Emotional support animals are vital to the well-being of their owners, but they are subject to both state and federal laws. These laws provide the animals more rights than the average pet but do not allow them the same access as a service animal. 

ESA owners, however, still have important rights in Illinois. They are allowed to live with their ESAs in no-pets buildings without paying any fees or deposits. Residents of Illinois are protected against discrimination due to their need for an ESA. 

In the state of Illinois, a tenant must have an ESA letter provided by a mental health professional for a pet to legally qualify as an emotional support animal.

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Emotional Support Housing Rights in Illinois

Since emotional support animals are not considered pets, they are exempt from building pet policies and cannot be discriminated against. Landlords and building managers cannot discriminate against any current or potential tenants requiring an ESA, nor can they charge additional fees or deposits to house the animal.

This means that even if a building does not typically allow tenants to own pets, housing providers are not legally allowed to deny housing to a tenant with an emotional support animal.

Additionally, emotional support animals are exempt from any size or breed restrictions that apply to the average pet in any building. So long as the ESA does not pose a threat to the health or safety of others, landlords must provide reasonable accommodation. However, if the ESA does pose a danger to other tenants, the landlord may be permitted to evict the tenant.

What is an ESA Letter?

In 2020, Illinois implemented the Illinois Assistance Animal Integrity Act to prevent pet owners from falsely representing a pet as an ESA or service animal. Previously, some owners would simply purchase an ESA certification document online. The rules make clear that the ESA letter must be provided by a mental healthcare provider with a “therapeutic relationship” with the owner.

The letter must contain basic information such as the tenant’s name, as well as the healthcare professional’s name, license type and number, and contact information. The letter must also clarify the type or species of emotional support animal required by the tenant.

The letter must confirm the need for an ESA based on the tenant’s specific mental or emotional condition. It must also state that the ESA helps alleviate symptoms of the condition or allow the tenant to overcome the limitations or impairments in their life. The letter does not need to contain a specific diagnosis.

ESA cat at home in Illinois, thanks to an legitimate ESA letter.
Only a legitimate ESA letter will give you and your ESA the protection needed to live in housing without paying any pet fees.

Who Qualifies for an ESA Letter?

To qualify for an ESA letter, tenants must be diagnosed with a mental disability that limits or inhibits them from performing or participating in one or more major life activities.

Tenants suffering from conditions such as PTSD, anxiety disorders, depression, phobias, personality disorders, or cognitive or learning disorders may qualify for a letter. If you believe that your disorder may qualify you for an ESA letter, your physician, mental health provider, or the agency providing you care is the best person to talk to. 

If you do not have a doctor or therapist, or you have one, but they are unfamiliar with ESA rules, you can use an online resource like ESA Doctors to connect with an online provider. 

As previously stated, the letter can only be written by a healthcare provider. This can include a primary care physician, licensed psychiatrist, psychologist, or therapist. Additionally, non-medical service agencies are allowed to supply ESA letters so long as they have the required therapeutic relationship with the tenant.

In the state of Illinois, online healthcare providers are permitted to write ESA letters, where in-person care is not required. Regardless of whether the care is provided in-person or virtually, the provider must have some knowledge of the patient’s condition and need for an ESA.

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How to Travel with an ESA in Illinois 

If you are looking to travel with your emotional support animal in Illinois, there is, unfortunately, some disappointing news. Due to regulatory changes, ESAs are no longer allowed to board flights free of charge. 

The state of Illinois does, however, recognize psychiatric service dogs (PSDs). Psychiatric service dogs are trained to perform a job or task relating to a mental health disability. PSDs have greater public access rights than ESAs. Not only are PSDs allowed in no-pets housing, but they can also access public areas like stores and airports. PSDs are also allowed to fly in the cabin of planes without any charge. 

Many PSD owners will obtain a PSD letter from a licensed healthcare professional. A PSD letter is a signed document from a licensed healthcare professional who has determined whether the individual has a qualifying condition for owning a PSD under the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

Are you interested in a PSD letter? The caring professionals that work with ESA Doctors can help — just click on the link below to get started.

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ESA Laws in Illinois

By law, an ESA letter is required before a housing provider is required to provide reasonable accommodation to a tenant with an ESA. However, if the original document does not give enough information about the tenant’s disability or need for an ESA, the housing provider is allowed to request additional information.

This does not mean that the landlord may request documentation of a specific diagnosis regarding the tenant’s disability. A tenant’s specific diagnosis does not need to be known, as this information is protected by the Fair Housing Act. 

As mentioned earlier, the landlord cannot require a tenant to pay a pet deposit or fee, regardless of whether pets are otherwise allowed to reside in the building. Additionally, they are not allowed to demand that a tenant purchase liability insurance or coverage for their ESA.

In Illinois, a housing provider may deny a tenant’s request if their ESA poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others or if the animal causes substantial physical damage to the property of others.

How to Get an ESA Letter Online in Illinois 

If you are looking for an ESA letter in Illinois, ESA Doctors can help connect you with a kind, friendly professional who is licensed to practice in Illinois. There is no better way to get an ESA letter than through ESA Doctors. The ESA professionals that work with ESA Doctors understand ESA rules and write ESA letters that work. To get started, click on the link below. 

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