If you suffer from an emotional or mental disability you and your emotional support animal have rights to fair housing. Read on if you or a loved one has an ESA and want to know more about the Fair Housing Act; it could be the most important article you read today.
Service Animal or Emotional Support Animal?
Certified Service Animals are dogs that are highly trained to do a specific task or service for the disabled person. The service can be anything from helping the person navigate through public places, to alerting them to an oncoming seizure or low blood sugar.
Emotional Support Animals (ESA) do not need any specialized training and are there to purely gives comfort and love. Emotional support animals can be dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, lizards, etc. People may use all sorts of animals to give them the emotional support they need to live a fulfilling life.
What is the Fair Housing Act and Who Does it Cover?
The Fair Housing Act (FHA) is a federal law that states any person with a mental or physical disability cannot be turned away from housing with their certified service animal or emotional support animal. This includes buildings and apartments that have a “no pets policy” in place. Landlords and apartment managers are required to make a “reasonable accommodation” for both service and emotional support animals.
What Does the Fair Housing Act Not Cover?
Even though you do have rights under the FHA, there are still situations in which a landlord does not have to comply with this Federal law. These include;
- When the animal is too large for the accommodation; such as a horse or llama
- Buildings that only have 4 (or less units) and the landlord lives in one of them
- Single family house that is rented without a real estate agent
What Documents are Required by Landlords for your ESA?
Under the Fair Housng Act, a landlord has the right to ask for proper documentation for your emotional support animal to prove you are in need of its service. This document is in the form of an ESA letter from a mental health professional; which includes licensed therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists. Your family doctor cannot prescribe you an ESA since they are not considered a licensed mental health professional. In addition, the documented letter must be signed and printed using your mental health professional’s official letterhead.
Some apartment managers require an additional form, that they provide, that must be filled out by your therapist. The therapists that work with ESA Doctors can assist you if your landlord requires extra documents. Click on the link below to get started with your ESA evaluation if you do not have an ESA letter from a mental health professional.
What Landlords Cannot Ask You for Under the FHA
When it comes to having an ESA, there are very specific rules and regulations set in place by the FHA to protect your rights. Under this policy the landlord is not allowed to;
- Make you pay any extra rent or deposit for having an ESA
- Cannot ask you about your disability
- Cannot make you register your emotional support animal
- Require the animal to have any specific training
- Refuse to house you because their insurance does not cover ESA’s
However, be aware that the landlord does have a right to ask you to pay for any damages the ESA may cause and he/she can also evict you due to unruly or out-of-control behavior from your ESA.
What If the Landlord Refuses to Comply?
Under the FHA if the landlord refuses to comply, you have the right to sue the property manager. This is a discrimination against you and the person can be charged under Federal Law. If your landlord refuses to give you housing, these are the steps you can take.
- Be sure to make the landlord/owner of the property aware of the Fair Housing Act laws and the penalty that will ensue due to their failure to comply.
- Report and file an official complaint against the property manager/owner to the U.S Justice Department or HUD.
- You may sue the owner for discrimination.
Fair Housing Act and Emotional Support Animals
Don’t let a landlord or property manager refuse your ESA. Remember that you have rights under the Fair Housing Act. If you find yourself in a situation with a building landlord or property manager, follow the steps to make sure the discrimination stops with you. If you do not have access to a therapist and cannot get an ESA letter, fill out the questionnaire in the link below to get qualified for your letter today.
Need an ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional?
See if you qualify by clicking the link below.