Michigan Legislature Revisits Emotional Support Animals
October 22nd, 2019 | By: Matthew I. Paletz, Esq.
Forrest M. Wall, CAE is the Vice President of Government Affairs & Industry Relations for the Home Builders Association of SE Michigan/Apartment Association of Michigan, located in Bingham Farms. Paletz Law is a proud member and like Forrest, a staunch advocate of the apartment management industry. For our blog this month, we invited Forrest to share his take on the Emotional Support Animal Bills being introduced, which was originally published in the October 2019 edition of Building Business & Apartment Management Magazine.
New legislation in the Michigan House of Representatives would strengthen state law to help prevent the false representation of possession of an emotional support animal. As you may recall, this effort originated in the last legislative session, with a bill passing the Michigan Senate before stalling the Michigan House in the final days of 2018.
House Bill 4910 , introduced on September 3rd, would create the “Misrepresentation of Emotional Support Animals Act.” First, the bill would define an emotional support animal and limit these to common domestic animals. The bill also defines a housing provider as well as a health care provider.
Second, the legislation bars an individual from falsely representing a disability or possession of an emotional support animal. The housing provider may request documentation from an individual’s health care provider to confirm a disability and the need for an emotional support animal.
Third, the bill states health care providers shall not falsely represent an individual’s need for an emotional support animal, and it proposes requirements for those providers who do prescribe an emotional support animal. Those requirements include:
- That the health care provider be licensed in Michigan or the state the individual resides
- That the health care provider maintain a physical office space where patients are treated regularly
- Documentation of treatment of the individual for at least 6 months before the date a housing provider requests documentation of validity of a disability and the need for an emotional support animal
- Provide documentation in the form of a notarized letter on an annual basis upon request
Fourth, the bill includes misdemeanor penalty provisions for those who knowingly violate the law, including:
- Imprisonment for not more than 90 days
- A fine of not more than $500.00
- Community service for not more than 30 days
Additionally, a tenant who falsely represents an emotional support animal could face lease termination.
Finally, the bill directs the Michigan Department of Civil Rights to receive reports of an individual(s) falsely representing possession of an emotional support animal and health care providers falsely certifying the need for such an animal.
A second bill, House Bill 4911 , would amend the Revised Judicature Act to support termination of a lease for misrepresentation of an emotional support animal. Both bills have been referred to the House Regulatory Reform Committee for action.
Editor’s Note – Regardless of any statewide legislation that may ultimately be implemented, federal fair housing guidelines must still be adhered to.
The Bottom Line: Hopefully some relief will come to landlords regarding this widely abused issue. Until then, continue to be vigilant and contact Paletz Law for legal assistance.