The use of Emotional Support Animals (ESA) has become more and more common. This is due to science and medicine realizing the many beneficial qualities these animals can bring to a mentally or emotionally disabled individual. However, even though ESA’s are being recognized for their usefulness, it doesn’t necessarily mean the rest of the world will agree. This is particularly important when it comes to renting an apartment in a “no pets allowed” building.

If you need an ESA you do have rights under Federal law. Let’s take a closer look at these laws, and what your rights are in this guide to renting an apartment with an emotional support animal.

Tips for Getting an ESA into No Pets Policy Housing

The way you go about getting into a “no pets” policy housing can drastically change the outcome. Even though by law this type of housing has to make exceptions for a medically prescribed ESA, you don’t want to be on bad terms with either the landlord or the building owner. Here are some tips on approaching the landlord/owner to help get yourself and your ESA into a “no pets” building.

Step #1 – Get an ESA Letter from a Therapist

Getting your paperwork together to show your potential landlord is crucial in helping this process go smoothly. This is when your letter from your medical health professional is needed, stating the animal is not just a companion, but rather there for health issues. This document also has to be on the mental health professional’s own letterhead, signed and dated no later than one year from the time you are getting the housing.

If you don’t have access to a therapist, you can connect with one online. Click on the image below to get started with your online ESA evaluation.

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Step #2 – Let your Landlord Know About your ESA

Taking the nice approach when dealing with landlords/owners is always the best approach. Sit down with the person in charge and negotiate out a reasonable accommodation plan for you and your ESA. Again you do not have to disclose your specific disability, only that this animal is necessary and there to provide you with support. If you receive disability benefits, this can also be used to further demonstrate that you are on the up-and-up, not just trying to get a pet into the apartment. In addition, once an agreement has been formed, be sure to get all the changes in writing with both you and your landlord’s signatures and date to verify the agreement.

Remember, you do not have to disclose that you require an ESA before signing your lease. You may let your landlord know that you require a support animal after you sign your lease in order to prevent discrimination.

Step #3 – Make Sure your Animal Behaves

Take some time in your initial interview to assure the landlord/owner that you will have your ESA under control at all times. This includes inside and outside on the buildings’ property. Under the same laws, your landlord can evict you and your ESA if the animal is causing damage to the property or is causing a disturbance or danger to the other tenants.

ESA Cat in Apartment

Cats make great emotional support animals.

The Fair Housing Act

This act was created to stop the discrimination of landlords and building owners towards those folks that need special assistance in the terms of owning an animal. This act states that no landlord/building owner can refuse the housing of an individual that is deemed physically or mentally disabled and their service or emotional support animal. In fact, the law will require the landlord/owner of the residence to make “reasonable accommodation” for the tenant to use and enjoy the dwelling.

Under the Federal Housing Act, a disability is defined as;

  1. A physical or mental impairment which substantially limits at least one of the person’s major life activities
  2. Having proof/record of the impairment
  3. Being regarded as having the impairment.

Proof of Emotional Support Animal Need

Although the landlord/building owner does have to make reasonable accommodation for the person with an ESA, that person must also provide some information in order to prove their need for an ESA under the Federal Housing Act. This includes having a written letter from the licensed mental health professional stating the person would benefit from an emotional support animal in their daily life.

However, be aware that the landlord/owner does not have the right to the details of your emotional issue, just that you do need this animal to function in a normal capacity.

This is required to help keep those less scrupulous folks from pretending to need an animal for emotional issues when really it is just a pet.

Emotional Support Animal Discrimination Cases

There are many landlords and apartment managers and landlords that do not follow the laws when it comes to emotional support animals. These unscrupulous landlords will use intimidation tactics, deny housing, or flat out refuse your ESA. When reasoning does not work with these landlords, the next course of action may be for you to contact an attorney and file a discrimination suit. Here are a few cases that have been settled in favor of the ESA handler.

Renting with an ESA

Having the proper documentation and proper attitude when approaching a “no pets” policy landlord is the best way to the desired outcome. However, if you have taken all the proper steps and you are still refused housing contact the HUD – the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (or the one in your country) for more information on the steps you can take to file a complaint.

Start your questionnaire now to see if you qualify for an emotional support animal.

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