One of the key benefits of having an emotional support animal is how they help us cope with multiple emotional and mental limitations. But there are a lot of things you still need to know about it.
Having an ESA is a great experience as these animals help in connecting you with the real world. However, unfortunately, many new ESA owners do not know much about their rights and this includes their housing rights also.
As per the Fair Housing Act for emotional support animals, people having some form of mental or emotional disability could live with their animals without paying any additional cost. We know that being an ESA owner, you do have some questions and misunderstandings about how you can work with this law.
Below, we have tried to answer all of your concerns.
1. Are emotional support animals different from service animals?
Yes, emotional support and service animals are different from each and they serve a different purpose also. Service animals are specifically trained animals that assist a disabled person.
An emotional support animal is a support animal that provides mental and emotional support to its owner. They do not need to be trained but they need to be properly housebroken, and well-mannered.
2. Does the Fair Housing Act apply to all types of housing?
Yes, the Fair Housing Amendment Act (FHAA) applies to nearly all of the housing types including, rented buildings. However, the Act does not apply if the owner owns a building having 4 or less than 4 units, if it is a single-family house rented without the third party, the agent, owned by a private club, and if the housing is operated by a religious organization.
3. Do I need to train my ESA specifically to live in the house?
No, there are no restrictions or laws that comply with you to train your animal ‘formally’. However, this also does not mean that you can have a wild and ill-mannered animal. To live with your ESA, make sure that it is properly housebroken, disciplined, and safe around other people.
In case your animal is ferocious or dangerous, the landlord can reject it.
4. Can a landlord reject my emotional support animal?
No, as per the law, no landlord could reject an ESA due to any reason. However, if your animal is wild or a danger to people and other animals then he can reject your animal.
This legally enforceable ESA letter cannot be denied/rejected by anyone. However, sometimes the housing complex and landlords may ask for additional documentation. Don’t worry about that. You can let us know about the details and the therapist will sign that for you.
5. Which factors will the landlord consider when accepting your ESA?
As per the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), a landlord can and SHOULD ask two questions when accepting an ESA.
If the answer to any of the questions is a ‘no’ then the landlord has the right to deny the ESA.
6. Which documents do I need to live with my ESA?
The person must have a genuine and professionally signed ESA letter for housing from a Licensed Mental Health Professional (LMHP). There are no other documents that a person needs to live with his ESA.
Some online letter providers mislead people by saying that they need to register or certify their animals separately. It is wrong and all you need is a legally sound ESA letter to live with your animal.
Contact RealESALetter.com for more information.
7. Can the landlord ask for proof of my disability?
No, the landlord cannot ask for detailed medical records of your condition. Since most of the mental and emotional disabilities are not visible, the landlord may ask for the proof and validity of your animal in the form of an ESA letter.
However, in the case of a service animal where the disability is visible, the landlord is not allowed to ask for proof of the disability.
8. Can the landlord ask for an additional pet fee?
No, the landlord is prohibited by law to ask for any pet or additional fee to accept your ESA. Many new and existing ESA owners do not know that they have 100% rights to claim residence in facilities having a ‘no-pet’ policy also.
This is because an ESA is not a pet and the owner does not need to pay any additional cost to live with it. The ESA letter will evade any pet fees/ charges.
9. My landlord is not accepting my ESA snake, what shall I do?
Below are the 2 options to deal with this situation.
You can talk to the landlord about your rights as an ESA owner and explain your rights to him.
You can lodge a complaint to HUD against your landlord and report him.
Since the law prohibits the landlords from discriminating against the ESA owners, they could not reject or deny an ESA without any significant reasons.
10. Are there any limitations on the type, breed, and size of the ESA?
No, there are no restrictions on the breed, size, and type of the animal. Usually, people choose dogs and cats as their emotional support animals but you can have other animals as ESAs also.
Other options include rabbits, hamsters, squirrels, pigs, ducks, chickens, and some even get reptiles as their ESAs. Moreover, the landlord could also not limit the type and breed of your animal.
11. Who can write the ESA letter for housing for me?
Only a Licensed Mental Health Professional, LMHP, could write the letter for you. This is because mental health professionals know about mental and emotional disorders and this is why only they could diagnose and prescribe the animal.
Many people think that they could get a letter from any doctor and even their family doctor. This is wrong and your family doctor could only write your ESA prescription letter if he is a mental health professional.
12. Will I be responsible for the damages done by my animal?
Yes, if the landlord has made the needed changes to accommodate your animal and your animal, still, damaged the property then you will be responsible for the damages.
13. Can I live with my ESA in my college dorm also?
Yes, you can live with your ESA in your college hostel also. In fact, more and more students are living with their animals now since these animals help them cope with their symptoms. However, you will need special permission and a valid ESA letter to live with your animal.
You will be responsible for the behavior and cleanliness of your animal and in case it damages the college’s property or hurt another student, you will be liable to pay the damages.
14. Can I still keep my ESA dog if the breed is banned in my state?
This is a bit controversial as one court stated that the ban goes against the FHA that prohibits housing discrimination against people with disabilities. In such a case, the animal will be checked for how disciplined and safe it is.
If it is adequately housebroken, then it will be fine to live with it.
15. What is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?
According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, people could not deny housing or services to a person, based on his disability. The state and local government impel the agencies, housing facilities, and organizations to make ‘reasonable accommodation’ for people with disabilities.
Living with an emotional support animal helps you relieve stress and keeps you grounded in reality. Besides, these animals offer a number of health benefits also. However, when looking for suitable accommodation for yourself and your ESA, it is better that you know about the relevant laws and rights.
16. Can an ESA Letter get expired?
Yes, an ESA letter can get expired. However, it is different in the case of an ESA housing letter. If you don’t relocate within a year, you don’t have to renew the letter. But in some cases, the landlords may ask to see a renewed letter after a year.