Why You Should Renew your ESA Documentation
Some emotional support animal (ESA) owners have faced the misfortune of submitting an ESA request to their landlord or participating airline and being rejected because their paperwork is outdated. Owners of ESAs frequently ask if and when their ESA documentation expires. The answer to whether an ESA letter technically expires is both yes and no, depending on the circumstance. But for various reasons, it’s recommended practice to renew an ESA letter at least once a year.
In this article, we will help you avoid the embarrassment and inconvenience of being denied ESA accommodation due to out-of-date documentation. We’ll explain when and why ESA letters expire and share best practices for keeping your ESA documents valid.
Do you have to renew your ESA Letter?
First, Some Basics
A valid ESA letter allows a person to live with their emotional support animal, even in buildings that do not allow pets. The housing provider must accommodate ESAs free of charge. By law, an ESA recommendation letter must come from a licensed healthcare professional and meet certain standards under the Fair Housing Act.
A valid ESA letter contains the date the ESA letter was issued by the licensed professional. The letter also has the professional’s contact information so that the housing provider or participating airline can verify the ESA letter’s validity. ESA owners can run into trouble when they submit a letter past its expiration or when the landlord or airline tries to reach a therapist to validate an outdated ESA letter.
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Do ESA Letters Expire For Housing?
To fulfill the ESA documentation requirement for housing purposes, a tenant needs an ESA letter issued by a licensed healthcare professional establishing their need for an emotional support animal. However, the Fair Housing Act and guidance from the U.S. Department of Housing are silent on the issue of whether an ESA letter for housing expires.
Despite the lack of definitive guidance, it is recommended that ESA letters for housing are renewed at least once a year for the following reasons:
- Many housing providers and landlords will refuse to accept an ESA letter dated over one year ago. They will ask the tenant to submit a recent ESA letter to prove their need for an ESA is still relevant.
- A therapist may not validate an ESA letter if it is outdated. Under Fair Housing rules, landlords are not allowed to pry into the tenant’s medical history or request sensitive details regarding the tenant’s condition. However, the landlord can verify that the licensed professional did in fact recommend an emotional support animal for a particular tenant.
In a situation where a landlord reaches out for confirmation, a healthcare professional may not be comfortable with verifying an ESA recommendation if the ESA letter on file is dated. The healthcare professional may need to conduct a more recent evaluation of the individual’s situation and issue a current ESA letter before confirming their recommendation with a third party.
For these reasons, it is recommended that tenants also update their ESA letters at least annually.
Renew your ESA Housing Letter in the link above.
When Does an ESA Letter Expire for Flights?
If you are making travel arrangements with an airline that allows for ESAs to fly in the cabin with their owners, you should make sure your ESA letter is no older than one year from the date of the scheduled initial flight.
In addition, most participating airlines require that the passenger’s therapist complete an additional form prior to departure. Some ESA owners believe they can have their therapist complete these forms each time they fly, eliminating the need for an updated ESA letter. However, the therapist may not submit these forms, which require validation of a passenger’s need for an ESA, unless they have made a recent evaluation.
Thus, whether you fly on a participating airline that accepts standalone ESA letters or requires a special ESA form, you will want to renew your ESA letter with your licensed mental health professional at least annually. If your ESA documentation is dated more than a year from your flight, the airline may reject your request for ESA accommodation. That could subject you to costly fees with a non-assistance animal or, worse yet, prevent your ESA from boarding altogether.
Is your ESA letter one year old? Renew your ESA Letter now.
What Should I Do if My ESA Letter Was Rejected For Being Expired?
If your ESA request was rejected due to an expired ESA letter, the best remedy is to speak with the healthcare professional that issued your letter for updated documentation. The healthcare professional may require a re-evaluation to determine whether you still qualify for an ESA letter.
Once you have your updated ESA letter, you should re-submit it right away to your housing provider. Under HUD guidance, landlords are required to work in good faith with their tenants to resolve any hurdles when it comes to ESA accommodations. Landlords also should reconsider an initial denial if an up-to-date ESA letter is subsequently submitted.
If you qualified for an ESA letter from one of the licensed healthcare professionals that work with ESA Doctors, you will automatically receive a notification when your ESA letter is to expire. Tracking down your therapist for an urgent last-minute appointment can sometimes be tricky—it’s a good idea to plan and make sure you’re not stranded with an expired ESA letter.
What if I’m No Longer Seeing the Therapist that Originally Wrote my ESA Letter?
If you have an expired ESA letter and need a new therapist to issue an updated letter, or if you’re interested in qualifying for an ESA for the first time and don’t know where to turn, we can help. ESADoctors.com connects individuals to real licensed healthcare professionals knowledgeable about ESAs and compassionate about mental and emotional health issues. The licensed professional will help determine whether an ESA can make a positive difference in your life.
Do you need to connect with a licensed medical health professional now? We can help. (linked)
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