A Guide to Understanding Fort Bend Homeowner Association Rules Regarding Support Animals

A Guide to Understanding Fort Bend Homeowner Association Rules Regarding Support Animals

According to Pettable, 32% of pet owners have certified their pets as emotional support animals (ESAs). Would these people be able to have their animals in a pet-free Fort Bend HOA community? Generally, they would.

However, the situation is a bit more complex than you may think. Read on to learn more.

What Are Emotional Support Animals (ESAs)?

An emotional support animal (ESA) is a medically prescribed pet. It can ease a mentally ill person's condition in several different ways. For example, an ESA can lessen feelings of anxiety.

The animal in question is usually a dog. However, an ESA can also be any kind of animal. To be an official ESA, a licensed therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist has to write a letter stating that a person medically needs the animal.

Support Vs. Service Animals

Technically, an ESA can also be a service animal. However, being an ESA does not qualify an animal to be a service animal.

Service animals (usually dogs) are animals that someone has trained to support a disabled person. For example, a seeing-eye dog can help a blind person "see" their environment. ESAs are generally not trained, but a service animal can provide emotional support along with other services.

Why Pet Bans Don't Affect ESAs

Any homeowner's association (HOA) can legally enforce a pet ban. If it doesn't outright ban pets, it can ban certain breeds, sizes, etc. However, for legal reasons, these restrictions cannot apply to ESAs.

Texas does not have any state laws that protect ESAs. But the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) does protect them. Despite HOA rules, HOA community members must be able to live with their ESAs.

If HOA board members refuse to allow an ESA, they could face legal repercussions.

Only Applies to Official ESAs

ESA protection laws only apply to officially certified ESAs. A person cannot merely say their pet is an ESA and get legal protection. They must have a letter from a licensed therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist to prove they need the animal.

An HOA board member can ask for a medical professional's letter to prove an ESA is legitimate. If a pet owner does not have this letter, the HOA can ban the animal. They may receive some legal pushback, but HOAs should be able to easily fight these charges.

The real problem occurs when an "ESA owner" is carrying a fake ESA letter. It can be hard to know the difference between real and fake letters. HOA board members should turn to professionals that know the differences.

We'll Help Dispute ESAs

An HOA community must legally allow emotional support animals. However, they have to be legitimate. HOAs can refuse to allow fake ESAs in their community.

Do you think your HOA board members would struggle to separate fake ESAs from real ones? If so, we can help. Here at PMI Fort Bend, our professionals are well-equipped to tackle the problems that come with managing HOA communities.

Request a bid from us by filling out the form on this page.