- Emotional Support Animal Laws – Housing
- Do I have to pay additional rent for my ESA? (NO)
- Can a landlord ask for proof for an ESA? (YES, it’s called an ESA letter)
- Can my landlord deny my ESA dog because it is a pit bull or other breed? (NO)
- Can my landlord enforce weight restrictions? (NO)
- Can my landlord deny my ESA based on the animal’s age? (NO)
- Can my landlord ask me about my disability? (NO)
- Do I have to provide ESA registration information? (NO, ESA Registration is NOT required by law)
- Does an ESA have to be specially trained? (NO)
- Can I live with my ESA in government housing? (YES)
- Does a hotel have to accept my ESA? (NO)
- Can I live with my ESA in a mobile home community or trailer park? (YES)
1. Emotional Support Animals and Federal Laws
According to the John Marshall Law School, emotional support animals “provide companionship, relief from loneliness and depression and may be allowed in housing with “no pet” restrictions.” The fine lines between what landlords can and cannot allow when it comes to emotional support animal laws can be blurry in comparison to other laws for service animals and therapy animals. Because emotional support animals aid in more than just physical disabilities and have less structured rules regarding them, tenants with ESA’s can face difficulties determining the housing laws for their situation, especially if a landlord denies that tenant their ability to live with an ESA. Outlined here are the federal regulations surrounding landlords and assistance animals as of current status:
Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 – According to the Fair Housing Act, landlords must modify said policies to permit an individual with a disability to live with a service or emotional support animal. When done so, it is necessary to provide a tenant an equal opportunity to use and enjoy the dwelling. For those with ESA’s, the person who wishes to obtain and live with an emotional support animal may have to present medical documentation from a psychiatrist, social worker, or another mental health professional showing that the animal provides support and mitigates at least one symptom of the tenant’s disability.
While landlords have the right to ask for official documentation for ESA’s, landlords cannot:
- Ask a tenant to pay a deposit or additional pet fees in exchange for having a service or emotional support animal
- Require that an emotional support animal have specific training
- Require the emotional support animal to wear or carry any special collar, harness, or vest that identify the animal as such
- Ask for private medical information regarding the ESA owner’s disability
- Require ESA registration for the emotional support animal
Americans with Disabilities Act – Enforced by the Department of Justice, Congress states that public places must take necessary steps to accommodate for their service animals. The ADA only protects service animals in public areas, not emotional support animals. Thus, for those who wish to use an emotional support animal, ADA regulations do not apply in cases where the ESA is present with the owner in public spaces, such as hotels, airlines, and other businesses that provide goods and services. The exceptions for service animals, on the other hand, have qualifications that must be met in order for the disabled person to have their service animal on public premises.
The public accommodation may ask an individual with a disability to remove the service animal from the premises if:
- The animal isn’t housebroken
- The animal’s behavior fundamentally negatively affects the goods or services provided by that public service
- The animal is out of control, and the animal’s handler does not take effective action to control it.
- The animal poses a direct threat to the health and safety of others
State laws and regulations may also affect what rights and defines emotional support and service animals. In these cases, reading up on state rights regarding ESA’s can potentially add better understanding when it comes to your ESA and greatly benefits your interactions with your potential landlord when searching for housing. Here are some essential questions that have been asked, and thus, can be appropriately answered in regards to your emotional service animal:
Qualify for an ESA Letter Today!
2. Do I have to pay additional rent for my ESA? (NO)
Generally, a landlord is entitled to charge a deposit for a pet to cover any resulting damage to the property. But, if a pet is more appropriately characterized as a service animal, the tenant should be exempt from the deposit. With regards to emotional support animal laws for housing, the Fair Housing act covers this sector by prohibiting landlords from charging extra fees when it comes to Emotional Support Animals.
According to HUD’s handbook for subsidized multifamily programs: A housing provider may not require the tenant to pay a pet fee or pet deposit as a condition of allowing the applicant or tenant to keep the assistance animal. If the assistance animal causes damage to the housing unit or the common areas of the dwelling, however, the housing provider may charge the cost of repairing the damage. Additionally, the HUD and Department of Justice have stated that requiring pet deposits for assistance animals is discriminatory.
3. Can a landlord ask for proof for an ESA? (YES, it’s called an ESA letter)
A housing provider may not deny an accommodation request because he or she cannot determine whether or not the person has a disability and requires an assistance animal. Housing providers may ask potential tenants who have disabilities to submit documentation of a disability from a licensed healthcare provider, qualifying them for an emotional support animal. If the disability is apparent, but the disability-related need for an emotional support animal is not, the housing provider may ask the potential tenant to provide documentation providing reliable evidence for an assistance animal.
ESA letters are considered reliable documentation for those wishing to gain housing with an emotional support animal, even if the housing complex has a “no pets policy.” ESA Letters can be acquired through certified therapists. According to Psychology Today, although emotional support animals are supposed to be part of a treatment program, the therapeutic benefits of these animals are unclear because there is little evidence of the long-term effects of emotional support animals for the treatment of mental problems. For therapists directly involved in the patient’s treatment, signing on an ESA letter can be a complicated process. In these cases, the best-recommended option can be to gain an ESA letter through a neutral third party professional not involved with the patient’s treatment.
the best-recommended option can be to gain an ESA letter through a neutral third party professional not involved with the patient’s treatment.
4. Can my landlord deny my ESA dog because it is a pit bull or other breed? (NO)
In the state of Indiana, one case determined that the species of the animal cannot establish denial for residency. The tenant provided medical documentation showing that the emotional support dog “provides significant emotional support” and “[eliminates] the severity of symptoms that affect her daily ability to fulfill her responsibilities and goals.” However, because the landlord stated that they were afraid of pit bull, this led to a state case review, which determined that the landlord’s fear of pit bulls does not absolve them from providing accommodations and thus had to adjust their policies in order for the tenant to live within that residency.
5. Can my landlord enforce weight restrictions? (NO)
Emotional support animal laws state that “breed, size, and weight limitations may not be applied to an assistance animal.” In California, a tenant with his family had two emotional support animals in a 12-unit apartment complex. A complaint was filed, where the landlord told the tenants to remove their larger animals from the premises due to its size because insurance would not cover the animal, stating their policy that dogs weighing no more than 20 lbs can live on the premises. At first, the tenants complied with copies of medical documentation and a $100,000 insurance policy. The landlord then sent a new notice increasing the policy requirement by $1 million. The landlord sent an eviction notice, and soon, the situation was brought to court. State judiciaries determined that the landlord will pay $35,000, develop an anti-discrimination policy and obtain fair housing training to resolve the lawsuit.
Emotional support animal laws state that “breed, size, and weight limitations may not be applied to an assistance animal.”
6. Can my landlord deny my ESA based on the animal’s age? (NO)
Emotional Support Animals under the Fair Housing Act have no specific qualifications in regards to age and training. In cases where landlords attempt to deny a tenant their ability to have an ESA, quoting the animals age would not be considered legal when citing the Fair Housing Act. For instance, Brown University, a leading private research university located in Rhode Island, does not label an age limit for ESA’s. However, the university does label requirements according to federal law and their community guidelines.
7. Can my landlord ask me about my disability? (NO)
While during the application process, a landlord may ask for documentation related to the disability and need for the emotional support animal, as in an ESA letter, a landlord may not ask about the medical details of the disability. Because that is private information, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development states the housing provider can not ask the applicant of personal medical details regarding their disability, and under federal law, is considered to be illegal.
8. Do I have to provide ESA registration information? (NO, ESA Registration is NOT required by law)
Emotional Support Animals by definition are not required registration from a preceding organization, because federal law does not specify any national organizations that fully register emotional support animals due to their limited rights. However, an ESA letter written and approved of by a medical licensed professional should be provided if the landlords ask for qualifying medical information to waive their “no pets” policy.
9. Does an ESA have to be specially trained? (NO)
As of current federal regulations, training is not required for an emotional support animal. While many times animals that are not trained can considerably cause issues, it is important to take note that emotional support animals aim to provide comfort more so than provide service that aids in a disability. There are no national organizations that federally register emotional support animals, as the discussion for what constitutes emotional support animals is still in discussion by state courts in the US. According to AnimalLaw, one case argued that an assistance animal must facilitate the disabled person’s ability to function and the accommodation must consider a cost-benefit balancing that takes both parties’ needs into account. Other courts, when faced with the topic, remain divided on whether or not emotional support animals should have the necessary training to qualify as an emotional support animal. In these cases, checking state laws on what determines emotional support animals can provide further security and peace of mind.
10. Can I live with my ESA in government housing? (YES)
The Fair Housing Act covers all types of housing overall. In very limited circumstances, the Act exempts buildings such as owner-occupied four-unit buildings, single-family houses either sold or rented by the owner without an agent, and religious or private club operated housing. However, ESA Letters can be written to help alleviate the process of gaining government housing. In one instance, according to Psychology Today, exceptions can be made depending on the client’s needs. While applying for acceptance into government-subsidized housing, the client suffered from epileptic seizures, had a severely disabled son, and was isolated and depressed. The manager of the housing complex would agree to house her if a therapist or certified medical professional would provide a letter providing that her dog is qualified for an emotional support animal. In this case, the therapist was able to determine the effectiveness of the emotional support animal and approve of the request for an ESA letter to gain recommendation for government housing, due to the extent of the patient’s mental and physical disabilities.
11. Does a hotel have to accept my ESA? (NO)
Emotional support animals provide comfort specifically for those disabled or have a mental disorder. Because they have not been trained for a specific task, they do not qualify as service animals under the ADA. Hence, only service dogs are allowed to bypass hotels rules regarding pets. Thee conditions for service dogs comes with exceptions and conditions, such as the requirement that the handling of the service dog is under the control of the handler at all times and that hotels are not permitted to charge guests for cleaning. However, if a guest’s service animal causes damages, the hotel is allowed to charge the same as other guests. Some state governments have laws that will enable people to take emotional support animals into public places. To check up on what those laws are, researching your local state laws can alleviate those concerns.
12. Can I live with my ESA in a mobile home community or trailer park? (YES)
Also, the Fair Housing Act applies to virtually all types of housing, both public and privately-owned, including houses covered by the ADA. Under the Fair Housing Act, landlords are obligated to allow the use of animals that perform tasks that benefit people with disabilities, or provide emotional support to alleviate the effects of a disability. In cases involving mobile homes and trailer parks, having an ESA letter written by a medical professional can add a layer of protection as long as it states that the emotional support animal would aid in alleviating a resident’s disability.
Procedures for housing with Emotional Support Animals:
If you are considering moving into a housing residency with an emotional support animal, it’s essential that those with disabilities should have all of their documents (ESA letter, doctor’s note, etc.) available at the time of the agreement. If the landlord is willing to accommodate through an ESA letter, it’s essential to gain an ESA letter through a certified therapist, whether as a direct patient or third party, to approve of the need of an emotional support animal.
While emotional support animals can be considered to have vague definitions which vary by state, checking up on state regulations involving emotional support animals can significantly benefit overall. By keeping up with court cases regarding assistance animals and knowing your rights as a disabled person, you can have housing access as long as specific requirements are met.
Communication between you and your landlord can significantly improve your overall chances, as any discrimination from the landlord based off of disability is federally illegal and can be charged in court. While emotional support animals don’t have clear rights into public spaces nor require specific training, further research must be made in cases such as these to help further clear the way for creating rights for emotional support animals and their disabled owners.