• emotional support animal housing laws

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 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!

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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 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)

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.

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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, 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)

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.

Qualify for an ESA Letter Today!

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You may find these links helpful:

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how to find a therapist for an ESA letter

26 Comments

  1. ELLA March 11, 2019 at 12:56 am - Reply

    CAN EMOTIONAL SUPPORT PETS LEGALLY ENTER COMMON AREAS IN A HOUSING PROJECT OR DO THEY HAVE TO STAY IN THE APARTMENT?

    • ESA Doctors March 16, 2019 at 3:39 pm - Reply

      Reasonable accommodations must be provided for an ESA and their handler. Requiring an ESA to stay in the apartment 24/7 could be interpreted as not reasonable.

  2. Barbie Pelletier April 18, 2019 at 11:11 pm - Reply

    Do they have the right to tell me that my emotional support animal has to stay in my bedroom at all times and not in the common areas in an apartment? The rooms are very small

    • ESA Doctors April 25, 2019 at 10:53 pm - Reply

      This does not sound like reasonable accommodations, which is required by the Fair Housing Act, if your ESA has to stay in your bedroom at all times.

      • Natasha October 12, 2019 at 2:37 pm - Reply

        I’m on housing and my landlord says my puppy appears vicious after barking at her when she knocked on the door; however, he’s just a hyper puppy and has never bitten anyone. I’m disabled and need him. Can she actually make me get rid of him?

        • ESA Doctors October 14, 2019 at 1:43 am - Reply

          If you have a valid ESA letter then your landlord must accommodate your ESA unless it poses a direct threat of harm or would cause substantial property damage.

  3. Abbi May 2, 2019 at 7:28 pm - Reply

    Does my esa dog have to be neutered

    • ESA Doctors July 12, 2019 at 12:57 am - Reply

      This may depend on your location.

      • Brie Durrance September 4, 2019 at 9:51 pm - Reply

        Im moving to North Dakota and the city I’m moving to has a ban on pitbulls within there city limits. Can the apartment we’re moving to tell me I can’t have my pitbull there if she’s an emotional support dog?

        • ESA Doctors September 6, 2019 at 12:21 am - Reply

          The federal Fair Housing Act does not allow landlords to discriminate against ESAs because it is a certain breed. That theoretically should supersede local laws, but practically speaking you may face a lot of conflict and adversity dealing with local enforcement of local rules.

  4. dan l Ruef May 5, 2019 at 4:35 am - Reply

    My landlord has threatened my daughter with eviction if she does not remove my ESA cat permanently from the property by this Monday. We cannot find a shelter or rescue in Texas. I am homeless in CA and my best friend and ESA cat is temporarily staying with my daughter in Texas until I find housing. They allowed my ESA when I lived their w my daughter. And now, in less than a week my animal will be euthanized after I begged the landlord to allow me a couple weeks to come pick him up. He has lived their 3 years with me and she can’t give me a little time to come get him. He deserves to live more than i do. This landlord can violate the law while my cat has to die. This life sucks!

  5. cathy M downum May 20, 2019 at 3:30 am - Reply

    Is it true that the letters are only good for one year?

  6. Donna Harris June 8, 2019 at 6:41 pm - Reply

    I have a Esa letter stating that I can have my dog live with me in my RV but my landlord is saying that he will not allow dogs on or in the premises at any time what can I do about this , my dog is only 5 lb and right now she is being taken care of by a friend of mine that has pretty much put her life on hold to care for her

    • ESA Doctors June 17, 2019 at 4:34 pm - Reply

      You can contact your local Fair Housing department and request assistance. You can also file a complaint against your landlord if you believe they are discriminating against your need for an ESA.

  7. Holly June 17, 2019 at 5:52 pm - Reply

    Can a landlord raise rent at the end of a lease because of a emotional support pet?

    • ESA Doctors June 29, 2019 at 3:45 am - Reply

      A landlord cannot raise their rent based solely on the existence of an emotional support animal.

  8. Anthony July 5, 2019 at 10:46 pm - Reply

    Can my ESA be denied by a HOA community?

    • ESA Doctors July 12, 2019 at 12:56 am - Reply

      No, HOA’s cannot refuse an emotional support animal.

  9. Maggs July 11, 2019 at 5:07 pm - Reply

    I have an ESA and my daughter has another. We are planning on moving in together as I am recently divorced. Can the landlord charge me a deposit for my ESA since my daughter already has one animal in her apartment?

    • ESA Doctors July 12, 2019 at 12:55 am - Reply

      A landlord cannot charge a pet deposit for emotional support animals.

      • Logan October 2, 2019 at 2:43 am - Reply

        I live in a trailer park and i own the trailer but pay rent to live on the parks property my landlord threatend to evict me due to having a “restricted breed” because there insuance could drop them are they allowed to do so? I have seen other restricted breeds in the park but apparently they have been grandfatherd in.

        • ESA Doctors October 2, 2019 at 8:31 pm - Reply

          Your landlord cannot categorically deny an ESA because it is a certain breed. The Department of Housing has stated that breed restrictions are not allowed. However, the landlord does have the right to deny an ESA if it would cause an undue financial burden. If the ESA would cause the landlord to suffer undue financial burden as a result of their insurance situation, that could be grounds to deny your ESA. Note however your ESA has to consider whether alternative measures are available to accommodate your ESA.

  10. Justin September 23, 2019 at 11:36 pm - Reply

    Does the same go for RV parks in Texas? My park is trying to kick us because we have a pit bull. She has esa certification for my brother.

    • ESA Doctors October 6, 2019 at 3:56 pm - Reply

      Our understanding is that RV Parks are covered by the provisions of the Fair Housing Act.

  11. Ashley November 18, 2019 at 11:13 pm - Reply

    Do I have to have renters insurance to have an emotional support animal?

    • ESA Doctors November 21, 2019 at 4:33 am - Reply

      Nothing under the Fair Housing Act requires a tenant to have renters insurance in order to have an emotional support animal.

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