Since 2015, ESA Doctors has helped clients interested in qualifying for emotional support animals connect with real licensed mental health professionals. As Emotional Support Animal (ESA) advocates, we find it important to educate our clients and anyone in need about ESA housing rights and how to effectively communicate with your landlord.
We know first-hand that dealing with landlords can be intimidating and sometimes frustrating, especially if the landlord is unaware of ESA rules or is opposed to emotional support animals in general. That is why we believe it is important for all ESA owners to be well-versed about the rules that pertain to their ESAs under the Fair Housing Act.
Your Emotional Support Animal’s Housing Rights
If you are knowledgeable regarding ESA housing rights, you are more likely to be successful in requesting accommodations for your ESA from your landlord. We also believe that ESA owners should act responsibly and be good ambassadors for other ESA owners, and that means knowing what rights their ESAs have and do not have.
- Can my landlord place a weight and/or breed restriction on my ESA?
- Do I have to pay Pet Fees or a Pet Deposit for my Emotional Support Animal?
- Who can write an ESA Letter for me?
- Can my Emotional Support Animal and I go to Common Areas?
- Which landlords do not need to comply with Fair Housing rules?
If you are ready to see if you qualify for an ESA letter and request reasonable accommodation for your Emotional Support Animal, we would be happy to assist you.
5 Questions You Must Know the Answer to for Emotional Support Animal Housing
No, landlords, co-ops and HOAs are not permitted to exclude your emotional support animal solely because it is a certain breed or weight. The Department of Housing has clearly stated that categorical breed restrictions are prohibited. For example, a landlord can’t deny an ESA solely on the basis that it is a Pitbull, even if the building has a policy prohibiting Pitbulls as pets.
Instead, landlords may only determine if the specific ESA in question poses a direct threat to the health and safety of others. That determination has to be based on an individualized assessment of the ESA’s actual conduct, and cannot be based on stereotypes about the specific breed. That means a landlord can deny your Pitbull if there is actual evidence that is a threat to others, but not if the landlord is just basing their decision on anecdotal evidence about Pitbulls.
Landlords are not allowed to charge pet fees and pet deposits in connection with ESAs. As previously noted, conditions and restrictions that landlords apply to normal pets may not be applied to ESAs. That means that while landlords can require applicants or residents to pay a deposit or fee in connection with a normal pet, they are not allowed to require applicants and residents to pay a deposit or fee for an ESA.
Landlords are also not permitted to charge an application fee in order to consider the tenant’s request for accommodation of their ESA.
It is important to note however that your landlord can charge you if your ESA causes damage to the property. Your landlord may be able to deduct expenses for damages caused by your ESA from the general security deposit you paid for your renting your home. For an in-depth assessment of the updated Fair Housing regulations around Emotional Support Animals, you may find this article helpful.
The Fair Housing Act allows an ESA letter to come from a licensed healthcare professional, which includes licensed professionals such as nurses, psychologists, therapists, counselors, social workers and psychiatrists. Many landlords mistakenly believe that an ESA letter must be “prescribed” from a medical doctor. An ESA letter is a recommendation letter that comes from a licensed healthcare professional, it is not a prescription that must come from a physician. Doctors have the ability to write ESA letters but they are sometimes uninformed about ESAs and not in the best position to recommend an ESA to a patient.
The best place to go to see if you qualify for an ESA letter is your existing therapist. If you do not have access to a therapist or are having difficulty finding one, you can connect remotely with someone to assist you. ESA Doctors can help connect you to a mental health professional that is licensed for your state.
Yes, an emotional support animal must be allowed in common areas where other tenants are allowed, such as courtyards, gardens or pool areas. The rules regarding ESAs were designed to allow tenants with disabilities to enjoy the premises of their homes to the same degree as non-disabled tenants. The Department of Housing has stated that an ESA is allowed “in all areas of the premise where persons are normally allowed to go, unless doing so would impose an undue financial and administrative burden or would fundamentally alter the nature of the housing provider’s services.”
Although most housing is covered by the Fair Housing Act, there are some exceptions. The Fair Housing Act exempts (1) owner-occupied buildings with no more than four units, (2) single-family houses sold or rented by the owner without the use of an agent, (3) housing operated by religious organizations and (4) private clubs that limit occupancy to members. If your housing falls into one of those categories your landlord does not have to accommodate ESAs.
For example, if you live in a 3 unit housing complex and the owner of the building lives in one of the units, they are likely exempt from Fair Housing requirements for ESAs. However, many landlords who are not obligated to accommodate ESAs because they fall under one of these exemptions will often allow ESAs anyway as a courtesy. It is always best to speak openly to your landlord about your need for an ESA.
How can I qualify for an ESA letter?
To qualify for an ESA letter, you must work with a licensed medical professional. If you do not currently have a therapist or you are having trouble finding one or seeing one in person, ESA Doctors can help connect you to a licensed professional that works remotely. The compassionate professionals that ESA Doctors work with are familiar with ESAs and can help determine whether an ESA is right for you. Just click on the “Get Started” link below to get started.
If you believe you benefit or would benefit from an Emotional Support Animal’s presence and support. We can help connect you with a licensed mental health professional directly to see if you may qualify.