The Short Answer: Yes, but there has to be a valid legal reason. Under federal and state laws, owners of emotional support animals have the right to live with their animals in no-pet buildings. However, there are some limited exceptions which we will explain.
When can a landlord NOT reject an ESA? 🐈
Landlords have to allow for emotional support animals due to housing laws that consider them an accommodation for people with mental health conditions. The following are NOT valid reasons for rejecting an ESA:
- Having a building policy that bans all pets.
- Having a policy that restricts the number of animals you can have.
- Having a policy that limits the size, weight, or breed of animals.
- The tenant’s inability to pay for pet fees or deposits.
- Worry that the ESA will cause a disturbance without any proof.
Landlords cannot say No to an ESA because they have a blanket policy rejecting all pets. ESAs are not considered pets under Fair Housing rules. Like service dogs, ESAs are also legally recognized assistance animals with special rights for all types of housing.
When CAN a landlord reject an ESA? ⛔
These are the primary reasons a landlord can rightfully reject your ESA:
- The ESA would constitute a direct threat to the health or safety of others.
- The ESA would result in substantial damage to the property.
- The tenant does not have a valid ESA letter.
- You are in an owner-occupied building with no more than four units or single-family homes sold or rented by the owner without the use of an agent.
What should you do if your ESA is rejected?
If your landlord denies your ESA, that’s not necessarily the end of the road. The U.S. Department of Housing (HUD) expects housing providers to work in good faith with tenants to resolve any issues.
For example, if the animal does pose a threat, the tenant and landlord still have to see if they can eliminate or reduce the threat through actions the tenant can take to maintain or control the animal (like keeping it in a secure enclosure).
If there are issues with the tenant’s ESA letter, the landlord should specify what those issues are so the tenant’s healthcare professional has an opportunity to correct any problems.
HUD encourages housing providers to engage in “a good-faith dialogue” with the tenant in an “interactive process.”
What should you do if your ESA is rejected at a public venue?
If your ESA is stopped from entering a public venue, you, unfortunately, have little recourse. In the U.S., emotional support animals have housing rights but not public access rights. That means that stores, restaurants, and other venues can use their discretion in allowing ESAs to enter.
Some hotels and AirBnBs may accommodate guests with ESAs, but as a courtesy, not because they are legally required to do so.
Having an ESA is beneficial for your mental health, and in most cases, accepted by landlords — provided you have a legitimate ESA letter from a licensed health professional.
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