One of the key benefits of having an emotional support animal (ESA) 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.
When you get an ESA, they will help to connect with the real world. However, new owners must know their rights and housing obligations as well.
As per the Fair Housing Act for emotional support animals, people with mental or emotional disabilities can live in an apartment without paying any additional cost as long they have a written certification from their doctor stating that it will help them feel better.
We know that being an ESA owner, you 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?
Service animals and emotional support animals do not always look the same, but they both provide their owners with specific benefits. Service animals' main purpose is to help those who are disabled, physical or mental impairment, while an emotional support animal helps in mental health issues such as stress or anxiety by calming down its owner when needed. They provide therapeutic benefits and help its owner to perform major life activities.
Plus, emotional support animals are not trained to perform a specific task like a service dog therapy animal and guide dog.
2. Does the Fair Housing Act apply to all types of housing?
Yes, the Fair Housing Act (FHA) applies to nearly all housing types, including rented buildings.
However, federal law does not apply if the owner owns a building having 4 or less than 4 units. And if it is a single-family house rented where an agent owns by a private club, and if a religious organization operates the housing.
3. Do I need to train my ESA specifically to live in the house?
No, there are no emotional support animal laws that say that your ESA requires formal training. But you should make sure your pet is well behaved and won't cause any damage when around other people or animals in public places.
If you have a dangerous or ferocious animal, it's best to check with your landlord before bringing them into the building. They might not allow certain types of animals on their property, so please research what type will be suitable for the living situation and how much trouble they'll cause.
4. Can a landlord deny an emotional support animal?
As per the law, no landlord could deny an ESA for 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 housing rules for an emotional support animal, 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.
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% right to claim residence in facilities with a ‘no-pet’ policy.
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 two 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 significant reasons.
10. Are there any limitations on the ESA's type, breed, and size?
No, there are no restrictions on the breed, size, and type of the animal. Usually, people choose emotional support dogs and emotional support cats as their emotional support animals, but you can also have other animals as ESAs.
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.
However, when it comes to flying with an emotional support animal, there are certain restrictions that you will have to keep in mind.
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 emotional and mental disorders, so 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, 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 assistance 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 hurts 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 its discipline and safety.
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 relieve stress and keeps you grounded in reality. Besides, these animals offer several 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 expire?
Yes, an ESA letter can expire. 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.
17. Can I get evicted for an ESA?
Your landlord cannot evict you because they do not want to violate Fair Housing regulations. This would be a direct violation of fair housing regulations and could result in them being sued by someone who is homeless or has been evicted from their home.
18. Does an ESA have to be registered?
Some online letter providers mislead people by saying 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. Some people also tell ESA owners that they need to use emotional support dog vests and put tags on their ESAs. However, this is also not true and it is not compulsory but only recommended.