A landlord can deny an ESA accommodation request in certain limited circumstances
Even though tenants with ESAs are generally protected by the Fair Housing Act, there are a few limited circumstances where the rules do not apply or where a landlord can deny an ESA. The Fair Housing Act does not apply to:
- Owner occupied buildings with no more than four units and
- Single-family homes sold or rented by the owner without the use of an agent
In addition, landlords can deny an ESA if the ESA poses a direct threat to the health and safety of others or would cause substantial property damage. It is important to note that landlords must consider accommodation requests for ESAs on an individual basis. That means that for example a landlord cannot deny your ESA solely because it is a certain breed and they make certain assumptions about that breed being dangerous. Remember, categorical breed restrictions are not allowed when it comes to ESAs.
What If the Landlord Refuses to Comply?
Unfortunately, some landlords are very averse to ESAs or just uninformed about what the rules are and will put up unreasonable roadblocks to prevent tenants from living with their ESAs. If your landlord is ignoring your ESA request, you should be aware that HUD has issued guidance that housing providers should make a determination regarding ESA accommodations promptly, generally within 10 days of receiving an ESA letter from a tenant.
Landlords also have to engage in good-faith dialogue with a tenant making an ESA request in an “interactive process.” Before denying an ESA request for valid reasons, landlords have to allow tenants reasonable opportunity to provide information confirming the tenant’s disability or disability-related need for an ESA.
If you believe your landlord is denying accommodation of your ESA without proper justification, these are some of your options:
- Make sure the landlord/owner of the property is aware of the Fair Housing Act rules and the penalties that may ensue if they fail to comply. Many landlords are often just unaware of the laws that cover them and it is always helpful to engage in a constructive dialogue with the landlord before taking more serious action.
- As a last resort, you can report and file an official complaint against the property manager/owner with the Department of Housing’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity.
The Department of Housing will often bring charges against landlords who fail to fulfill their obligations under the Fair Housing Act. Preventing a tenant from living with their ESA without valid justification can be considered discrimination and a violation of the FHA. The tenant in such a situation would have legal rights against the landlord for violating federal law.
Do I need a Service Animal or Emotional Support Animal?
It is important to understand the difference between Emotional Support Animals and Service Animals. Service Animals are trained to perform specific tasks for an owner, such as a guide dog for the blind. Service Animals have different rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act and are allowed in public areas.
On the other hand, ESAs do not have special training and have more limited accommodation rights. The FHA allows tenants to live in their homes with their ESAs, but does not give the right for an ESA to be in other public places. For example, ESAs do not have an automatic right to be in restaurants, grocery stores or hotels (although many hotels will have their own policies that make accommodation for ESAs).
Service Dogs are dogs that are highly trained to do a specific task for the disabled person. The service can be anything from helping the person navigate through public places or alerting them to an oncoming seizure or low blood sugar.
Emotional Support Animals (ESA) do not need any specialized training and provide comfort and support to their owners. People may use all sorts of animals to give them the emotional support they need to live a fulfilling life. An Emotional Support Animal can be a dog, cat, bird, rabbit, hamster, gerbil, other rodent, fish, or turtle.
Dogs and cats are the most common ESAs, but other animals are allowed as well. An ESA can be any small, domesticated animal that is traditionally kept in the home for pleasure. It is also not unusual for tenants to have more than one ESA that helps them cope with their disability – that is permitted if their ESA letter covers multiple ESAs.
Fair Housing Act and Emotional Support Animals
Remember that you have rights as a tenant with an ESA under the Fair Housing Act.
It is important to understand your rights and not allow a landlord or property manager to unjustly refuse your ESA. Remember that you have rights as a tenant with an ESA under the Fair Housing Act.
If you do not currently have an ESA but are interested in seeing if you qualify for one, the first step is to seek the help of a health care professional. ESA Doctors connects clients to real licensed health care professionals that can write ESA recommendation letters for qualified clients.
If you are interested in seeing if you qualify for an emotional support animal and do not currently have a therapist, fill out the questionnaire in the link below to get started.
See if you qualify for an ESA letter below.
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