A Nashville Property Manager Explains the Difference between Pets & Service Animals

Lee Blackburn

Legal issues surrounding your Nashville rental property are ever-present. There are constant changes in the federal, state, and local laws that involve fair housing, habitability standards, and other regulations and requirements with which rental property owners must comply.

At Omni Property Management, we work hard to stay educated on the latest laws. We work closely with the National Association of Residential Property Managers (NARPM) and other state and local organizations to make sure we’re up to date. Our professional relationships with experts in government affairs and housing law ensure we know what’s happening and how to respond to new requirements.

Today, we’re talking about pets and how they differ from service animals. This is one area where landlords can make very expensive mistakes.

Service and Support Animals vs. Pets

We work with a number of rental property owners in Nashville who don’t want to allow pets. They’re worried about the potential for damage and liability. We get it. Not allowing pets is perfectly legal.

However, service and support animals are not considered pets. You have to allow them.

The Fair Housing Act and the Americans With Disabilities Act consider these animals to be accommodations, just like an assistive device. You can’t refuse wheelchair ramps or handrails, and you cannot deny a service animal, companion animal, or emotional support animal.

When you have a tenant with a service animal, you also cannot charge a pet deposit or a pet fee. You cannot charge any pet rent.

If you don’t want to accept a pet into your rental property, you don’t have to. But, you are required to accept service and support animals, and you cannot deny a tenant who is otherwise qualified for your home just because he or she is moving in with a service animal.

Nashville Property Management and Service Animal Screening

Nashville Property Management and Service Animal ScreeningWhile you have to allow service animals into your property when a tenant needs the accommodation, there are some things you can do to mitigate your liability and the risk to your property.

First, you can ask for required documentation. Service animals are going to have paperwork explaining exactly what they do. Emotional support animals are a little different. The animals are designated as providing emotional support, and instead of having paperwork, the tenant will need to procure an authorization or some kind of documentation from their medical doctor or healthcare provider. This will outline what the animal is needed for.

We use a great service called This is a free service to property management companies that can screen and verify any of the documentation you receive from a tenant concerning the service or support animal. The service will do all the research for you, and recommend an approval or a denial. You can also document when the letter from a medical professional expires and ask for new verification when that happens.

If a tenant claims to need an emotional support animal, we ask them to contact this platform directly. It’s a great tool to ensure both tenants and owners are complying with the legal requirements surrounding pets, service animals, and support animals.

This is still a confusing area of the law for many rental property owners and landlords, and it’s always evolving. We’re here to help you stay in compliance. If you have any questions about pets, service animals, or anything pertaining to Nashville property management, please don’t hesitate to contact us at Omni Property Management.