If you have an emotional or mental disability and your pet brings you comfort and a new lease on life, then you may be entitled to housing in “no pets” policy buildings. You are also, by law, not required to pay any extra fees for your ESA or have a weight or breed restriction imposed on you. To learn how to let your landlord know that your pet is an official Emotional Support animal, keep reading below.

Step #1 – Learn About Emotional Support Animals and ESA Letters

emotional support dog and me

An emotional support animal helps people with depression, anxiety, stress, etc. You may already qualify for an ESA and not know it.

An ESA is an animal that provides an emotionally or mentally disabled individual with the love and support they need to live a normal life. An ESA can be any type of animal as long as having that animal does not violate local or state laws. Your pet may currently be working as your emotional support animal already. In order to make it official, you must receive an ESA letter from a licensed therapist.

If you cannot afford a mental health professional on a regular basis, you can still seek the help you need. ESA Doctors can pair you with a licensed therapist online to see if you qualify.

In order to qualify for an ESA letter, you must have an emotional or mental disability that is in line with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5). These include mental disabilities, such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, etc. The impairment must affect your ability to perform major life activities.

Please keep in mind though, if you suffer from suicidal tendencies, you will not be able to seek support online. Instead, you should seek support from a local therapist.

how to get an esa letter

Step #2 – Understand ESA Housing Laws

apartment housing

Emotional support animals are exempt from breed and weight restrictions when renting. Landlords cannot deny renting to ESA owners.

As we discussed earlier, your Emotional Support Animal has the right to live with you in a “no pets” policy building. To learn more about housing rights, you may read this article on the Fair Housing Act on housing rights for Emotional Support Animals.

The key to getting housing in “no pets” policy building is to get an ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional. The landlord does have a right to ask for this documentation before allowing you and your ESA to live in the rental unit. This is different than registering your ESA. You may choose to register your ESA and order them a vest, but they are not an official ESA until you have an ESA letter.

You also cannot force a building owner to allow you to bring in an ESA that is unreasonable. This would apply to horses, llamas, or wild animals into apartment complexes.

You are allowed to have more than one Emotional Support Animal as long as your therapist deems it necessary. For example, having 2-3 cats or dogs may be acceptable but 10 chickens in an apartment may be considered unreasonable.

Step #3 – Informing The Landlord You Have an ESA

writing letter

You can give your ESA letter to your landlord before OR after you sign the lease. You are not required to let a new landlord know before signing your lease.

If you have been prescribed an ESA for your treatment and are currently living in a “no pets” policy building, you cannot be evicted under the Fair Housing Act. If you are moving into a new apartment,  you (the tenant) must request reasonable accommodations from your landlord (preferably through email), explaining that you do have a mental/emotional disability and you need the ESA to lessen the effects of your disability.

Once you have notified your landlord, you should also present him/her with your ESA letter from your mental health professional. You may provide an original hard copy of your letter or send your landlord a digital copy via email.

Are you looking to rent a new apartment? You may give your landlord your ESA letter before or after you sign the lease. You are not required to let your apartment management company know that you need or may need an emotional support animal. There have been a few apartment management companies have been known to discriminate against emotional support animal owners by not extending leases or flat out rejecting their applications. This is not only unethical, but illegal as well. If you are facing these types of discrimination, see below.

A landlord can refuse you housing or evict you if your ESA compromises the safety of the other tenants or their property, or causes the landlord any undue financial hardship. If the landlord refuses or threatens to evict you outside of these conditions, you can file a complaint with the HUD. Remember, the manager, owner or landlord must make reasonable accommodation for you and your ESA under Federal Law.

Emotional Support Animal and Landlord FAQ

  • Can a landlord refuse an emotional support dog based on breed?
    No, emotional support dogs can be any type of breed and are exempt from breed or weight discrimination.
  • Can a landlord charge a pet deposit for an emotional support animal?
    No, landlords may not charge additional rent or demand a pet deposit for emotional support animals.
  • Can a landlord ask for proof for my emotional support animal?
    Yes, a landlord may ask you for an ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional.
  • Can my landlord ask me to register or provide registration proof for my ESA?
    No, registration is not required for emotional support animals.
  • Do I have to disclose my disability to my apartment manager or landlord?
    No, you do not have to disclose any medical information to your landlord.
  • Do I have to let my apartment management company and landlord know that I have an ESA prior to signing a lease?
    No, you may let your apartment management company know before OR after you sign your lease.

Live Freely With Your ESA

You do have rights when it comes to having an Emotional Support Animal in a “no pets” policy building. Once you have your prescription letter, live freely with your ESA knowing you are both covered by Federal Law.

See if you qualify for an emotional support animal below.


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