Emotional Support and Service Animal Laws in Utah
For anyone renting to tenants in Utah, it’s important to be aware of current laws regarding emotional support and service animals.
This is a Utah landlord’s guide to animal laws to help you decide on your policies.
Definition of an Emotional Support Animal in Utah
Emotional support animals, often dogs or cats, help people with mental illnesses such as depression or anxiety by providing comfort or support.
Emotional support animals (ESAs) are not trained to do special tasks like service animals. ESAs are not permitted to be in public places where pets are prohibited.
The designation of an animal as an ESA is not something a renter can claim for themselves independently. Official ESAs must be prescribed and designated as such by a licensed mental health professional (see “ESA Letter” below).
Emotional Support Animal (ESA) Letter
For a pet to be considered an emotional support animal under Utah law, the handler must have an official ESA Letter from a licensed mental health professional.
Mental health professionals have screening measures to help determine if an individual qualifies for an emotional support animal.
ESA’s have less rights than service animals, and are not covered under the American Disability Act.
Definition of a Service Animal in Utah
Service animals are animals that are trained or are being trained to provide some sort of service or carry out specific tasks for a person with a disability. Service animals must be permitted public accommodation with their handler.
Although some animals such as miniature horses can sometimes be used as service animals in some states, only dogs may qualify as service animals under Utah disability rights law.
Service dogs in Utah may be trained for tasks such as helping the deaf, blind or visually impaired, or seizure prone. There are also dogs that are specially trained to alert their handlers about the presence of dangerous allergens or to help with psychiatric services such as preventing self-harm, reminding handlers to take medication, or providing calming measures during psychological distress.
Service animals are protected under the American Disability Act.
Fair Housing Act
Under the federal Fair Housing Act, Utah landlords may not discriminate against those who require the use of service animals or emotional support animals, although Utah only recognizes dogs as service animals.
This means that people with service animals or letter-certified ESAs must be allowed equal access to rented property, they cannot be charged extra for having the animal, and “no pets” requirements in lease agreements do not apply to their animal.
Utah tenants with service animals or ESAs are still responsible for any damages made to the property by their service animal.
An exception to the Fair Housing Act (R608-1-17) allows landlords to deny accommodations for emotional support animals if the animal has demonstrated a threat to the health or safety of others, and the owner does not take effective action to control it.
Utah landlords are not authorized to declare whether or not any individual is disabled or has need for a service animal or emotional support animal.
Mental health and medical professionals prescribe the use of service animals or emotional support animals according to their assessment of patient needs.
In general, the need for a service animal or ESA may be assessed for any individual who’s physical, mental or emotional function is limited beyond normal ranges (impedes day-to-day functions) and would be helped by using either a specially-trained service animal or simply the emotional support of an ESA.
Defining “Reasonable Accommodations”
Reasonable accommodations are any adjustments made in order to allow a tenant with a disability to use and enjoy their home as much as any other tenant.
Under the Fair Housing Act, allowing a service animal in a rental property that normally does not allow pets would constitute a reasonable accommodation that must be provided.
Misrepresenting an Animal
Under Utah law, misrepresenting a pet as a service dog is a Class B misdemeanor, resulting in up to 6 months in prison or a fine of up to $1,000. In 2019, the Utah legislature moved to make misrepresenting an ESA a misdemeanor as well.
Landlords Owning Fewer Than 4 Units
When it comes to providing reasonable accommodations for service animals and emotional support animals under the Fair Housing Act, Utah landlords owning fewer than 4 rental units, and do not use a broker or agent, may be exempted.
ESA on University Campus Housing in Utah
University campus housing is under the same Fair Housing Act requirements as other types of housing, but ESAs permitted in campus housing may be restricted from other places on campus.
Service animals must be allowed access anywhere that their handler is allowed access.
Property Management Help in Utah
Policy for service animals and emotional support animals is one aspect of tenant management and Utah law that many property owners may not think about until the situation arises.
At Joseph Thomas, we have years of experience managing our own tenants and helping clients manage theirs. We help prepare landlords and make sure they are compliant with all Fair Housing Act regulation and other Utah laws regarding landlords and tenants.
Let us show you how our property management services make investment real estate successful.
Emotional Support and Service Animal Law FAQs
Do no-pet policies apply to Emotional Support Animals or Service Animals in Utah?
No. Even for Utah property that normally does not allow pets, service animals and officially-recognized ESAs (with ESA letter) must be allowed, unless the animal poses a real threat to the health and safety of others, or the wellbeing of the property.
When can a Utah landlord deny an Emotional Support Animal or Service Animal on their property?
Official service animals cannot be denied on any property where the service animal handler is allowed to be.
Emotional support animals can be denied property access if they have been shown to present a real threat to the health or safety of others and the handler has not been able to take effective action to control the threat.
Can a landlord charge more for an Emotional Support or Service Animal in Utah?
No, this would be considered discrimination according to the Fair Housing Act. However, tenants are responsible for any damages caused by their animal, and may even be evicted if they fail to prevent damages or do not clean up after their animal.