Emotional Support Animal Laws for Housing

  1. Emotional Support Animal Laws – Housing
  2. Do I have to pay additional rent for my ESA? (NO)
  3. Can a landlord ask for proof for an ESA? (YES, it’s called an ESA letter)
  4. Can my landlord deny my ESA dog because it is a pit bull or other breed? (NO)
  5. Can my landlord enforce weight restrictions? (NO)
  6. Can my landlord deny my ESA based on the animal’s age? (NO)
  7. Can my landlord ask me about my disability? (NO)
  8. Do I have to provide ESA registration information? (NO, ESA Registration is NOT required by law)
  9. Does an ESA have to be specially trained? (NO)
  10. Can I live with my ESA in government housing? (YES)
  11. Does a hotel have to accept my ESA? (NO)
  12. 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 ADA National Network, 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:

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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 guide to assistance animals: 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)

In order to qualify for an emotional support animal, you need to provide your landlord with an ESA letter from a licensed healthcare professional.
In order to qualify for an emotional support animal, you need to provide your landlord with an ESA letter from a licensed healthcare professional.

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.

Steps to getting an ESA letter

4. Can my landlord deny my ESA dog because it is a pit bull or other breed? (NO)

Emotional support dogs, including pitbulls, are exempt from breed restrictions.
Emotional support dogs, including Pit Bulls, are exempt from breed restrictions.

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)

A landlord cannot place a weight restriction on an ESA, but it must be reasonable. This means a horse cannot be your ESA in an apartment.
A landlord cannot place a weight restriction on an ESA, but it must be reasonable. This means a horse cannot be your ESA in your apartment, but a 50 pound dog can live in an under 35 pound weight limit apartment.

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)

An ESA cannot be denied for being too young or too old.
An ESA cannot be denied for being too young or too old.

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, HUD states the housing provider cannot 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)

Emotional support animals DO NOT have to be specially trained to provide a service for their owner.
Emotional support animals DO NOT have to be specially trained to provide a service for their owner.

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)

If you have an emotional support animal, you are allowed to live in government housing with your ESA.
If you have an emotional support animal, you are allowed to live in government housing with your ESA.

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 do not have special access rights in hotels or motels. However, you can ask and they may allow your ESA if you have an ESA letter.
Emotional support animals do not have special access rights in hotels or motels. However, you can ask and they may allow your ESA if you have proper documentation.

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)

Mobile home communities and trailer parks must allow reasonable accommodations for emotional support animals and their owners.
Mobile home communities and trailer parks must provide reasonable accommodations for emotional support animals and their owners. This means they cannot deny an ESA based on breed, weight, or age.

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:

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Having an Emotional Support Animal can be a blessing for a person dealing with mental disorders. Understand the laws and your rights to protect yourself.

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.

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2024-03-20T19:25:20+00:00ESA Laws, Federal|

About the Author:
The ESA Doctors writing team has extensive experience relating to disability and housing laws, mental health, animal training, and pet health. Each article is fact checked and reviewed by multiple members of our team. Many of the writers have emotional support animals and speak from real life experiences.

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67 Comments

  1. Robert Wolke April 2, 2023 at 12:47 am - Reply

    Hello, my wife and I bought a German Shepard puppy to be my wife’s ESA dog. We live in a mobile home park that has a weight limit of 35lbs and the landlord and managers are threatening to either evict us or take him away. My wife has obtained a letter from her Doctor stating that due to her PTSD and Anxiety diagnosis that he helps to elevate her conditions and helps her perform her daily routines. He is currently 14 weeks old and is in beginner obedience classes. The ultimate goal is to make him a Therapy Dog. We have told the landlord of our intentions with training but have now sent the letter from the Dr yet. The landlord claims we should have notified them about and asked permission first and that we should have bought a smaller dog, that we knew the rules. They are now threatening legal matters if we do not get rid of him soon. This has my wife, kids, and I all upset since he is now a member of our family as well. Like I stated above she does have a letter from her personal Dr that states she has PTSD and suffers Anxiety and that the dog helps her with that. Can they still evict us or take him away?

  2. Arianne September 2, 2022 at 9:01 pm - Reply

    My Dr sent a letter to my landlord for me to have an ESA. My landlord said I could have an ESA but I could not leave it at home by itself and needs to go wherever I go. Are they being challenging because they don’t want any pets in their building or do I really need to take the ESA everywhere I go?

    • ESA Doctors September 5, 2022 at 7:31 am - Reply

      No, it is perfectly okay to for ESA owners to leave their animals alone at home from time to time. That is a necessity for many ESA owners, especially those that work or go to school.

    • jackie March 21, 2023 at 8:27 pm - Reply

      Does my ESA have to only be inside for my landlord to accept him as an ESA or cam they be outside out patio area in the day time as well?

      • ESA Doctors March 23, 2023 at 10:50 pm - Reply

        If the patio is part of your living space then your ESA should be allowed in that area as well.

  3. Andra Lau June 26, 2022 at 10:46 pm - Reply

    I want to get an ESA animal and I’ve presented the idea to my landlord but they simply said sorry, I don’t allow any animals. What is the best thing to do in that situation?

    • ESA Doctors June 27, 2022 at 4:07 pm - Reply

      We suggest pointing out to your landlord that ESAs are protected by federal law. There are also many states that have their own laws that protect ESA owners.

    • Amanda C September 4, 2022 at 3:47 pm - Reply

      I’m worried this will happen to me as well. Also, I saw that if you rent in a single family home and it’s rented by the owner, they can deny it legally. Maybe I’m reading that wrong, but I’m hopeful that our landlord will approve. Also hoping yours came around or saw that (if applicable) it’s unlawful not to accommodate.

  4. Marlana May 22, 2021 at 10:58 pm - Reply

    I have a pet in my apartment that is not an ESA and is close to the weight limit created by the apartment management. My brother is considering getting an ESA that will also grow to be near the weight limit. It does not say the weight limit is per pet or all together. Can my brother and I have both pets in the apartment with a 75 pound weight limit if one is already almost there?

    • ESA Doctors May 25, 2021 at 7:30 am - Reply

      Emotional support animals are exempt from pet policies that restrict the size and weight of an animal.

  5. Linda April 11, 2021 at 1:46 pm - Reply

    I am considering renting a house and I have an ESA (American Bull). The landlord says the homeowners insurance does not allow aggressive dogs. Is this true? Can I be denied because of the type of ESA dog due to the homeowners insurance?

    • ESA Doctors April 16, 2021 at 5:18 am - Reply

      If accommodating an ESA would truly result in the landlord losing their insurance, they may be able to claim an “undue financial burden” and be exempt. However, the housing provider should also consider whether alternative coverage or other solutions exist.

  6. Toni February 11, 2021 at 10:37 pm - Reply

    My apartments has a weight limit of 30 Pounds. My ESA will be around 45 pounds. Can they kick me out?

    • ESA Doctors February 26, 2021 at 3:03 am - Reply

      Landlords are not permitted to impose weight restrictions on valid emotional support animals.

      • Lucy November 29, 2022 at 1:32 am - Reply

        Now what if that weight restriction is implemented for a reason and that 45lb dog is constantly running & playing back and forth and the downstairs neighbor has continuously asked for quiet and nothing changes…. should the downstairs neighbor just move out???

        • ESA Doctors November 29, 2022 at 5:01 pm - Reply

          All residents are entitled to peace and quiet in their homes. In these situations the landlord should intervene to mitigate any disruptions caused by an ESA to other tenants. A friendly conversation with the offending neighbor may also be helpful.

    • Ryan Rhoads March 25, 2022 at 11:47 am - Reply

      I work with a company that cooks food at various fairs and carnivals throuout the year. They also provide housing for me while I’m working. Can they deny me work or housing cover the fact that my esa has to come with men. He doesn’t need to be in the workplace just the area of housing that the employer provides

      • ESA Doctors March 25, 2022 at 4:25 pm - Reply

        Most types of housing providers must following Fair Housing guidelines. We recommend speaking to your company to see what their policy is concerning assistance animals.

  7. Lana December 3, 2020 at 4:06 am - Reply

    My son and I will be moving to a town home next month due to separation. We have a cat which is a registered emotional support animal with a doctors recommendation as well. The landlord of the town home is advising that due to the close proximity to the neighbors (normal townhome set up) no pets are allowed because of possible pet allergens the neighbors could have. Can pet allergens in one townhome unit be considered a “threat” to the health and well being of others such as neighbors and can we be denied because of this?

    Thank you for any insights you can share!

    • ESA Doctors January 12, 2021 at 5:07 am - Reply

      If the allergies pose a true threat to a neighbor and it can’t be mitigated, that can be justifiable grounds of denying an ESA on the basis that it would create a health issue for other tenants.

  8. Melaner October 9, 2020 at 3:08 am - Reply

    I own my town home and it is a no pet community. I have and ESA letter from a licensed professional and have also signed my dog up to be an ESA officially. I am unclear on how I should relay this info to my HOA. Should I send them the original paperwork for the dog? or just give them a call. As an owner of this town home i’m not sure if they are allowed to evict me.

    • ESA Doctors October 13, 2020 at 12:32 am - Reply

      You can give them a call to notify them that you are requesting an ESA accommodation and then submit your ESA letter.

  9. Sharonne August 22, 2020 at 1:20 am - Reply

    Are landlords entitled to require you to get liability insurance for your ESA dog? My landlord gave me a check list with additional requirements: copy of animal license/registration, proof of vaccines, copy of liability insurance policy, photo of service animal, signed service animal agreement.

    • ESA Doctors August 24, 2020 at 3:26 am - Reply

      If the landlord requires all of the tenants to obtain liability insurance that may be okay, but if not, then it may be discriminatory to single you out to obtain insurance at additional cost solely because you need an ESA.

  10. Angela Fazzolari July 10, 2020 at 10:19 pm - Reply

    Also is the laws that protect you and your ESA federal or State?

    • ESA Doctors July 13, 2020 at 12:52 am - Reply

      Yes! ESAs are protected by the Fair Housing Act and the Air Carrier Access Act. You may find this article helpful: https://esadoctors.com/esa-laws/

    • Carmen September 8, 2020 at 10:08 pm - Reply

      If I live in a apartment complex, that is not a special government property or anything just a regular Apartment complex with breed restrictions, Can my ESA animal be denied because of breed, and do I have to pay a deposit if deposit Is required for a regular tenant brining in a dog?

      • ESA Doctors September 10, 2020 at 3:47 am - Reply

        Fair Housing rules apply to most types of housing, they are not just for government properties. Breed restrictions are not allowed for emotional support animals, and fees and deposits cannot be charged even if such fees apply to normal pets.

    • Ciera Lindsey August 19, 2021 at 4:52 am - Reply

      Yes my landlord is trying to charge me a non refundable $500 deposit fee for one dog and I have 3 and they are all my emotional support animals

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