Once you have your ESA Letter in hand (congratulations!), you may need to do a bit more than merely wave it in front of your prospective or current landlord’s face.
There’s no doubt that some landlords may consider an ESA Letter as a confrontational moment, and that can be stressful for you. Unless you’re completely aware of exactly what your rights are under the law.
It’s not unusual for your particular landlord to be ignorant of the legal requirements of the Fair Housing Act. Landlords who ask to see your medical records that support your ESA Letter is considered a violation of the law.
While it’s not your responsibility to educate your landlord, it doesn’t hurt to be able to calmly explain things to him (or her). That means you need to understand the law as well.
Emotional Support Animal law is on your side.
A pet housing facility is hard to find. However, Americans with disabilities act (ADA) protects the emotional support animal (ESA) and ESA owners by law from any sort of discrimination.
In brief, the U.S. Fair Housing Act is the law in every state that prohibits discrimination against rental tenants in their place of residence, whether that’s an apartment of four units or more, condo, co-op, or house rented through an agency.
Private homes rented without a broker, rental units of four apartments or less where one of the apartments is occupied by the owner, and living space provided by private clubs are excluded from enforcement.
Under the Fair Housing Act, renters with disabilities are allowed housing regardless of the nature of the disability that limits an individual’s life activities. This includes physical, emotional, psychological, or mental health impairment of any kind.
Your landlord may declare a “no pets” or “small dog only” policy, but that is a violation of the law. The fact is, landlords are required to provide “reasonable accommodation” to any emotional support dog or any other animal - regardless of species, breed, or size - that serves as assistance or emotional support animal.
Your pet may serve you as an assistance or support animal regardless of training as long as it is housebroken and well behaved.
It’s important to present proper documentation to your landlord.
Simply claiming that your pet is your necessary support animal is not enough under the law. You must have in your possession a current and valid document written and signed by a licensed medical or mental health practitioner that names you and your pet specifically.
This letter should explain in general terms how your pet serves your needs in dealing with your disability.
With your ESA Letter, it’s often helpful to attach your own note informing your landlord that you are requesting “reasonable accommodation under the law” in allowing you to keep your companion animal with you in residence for the purposes of emotional support.
What if a landlord refuses to accept your ESA Letter?
If your ESA Letter is legitimate (it’s a crime to present a forged or bogus ESA Letter), your landlord is compelled under law to respect it unless he can prove it presents a significant hardship to himself or other tenants (if your dog barks incessantly, for example).
If the landlord refuses to comply, you have the legal right to file a discrimination complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
If your landlord refuses to grant reasonable accommodation or acknowledge the validity of your legitimate ESA Letter, simply ask him to provide you with a written response indicating that refusal of your tenancy.
Then, respond with an email reminding him that you have presented a legitimate ESA Letter signed by a licensed medical or mental health professional and that you understand you are being denied tenancy in spite of that documentation.
At that point, indicate that you are filing a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development but remain willing to occupy the premises with your Emotional Support Animal as initially requested under the law.
You cannot be evicted for obtaining a new pet identified in a new ESA Letter.
Once you have a legitimate ESA Letter in hand that names you and your pet and describes your verified medical or mental health need for the companionship of your pet, your landlord may not evict you.
You must, however, make a formal request of your landlord to provide “reasonable accommodation under the law” before bringing your new pet onto the premises. When your request is granted, the landlord may not require payment of any additional fees or deposits.
“Pet fees” are a no-no.
If you present a legitimate ESA Letter to your landlord, the law prohibits the imposition of any additional charges just because you have an Emotional Support Animal. The landlord may, however, request a reasonable security deposit for damages.
This is a refundable deposit from which deductions can be made if you, your guests, or your pet cause physical damage to the premises. Security deposits are common whether you have a pet or not, and are limited by your state’s real estate laws.
Can a landlord ever legally reject an ESA Letter?
Under very limited circumstances, a landlord can legally refuse to honor an ESA Letter. Remember, the law exists to protect the pet owner who suffers from some variety of emotional, physical, or mental disability.
It’s not meant to punish landlords, which is why there are a few exceptions to the enforcement of your legitimate ESA Letter:
You can travel with your ESA
An ESA letter is not only used in getting a suitable residence for you and your pet. According to the Air Carrier Access Act, you can also travel with your ESA right next to you in the cabin.
ESA and Service Animals
People confuse ESA with service animals.
Yes, service dog, therapy dog and ESA dog, all help their owners but in a different way. Service dogs are individually trained according to the physical disability of their owners. An ESA just provides mental relief and comfort through their presence.
How to get an ESA letter?
Only a licensed mental health professional can write an ESA letter for you. If you need an ESA letter, you have to take an appointment with a licensed therapist. He will try to check your mental condition and if you qualify for an emotional support animal.
An ESA letter is only given to those individuals who suffer from any mental condition or emotional disability. It’s not that you want an ESA dog and you will get one.
You can also get an ESA letter online. Just follow a simple procedure and you will get your letter in a day or two. All you have to do is look for a legitimate website. Fill out their questionnaire and a therapist will review your application.
Following disabilities qualify for an ESA letter.
If you can do better with a furry friend in your life, you will be recommended an emotional support animal.
How to be sure your ESA Letter is legitimate
With so many online scammers offering “ESA Letters” that they simply concoct with phony health care provider identities, you are at risk when you deal with anyone offering “ESA registration” or letters issued without an extensive diagnostic evaluation.
It is a federal crime to offer bogus documentation in an effort to secure housing, so be sure you’re dealing with a company that employs certified, state-licensed medical and mental health care providers.
If a person is caught with a fake ESA letter, it will be considered a federal offence. The punishment can be a fine of more than $100,000 or imprisonment for a few months or community service according to the laws of the state.
If you can’t speak to someone on the phone or have any personal email or texting contact with the company staff, you are very likely dealing with a scammer who is only interested in harvesting your credit card data.
Be careful! Deal only with legitimate ESA Letter providers like RealESAletter and you’ll enjoy the happiness that comes with having your pet at your side wherever you live!
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