To share an ESA Letter with your landlord or real estate agency you can follow a very simple 2 steps approach: Notify and share. As we’ll mention in this article, be aware of your rights and know how to defend them in case your landlord is not willing to comply. But before you can speak to your landlord make sure you have obtained a valid ESA Letter.
How to Obtain an ESA Letter
If you have an emotional or mental disability and your pet brings you comfort and confidence in times of need, then you may be entitled to have an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) and bring it into housing with a “no pets” policy.
For an Emotional Support Animal to become official, a licensed mental health professional must issue a personalized ESA letter. Your licensed professional must diagnose you under the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The diagnosis needs to state that your impairment affects your ability to perform daily activities.
The licensed mental health professional can be a social worker, a therapist, a psychiatrist, or a psychologist. If you cannot afford a mental health professional on a regular basis, or you have no connections in the state your apartment is in, you can still find help. ESA Doctors can pair you with a licensed therapist online who are licensed within the state you are located.
Please be advised, if you suffer from suicidal tendencies, you will not be able to seek support online. Instead, you should connect with a local therapist as soon as possible.
How to Inform Your Landlord of your ESA Letter
If your licensed mental health professional has issued an ESA letter within the past year, and you currently live in a “no pets” policy home, you can advise your landlord or property management company of your ESA.
Step #1 – Notify the Landlord
Informing your landlord through email, phone, face-to-face or text are all viable options. Explain that you have a disability and you need an Emotional Support Animal to lessen the effects thereof. Be honest about the type of animal you depend on and how many you have.
Generally under the Fair Housing Act, you cannot be evicted from your current home, if you’re in possession of a valid ESA Letter.
If you are looking for a new place to live, you may inform your new landlord or property management after you have signed the lease. Legally you are not required to do so before signing in order to protect ESA owners from discrimination.
Step #2 – Share ESA Letter
After notifying your landlord, present your legit ESA Letter by either providing a hard-copy, a digital copy, or both. If you are moving into a new apartment or housing complex, you may give your landlord the ESA Letter after signing the lease.
If necessary, step #3 – Contact HUD
If your landlord is not willing to accept your Emotional Support Animal, despite your valid ESA Letter, then you can contact the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The HUD, which governs under the Fair Housing Act, will help you resolve the issues and educate the landlord of the rights both of you hold.
Comply with Additional Documents Request
Landlords and real estate agencies may ask you to complete a form of their own to go along with the ESA Letter. You can comply with such demands. Your licensed mental health professional can help to fill out and sign the document to confirm the validity of your ESA letter.
What Landlords Cannot Do
Under the HUD, the landlord:
- cannot charge extra fees for the residency of the emotional support animal,
- cannot discriminate against the tenant for factors such as race, age, and ethnicity, and
- cannot discriminate against the Emotional Support Animal based on its breed and age.
- Landlords also cannot ask the tenant for the animal to be specially trained or require the animal to wear specific equipment to identify itself as an Emotional Support Animal.
In case the landlord does not accept your ESA and a dispute happens, the landlord cannot retaliate against you if you file a fair housing complaint. They cannot evict you, refuse to renew your lease, keep you from using your premises, increase your rent, terminate your lease, or interfere with any of your rights under the lease.
When Can a Landlord Deny Your Emotional Support Animal
The landlord can deny your Emotional Support Animal or even completely evict you and your ESA if your animal behaves in ways that it causes:
- damage to the property, or
- disturbance or danger to the other tenants.
Therefore, make sure your ESA behaves and is well-mannered while frequenting all living areas of the housing complex. Other tenants may not be welcoming of pets and file disturbances if the ESA is involved in even the smallest quarrel.
Improve your life. Connect with a Licensed Health Care Professional now. (linked)
Know how to Defend Your ESA Housing Rights
In cases where you feel like your rights have been violated, contact the HUD and get in touch with a lawyer. Your lawyer will be able to protect you and help file a court suit for litigation against the landlord.
However, following the above steps of how to inform the landlord will set you on the right path. It will increase your chances of a smooth introduction of your Emotional Support Animal into your new home and you can continue living the life you deserve.