Short answer: In most cases, a landlord cannot deny an emotional support animal (ESA) over concern about allergies. The landlord must prove that the ESA poses a direct threat to the health of others and also consider steps to reduce the potential harm.
Why it’s usually not a valid excuse: Sometimes landlords are reluctant to accept emotional support animals over various concerns. One concern raised is that tenants who are allergic to dogs may object.
In these circumstances, the fact that another tenant may be allergic to dogs is insufficient to reject an ESA. Under HUD guidance, the ESA must pose a “direct threat to the health or safety of other individuals.” Mere speculation about the potential for an allergic reaction is not enough.
In most cases, limiting the dog to the owner’s apartment or home and certain common areas is enough to mitigate any potential harm to other tenants. Thoroughly cleaning an apartment after a tenant has moved out can also prevent harm to future occupants.
What to do if your landlord says no: If this happens, remind your landlord that HUD guidelines only permit a landlord to deny an ESA if they have evidence of a direct threat to health that can’t be eliminated or reduced.
Even if there is a serious allergy concern, the landlord must consider alternative ways to accommodate the animal.
Scenarios where other tenants have potentially dangerous reactions to allergens without any possibility of mitigating the situation do not occur often. Remember, at one point ESAs were even allowed to board the cabin of planes – and service dogs still are. Therefore it’s generally safe to expose people and domestic animals to the same area for some time.
It is up to the housing provider to make sure all tenants are accommodated, and their health needs are respected. ESA owners can help by assuring their landlord and neighbors that they will keep common areas tidy and their animal under control.
Having an ESA is beneficial for your mental health, and in most cases, accepted by landlords — provided you have a legitimate ESA letter issued by a licensed health professional.
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