or I’ll have to just decline the application?

Dealing with an ESA Dog and Insurance Coverage

Here is a simple answer and approach to the question,

Presuming the tenant meets qualifications under Fair Housing law, the tenant has to request a “reasonable accommodation” to have an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) on the premises if the lease agreement prohibits pets and animals. Of course, what is “reasonable accommodation” is a question of fact and depends on the circumstances of the request.

Losing insurance coverage could very well be deemed “unreasonable” by a Fair Housing hearing officer. Still, if the landlord could have taken reasonable steps to avoid cancellation of the insurance policy, the landlord must undertake those reasonable steps to accommodate the tenant’s request. Thus, the question becomes, are there any reasonable steps the landlord can be made so that you don’t lose insurance coverage?

Under circumstances like this, I advise my clients to first review their insurance policy and also contact their insurance provider to inquire about any provisions in their policy that would alleviate this problem. If there is no way for the landlord not to lose coverage, I would advise my clients to deny the ESA application as it would be unreasonable to admit the ESA and thereby lose insurance coverage.

In conclusion, the intersection of Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) and insurance coverage presents a complex challenge for landlords. While it’s essential to comply with laws regarding reasonable accommodations, insurance considerations also play a crucial role. Landlords facing this dilemma should carefully review their insurance policies, explore potential accommodations with their insurance providers, and consider legal advice to navigate these issues effectively. By balancing legal compliance, tenant needs, and insurance requirements, landlords can make informed decisions that protect their interests while respecting fair housing principles.

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