Harper Jefcoat
Harper Jefcoat

Fair Housing Act for Emotional Support Animal Protection

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12 min read


On This Page

  • What is the Fair Housing Act?
  • How to Work the Fair Housing Act with Your Landlord?
  • What Does a Landlord Need to Accept Your ESA?
  • The Fair Housing Act and Emotional Support Animal
  • What are Your Rights as an ESA Owner?

Wondering if you can get government support for your emotional support animal?

Yes, you can.

Now you can live and travel with your ESA without paying any pet fees. The Fair Housing Act is all about protecting you and your rights as an ESA owner.

Continue to know more about this federal law and how it protects you and your ESA.

What is the Fair Housing Act?

The Fair Housing Act is a federal law that forbids discrimination based on race, color, social status, sexual orientation, national origin, and disabilities. These disabilities include both physical and mental disability and no landlord is allowed to refuse accommodation on the aforementioned grounds.

Under this act, you can live with your service and emotional support animals without any discrimination or paying pet fees. Since these animals are not pets, landlords are not allowed to ask for any fees for providing reasonable accommodation for them.

This act also compels the landlords to make changes in their policies regarding accommodation and make them more suitable for the ESA owners. Besides the FHA, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 also protect the rights of people with disabilities.

What does the Fair Housing Act Cover?

Fair Housing Act covers the rights to the accommodation of individuals with disabilities and tenants who are looking to rent or buy a house from the following entities:

  • Property Agents
  • Leasing Agents
  • Properly Managers
  • Financial Institutions
  • Rental Managers
  • Property Developers and Contractors
  • Building Owners

The Act is the product and result of the civil rights movement that was gaining momentum and changing the legal structure in the time span between 1954 to 1968. The aim of the movement was to make sure that every US citizen gets equal rights to accommodation and housing facilities.

Fair Housing Act regulations protect minorities from any and every kind of discrimination and control and stop housing discrimination in the United States. So, how does this act expand to cover assistance animals? According to the act, no landlord should deny housing based on any disabilities. These could be invisible disabilities as well as those that are apparent, like physical disability or challenge.

This is why, under the prevalent law, landlords should make suitable changes in their housing policies and allow tenants to live with their service dogs or an ESA.

What the Fair Housing Act Does Not Cover?

Where the Fair Housing Act provides multiple advantages and rights to the emotional support animals and service animal owners, it gives some rights to the landlords also.

The Fair Housing Act FHA does not apply in the following conditions:

  • If the animal is inappropriate for a residential facility and is too big for it, like a horse, an ostrich, or a llama.
  • If the building has four or less than four units and the landlord occupies one of the units.
  • If the emotional support animals are not domesticated and are a threat to other residents like poisonous and wild animals.
  • Private clubs, hotels, and motels do not come under FHA but if your animal is a service dog then it can accompany you to these places also.
  • If the house is a single-family unit that is purchased or rented without the interference of a real estate agent.

Besides, an unofficial law makes you responsible for the behavior of your animal, and in case they do not behave properly, the landlord has the right to evict you. Therefore, be responsible and keep a well-mannered ESA or a service dog.

How to Work the Fair Housing Act with Your Landlord?

Suffering from a mental or emotional disability? Looking to have an ESA but don't know how your landlord will react? We can help you with getting your ESA letter. All you need to do is to get in touch with us and we will find out if you are eligible for an emotional support animal.

Having a legal ESA letter will help you live and travel with your ESA easily.

Usually, the main cause behind the rift and misunderstanding between the tenant and landlord is that they do not know about the law. The best way to smooth them out is to communicate with your landlord and tell them about it.

Provide legal and authentic documentation like your ESA letter and the certificate of training your animal, in case of a service animal. This way you will be able to communicate with your landlord and establish an understanding with him.

The FHA is geared towards providing equal rights to people with several physical, mental, and emotional limitations. These types of people often find it difficult to find a suitable home or housing facility.

As a result, they are left with limited choices. The Fair Housing Act protects the rights of every such person and gives them equal rights to finding a home and taking their ESA with them.

What Does a Landlord Need to Accept Your ESA?

Your landlord needs an authentic and legal ESA letter to accept your animal. The other reason why you need a letter to keep your ESA is to let your landlord know that your concern is genuine and you are not trying to avoid pet fees or anything.

Before you apply for the letter, it is important that you know and understand your rights as an ESA owner. Talk to your landlord and tell them about the law and consequences if he denies housing of your ESA.

It is quite possible that your landlord thinks that your ESA is a pet and you are trying to prevent paying for its housing. Communicate with him and make him understand that it is not a pet but a source of emotional support for you. Talk to them and tell them that it is like a treatment for you and you need it for normal functioning.

Many times, and after you have communicated with the landlord about it, they understand your condition and allow you to live with your emotional support animal. In case your landlord does not agree to allow you to live with your ESA, you can consult legal help.

The Fair Housing Act and Emotional Support Animal

Some people think that an emotional support animal is not covered under the FHA law, which is wrong. The Fair Housing Act for emotional support animals fully supports ESAs and their owners. When it says that people with a physical or mental impairment will also receive equal rights to housing opportunities and choices then it means that people with emotional disabilities are also included in it.

There are a number of people who are suffering from numerous emotional disabilities that leave them incapable of living normally and doing their daily routine tasks successfully. For them, an emotional support animal works as a pillar of support that helps them in normalizing and mixing with society.

However, they are different from service animals as a guide dog.

What is an Emotional Support Animal?

An emotional support animal is a type of assistance animal that helps emotionally and mentally disturbed people cope with their major life activities and daily routines. These animals are not pets and do not follow the usual ‘cat or dog’ type of approach.

It could be anything like a rabbit, mouse, parrot, llama, horse, reptile, or anything that provides the needed companionship and comfort.

However, animals that are too big as a horse, may face difficulty getting housing permission in a residential property or other public accommodations like a hotel.

What is a Service Animal?

A service animal is different from an emotional support animal but, as an ESA, it is also not considered as a pet but is more than that. A pet is something that people keep for entertainment and to keep them company. An ESA and a service animal can do all this and more by providing the help that the person needs.

Generally, a service animal is a dog that guides and helps its owner. Some people who may need assistance from a service animal are people who are blind, handicapped, or suffering from a disease like epilepsy.

These animals are individually trained to perform tasks like wheeling the wheelchair, helping the blind person cross the road and walking to places, and recognizing the early signs of approaching seizures.

This helps in getting adequate medical help before irreversible damage is done.

Besides ESAs, FHA protects service animals also. There are people who cannot live and travel without their assistance animals, this law protects their rights and makes sure that they are never left without the needed help.

Service animals enjoy more rights than ESA since they are there to help a person live his or her life normally. The owners can live with and travel with their service animals or dogs without any additional pet deposit or security deposit. However, it is the owner’s responsibility to maintain his or her animal’s behavior and keep it well-mannered.

In case of any damage done by the animal, the owner will be liable to pay for them.

Can a Cat be a Service Animal?

Can cats be service animals? Yes and no. Usually, dogs and miniature horses are selected as service animals as they are robust and healthy enough to steer a wheelchair and do other tasks. Cats, on the other hand, are not fit for rigorous labor but they can definitely help the people who are suffering from seizures.

Cats can alert them before the seizure and could get the necessary help from the neighborhood.

What are the Emotional Support Dog Requirements?

There are no particular requirements for an emotional support dog. You can have any dog, regardless of its age, breed, and weight to be your ESA. However, when choosing one, we suggest that you consider the kind and amount of space that you can dedicate to your animal. Moreover, if you are living in a rented property, it is important that you give your dog some basic training and it should be well-mannered and disciplined.

In case your dog is too big for the residence or it poses a direct threat to the health of the residents then your landlord has all the right to deny your ESA.

How to Get an Emotional Support Animal (ESA)?

To get an emotional support animal, you will need an ESA letter that is written by a licensed mental health professional. The letter states why the individual needs an ESA, his or her symptoms and condition, the reasons why the doctor is suggesting an animal support animal, and some proof of the positive effects of ESAs in bettering the person’s condition.

A person with a disability or mental disorder can request an emotional support animal.

RealESALetter.com provides legitimate and legally sound ESA letters that are given by our expert therapists and mental health practitioners. However, the first step in getting your ESA letter is to fill in our online questionnaire. Once you are done with it, one of our therapists will evaluate your application and guide you if you qualify for an ESA or not.

An ESA does not need that much of requirements, which is the case in the case of service animals, still, they need to be well-mannered and friendly towards everyone. Where a service dog or animal must know how to perform the required tasks, an ESA should be amiable and not too aggressive.

What are Your Rights as an ESA Owner?

Under the Fair Housing Act, you enjoy multiple rights and benefits, including the right to live and travel with your emotional assistance animal. We understand that an ESA is a part of therapy for you and this is why it is important that you live in its constant companionship.

Below we have answered some queries that people have, related to their rights to have an emotional support animal and how the government ensures their rights.

  1. My landlord has a ‘no pets’ policy, can I still have an ESA with me?

    Yes, you can still live with your emotional support animal. Under the Fair Housing Act, your landlord can not deny providing suitable housing for your emotional support animal. If your housing facility follows the ‘no pets’ policy, even then your landlord is required to change the rules and allow you to keep your ESA with you.

    You should request the accommodation for your ESA in writing and state the nature of your disability and the reasons your ESA is helpful and necessary for you.

  2. Can my landlord ask for proof of my disability?

    Yes, your landlord can ask for proof of your disability and it is mainly because people try to misuse the rule and use it to prevent and avoid giving their pet fees. However, the documentation does not need to be extensive and you will not be required to submit a lot of documents.

    As per the law, you will need to prove the relationship between your disability and the ESA’s therapeutic benefits. In most cases, a letter from your psychiatrist or therapist stating why an ESA is necessary for your better and normal functioning will be enough.

  3. Can a landlord deny an emotional support animal? Or offer alternative housing?

    Even though the law does not allow a landlord to deny your request for housing your ESA, there are fair chance that they would do it. One of the main reasons could be that they are not aware of the law otherwise, if no valid reasons are present, your landlord cannot deny your ESA. If he does, you can file a complaint against him according to the law.

    To deny, the landlord must have strong reasons. These reasons include that your animal is wild and a cause of disturbance for the neighborhood and other tenants. In such a case, your landlord has all the rights to demand eviction.

    Besides, your landlord can also offer an alternative suitable accommodation like proposing another animal or any other housing arrangements. However, accepting or rejecting the option is totally on you and you can deny it if you do not find it suitable.

  4. Can my landlord charge a pet deposit for my emotional support animal?

    While it is quite common for landlords to charge deposit or pet fees from the tenants with pets, it is important to understand that an ESA is not a pet and this is why the pet fees do not apply to them. However, if your ESA causes any damage to the housing or the nearby areas, then you will be liable to pay for repairs.

  5. Does FHA apply to campus residences also?

    While it is quite common for landlords to charge deposit or pet fees from the tenants with pets, it is important to understand that an ESA is not a pet and this is why the pet fees do not apply to them. However, if your ESA causes any damage to the housing or the nearby areas, then you will be liable to pay for repairs.

  6. Does my ESA need to have any special training?

    No, it does not. Emotional support animals are different from service animals. A service animal needs to be trained as per the owner’s physical disability. However, for an ESA, having proper or any type of training is not essential.

    But, you still need to potty train your cat or dog to avoid the mess in the housing or campus facility. In case of any kind of damage, you will be responsible for it.

  7. What is Emotional Support Animal Registration?

    There is no such thing as an emotional support animal registration. Many fraudulent companies spam new ESA owners into believing that they need to register their emotional support animals, which is wrong. All you need is a valid ESA letter that clearly states your mental or emotional condition and how its presence could alleviate it.

  8. Do I need an Emotional Support Dog Certification?

    No, you do not need emotional support animal certification separately. Since, as per the law, all you will need is an emotional support letter that explains your condition and tells the reader why and how an ESA helps you. If a company is telling you that you will need to certify your animal individually then it is a fraud.

    Please remember that even though you enjoy numerous benefits of being an ESA owner, you are responsible for your animal’s behavior and this is why you need to give it at least some basic training.

Harper Jefcoat


Harper Jefcoat

Harper Jefcoat is a dedicated pet enthusiast and esteemed author at RealESALetter.com. With a profound passion for animals, Harper combines extensive knowledge and personal experience to provide insightful and informative content. Specializing in canine behavior and wellness, he strives to empower pet owners with the tools and understanding they need to nurture and care for their furry friends effectively. Harper’s writings reflect his commitment to enhancing the lives of pets and their owners, making him a trusted voice in the pet community.

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