Living with an emotional support animal (ESA) can make all the difference when managing a mental health condition, working through trauma or grief, and finding the strength to care for yourself. 

However, when you’re looking for an apartment, townhome, or other leased housing, your potential landlord or property management company may have a strict no-pets policy. But the good news is, your ESA is more than just a pet — the comfort and sense of purpose that an ESA provides are vital to health and well-being and, therefore, an indispensable part of the ESA owner’s life.

All you need is a legitimate ESA letter stating that your pet does indeed fulfill the function of an emotional support animal. ESA Doctors can help connect you with a reputable health care provider in your area who will assess your ESA needs and provide you with an ESA letter to justify the ESA to your landlord. 

What Are Emotional Support Animals?

Emotional support animals are pets that help mitigate some of the symptoms of emotional or mental health conditions by providing support, love, and companionship. Over 25% of the U.S. population struggles with mental illnesses like generalized anxiety disorder, depression, or bipolar disorder (BPD). These mental health concerns can cause a person to feel isolated, unloved, alone, or unable to care for themselves. Having the companionship of an animal can help reduce such feelings.

Caring for an emotional support animal can also give people a sense of purpose. Often, symptoms of depression or BPD include feeling unable to get out of bed or lacking the motivation to complete even the most basic tasks like showering or brushing teeth. However, caring for a pet and knowing that the animal depends on them for food, walks, and attention can help people find the internal strength to care for themselves and the animal. Over time, caring for their ESA may help people respond better to their therapy and treatment.

Emotional support animals are different from service animals, such as seeing-eye dogs or seizure detection dogs. Service dogs are specifically trained to perform tasks for their owners to keep them safe or provide life-saving necessities. ESAs and service animals are two different legal classifications, and only service animals are covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). 

Housing Rules for ESAs - Fair Housing Act - ESA Doctors
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Can My Landlord Deny ESAs?

Under the U.S. Fair Housing Act (FHA), your landlord is required to provide reasonable accommodation for you and your animal companion. The FHA is administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and prohibits landlords and property managers from discriminating against tenants who are members of a protected class, which includes those with a disability. 

Disability, as defined in the FHA, is a mental or physical impairment that can substantially limit one or more major life activities. Disabilities are legally recognized if the individual has a record of the impairment or is regarded as having the impairment.

Pet bans and restrictions — like breed or size of the animal — are waived for people with legitimate ESA Letters for housing. ESA owners are also exempt from pet fees and pet deposits.

Although the FHA applies to most housing situations, there are a few exceptions.

Why Would My Landlord Deny My ESA?

In general, the FHA does not cover owner-occupied buildings with more than four units, housing operated by private clubs or organizations that limit property occupancy to members, or single-family housing leased without a real estate broker.

Other reasons that a landlord or property manager can deny an emotional support animal include:

  • Financial hardship to the property caused by the ESA
  • Health risks or danger of the animal to other tenants
  • If the ESA has caused substantial property damage
  • Illegitimate ESA letters

These are just a few situations that do not fall under the protection of a reasonable accommodation request. However, you may have options if your landlord has denied your request to have your emotional support animal in your home.

ESA owner with her emotional support animals at home
A legitimate ESA letter — including one obtained online — can provide the protection needed to get reasonable accommodation for you and your ESAs.

What Are My Options If My Landlord Denies My ESA?

Although it may be an intimidating conversation, your best first step to having your ESA accommodated is to have an honest conversation with your landlord or property manager. Some people may not understand the medical necessity of an emotional support animal, while others may not realize that an ESA letter can justify an exception to the property’s pet policy. 

Your landlord may be concerned that the pet will disturb other tenants or create a mess on the property. You may be able to reassure your landlord by promising that you will clean up after the pet and ensure that it doesn’t disturb the other tenants.

If your landlord is concerned about the breed of your ESA, you can remind them that they are not allowed to discriminate against an ESA solely because of its breed or size. You can also take steps to demonstrate that your ESA is well-trained and will be a model citizen in your housing unit.

However, if your landlord keeps denying your ESA request, you may want to file a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Sometimes HUD will intervene on your behalf. You may also consult with a housing attorney in your community. These options should, however, only be used as a last resort if discussions have failed and your landlord continues to violate your housing rights. 

How to Make Your Landlord Love Your ESA - 5 Points Infographic - ESA Doctors

Do I Need Help Obtaining an ESA Letter for Housing?

Ask your doctor or therapist if they can help evaluate whether using an emotional support animal may alleviate the symptoms of your emotional or mental disability. If you’re currently unable to see a doctor in person, or your therapist is not familiar with ESAs, you can get a second opinion or get your assessment made online. ESA letters issued online by licensed healthcare provider are accepted in all states. 

ESA letters issued through telehealth must, however, be issued by healthcare providers who are licensed in the state of the ESA owner’s residence. A legitimate ESA letter is printed on the letterhead of the provider, and contains the state license number, date of issue, contact information and the signature of the healthcare professional.

ESA Doctors connects people all over the country with physicians or therapists who can evaluate your condition and the benefits that your ESA provides to you. If approved they will issue a legitimate ESA letter valid for your housing requests. Since 2015, ESA Doctors has consistently achieved the highest customer approval ratings among online ESA letter services, as well as a rare A+ rating by customers on BBB. Get the support you need — start your assessment on ESA Doctors today. 

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