If you’re considering qualifying for an emotional support animal letter, also known as an ESA letter, you can still obtain one in 2022. Getting an official emotional support animal letter is essential to having a valid ESA and receiving protection under federal and state laws. Let’s explore how to get an ESA letter for housing in 2022.

What is an Emotional Support Animal?

An emotional support animal (ESA) is more than a pet. An ESA helps a person deal with their mental or emotional condition. The emotional support and comfort that the animal provides help them cope with the challenges their disorder or disability might bring.

An ESA can be most small, domesticated animals of any breed that are usually kept as pets. A dog, cat, bird, hamster, or even a fish, for example, may all qualify as an ESA — as long as their owner has an ESA letter. An ESA letter enables ESAs to fall under federal protections regarding disabilities and housing. 

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Federal and State Laws that Protect ESA

Anyone with a pet understands how important it is for their pet to live with them. Coming home to a wagging tail or sleeping in a warm snuggle can help any pet owner through a tough day. 

For people with mental or emotional disabilities, however, an animal is a lifesaver. Having their animal at home helps manage feelings of anxiety, depression, and loneliness and allows for an improved quality of life. Because ESAs play such vital roles in the life of someone with a mental or emotional disorder, federal and state governments have laws that protect the presence of emotional support animals in homes. 

The Fair Housing Act 

The Fair Housing Act (FHA) protects against discrimination from landlords and other housing providers. People with disabilities are covered under the FHA, preventing landlords from discriminating against people because of their disabilities. The FHA also requires landlords to offer reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities, including emotional support animals. 

The enforcing entity for the FHA is the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HUD includes emotional support animals under their definition of “assistance animals.” This inclusion means landlords and housing providers must reasonably accommodate ESA owners in housing situations.

These laws ensure that people with disabilities are treated the same as people who do not have a disability.  For an emotional support animal to fall under these laws, however, the ESA owner must have a current and valid ESA letter. 

What is an ESA Letter? 

An emotional support animal letter, or ESA letter, is a document verifying that a person with an emotional or mental disability needs the presence of an animal to alleviate symptoms of the condition. The letter confirms that a licensed mental health professional (LMHP) assessed the individual and found the ESA is beneficial to their wellbeing. Without an ESA letter, an animal is not protected under federal or state laws for emotional support animals. 

If you suffer from a mental health issue and would like to qualify for an Emotional Support Animal online, we can help connect you to a licensed therapist licensed for your state in the link below.

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What is in an ESA Letter? 

A legitimate ESA letter is vital if an owner wants their animal considered as ESA. For an ESA letter to be valid, only a licensed mental health professional can write an ESA letter. This professional must be licensed in the state where the ESA will reside with their owner, and their license should be current. Examples of licensed mental health professionals are: 

  • Physician or Psychiatrist (Doctor)
  • Licensed psychologist
  • Licensed therapist
  • Licensed counselor
  • Licensed social worker
  • Licensed advanced practice nurse practitioner

It’s not advisable to write your own ESA letter or even worse, forge a letter. Many states have ESA misrepresentation laws, and breaking these laws may result in hefty fines. 

A valid ESA letter should contain the following information: 

  • An ESA letter requires the date of issuance because an ESA letter is only valid for one year and must be renewed.
  • An ESA letter must be written on the letterhead belonging to the licensed professional.
  • The ESA letter must indicate that an emotional support animal is necessary for the relief of an individual’s mental or emotional disability. 
  • The signature and license number of the licensed professional issuing the ESA letter should be noted on the ESA letter. 

How Do You Qualify for an Emotional Support Animal?

To fall under FHA laws for an ESA, you must have an emotional or psychological disability.  A few examples of disabilities that may benefit from an ESA are: 

  • Depression
  • Social Anxiety 
  • Agoraphobia
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Eating Disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Panic disorder

ESAs also assist in reducing the symptoms of many other mental health conditions. Regardless of an individual’s diagnosis, it’s important that an animal can help with their recovery and quality of life. The ESA letter works as a licensed professional’s attestation that an emotional support animal would effectively reduce an individual’s mental health symptoms. 

Can Landlords Charge for Emotional Support Animals?

The economic climate in 2022 makes finding affordable housing challenging, especially for people with pets. An emotional support animal, however, is more than a pet. For that reason, a valid ESA owner does not need to pay the typical pet fees that come with renting a house or apartment with pets. What’s more, landlords can not charge ESA owners any fees pertaining to the size or breed of pets. For example, a housing complex charging extra fees for dogs over 50 pounds is prohibited from charging ESA owners, even if their ESA weighs 100 pounds. 

Although landlords can’t apply pet fees to ESAs, ESA owners are still responsible for any property damage. If an ESA damages any property, the landlord can keep the security deposit and charge for extra repairs. Having an ESA does not absolve a person from being a responsible renter. 

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Do Emotional Support Animals Count Towards a Pet Limit?

Because the Fair Housing Act does not consider ESAs as pets, an emotional support animal does not apply to a rental housing’s pet limits. An ESA is exempt from pet limits but can still live with pets. For example, a renter living in a two-pet limit housing may have two cats and one ESA dog because the dog is not a pet. However, the ESA owner must have a valid ESA letter as proof that the dog is an ESA. There are currently no limits as to how many ESAs an individual may have. However, it’s a good idea to be a responsible ESA owner and keep to a reasonable number of ESAs. 

Can a Landlord Deny an Emotional Support Animal?

For the most part, it is illegal for a landlord to deny an ESA, as long as the owner has a current and legitimate ESA letter. The FHA protects ESA owners in most situations. Nevertheless, landlords can deny an emotional support animal or ask an owner to remove an ESA under certain circumstances, including if: 

  • The ESA compromises the health or safety of other tenants. 
  • The presence of the ESA would pose an undue financial or administrative burden. 
  • The housing is operated by a religious organization or club that offers occupancy only to members. 

If the ESA owner has a valid ESA letter, it’s often up to the landlord to prove that the ESA meets grounds for denial. ESA owners can file a complaint regarding discrimination with the Housing of Urban Development (HUD) if they feel their landlord is unfairly discriminating against them. However, that should only be a last resort option if discussions have completely failed.

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Requesting an ESA Letter for Housing In Person 

If you’re looking to get an ESA letter for housing in 2022, you can request an ESA letter in person or online with a licensed mental health professional. If you’re already under the care of a professional, you may inquire about obtaining an ESA. Have a frank discussion whether an ESA would help manage your mental health symptoms. If your mental health professional denies your request, you may ask another professional for a second opinion. 

Requesting an ESA Letter for Housing Online

Another option is to seek assistance online. Since the beginning of the pandemic, telehealth services have become the new normal, especially for mental health services. ESA Doctors is a reputable online service that connects you with licensed mental health professionals who are licensed in your state of residence. These professionals are knowledgeable about the therapeutic benefits of emotional support animals and can provide you with an authorized assessment regarding your request for an ESA letter.

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