If you rent your apartment or house, you are subject to the rules set by your lease and landlord on keeping animals on the premises. Needing to avoid no-pet or breed restriction policies can severely limit your housing options. Since your emotional support animal is not a pet but an important part of how you deal with a disability, you may be wondering what your rights are regarding emotional support animal housing. Emotional issues such as panic attacks, PTSD, depression, anxiety all are considered disabilities that a therapist at United Support Animals can consult with you on and achieve your Emotional Support Animal (ESA) Letter that you need for your housing needs.
Emotional Support Animals and the Law
The good news is that the law protects your rights to have an emotional support animal. Specifically, the Fair Housing Act, which is a Federal law actively on the books, protects discrimination against tenants in protected classes including people with disabilities. It requires that the landlord make “reasonable accommodation” for your disability.
Under the act, a disability is a physical or mental impairment that significantly limits a major life activity and that is documented. For the last part, you can receive an ESA Letter from a therapist at United Support Animals to show that your animal is helping with a disability.
The landlord cannot ask for details of your disability. However to comply with the Fair Housing Act, he or she can ask you for documentation that you have a disability and you will need to provide such documentation which is the ESA Letter.
Reasonable accommodation means renting the housing to you regardless of a no pet policy the landlord may have and regardless if the breed of your animal defies any breed restrictions. The ESA Letter you get from United Support Animals also entitles you to not have to pay any pet security deposits or pet fees for your rental.
Common Problems You May Run Into
Unfortunately, it is not uncommon to run into issues. Many landlords believe that their no-pet policies mean that tenants cannot have animals at all. Some push back on emotional support animals and even service animals.
If you are prepared, have your ESA Letter from United Support Animals and know your rights, you can stand your ground and win. If you have an emotional disability, you are legally allowed to have appropriate accommodations to help with any impairment caused by the disability.
Another problem that some people face is that landlords want pet deposits. Again, emotional support animals are not legally pets if they are providing an accommodation for a disability. You are not required to pay an additional deposit or pet fees. However, you would be liable for any damage caused by the animal.
Steps for Ensuring Emotional Support Animal Housing
If you are renting housing and have an emotional support animal, it is a good idea to have your documentation ready before broaching the topic with your landlord. There are three major steps you should follow to help ensure that this conversation goes smoothly:
- Get an ESA Letter: You will need official documentation from a licensed therapist to protect your rights. This can be done with United Support Animals and with our network of licensed therapists across the US. The ESA Letter that United Support Animal’s therapist issues you is full of the exact details that are needed for your letter to iron clad and stand up to scrutiny, it is a legal binding letter that the landlord must comply to. Expect to need a letter dated within one year of when you are applying for housing.
- Speak To Your Landlord: Talk to your landlord and inform him or her that you have a disability and would like to have an ESA as an accommodation. You do not have to disclose the specific disability or any other medical information, just that you have one and that the animal helps with it. Present the letter to your landlord.It is often best to have this conversation before signing your lease. However, this is not required by law. You can present your letter to the landlord at any point. Once you have worked out an accommodation plan, the ESA will be able to live with you.
- Ensure Your ESA Behaves: Your landlord also has some rights. If the animal is excessively disruptive, causes a threat to other tenants, causes major damage or requires undue financial burden, the landlord may be able to get an exemption. However, he or she will have to show that there is a serious issue. Making sure your animal behaves will help protect you.
You and your emotional support animal are protected by the law if you have a disability. However, the more you can work with your landlord, the better off you will likely be in the long run (combative relationships in housing are hard on everyone).
Stand up for your rights but also talk with the landlord and try to make sure that you are on the same page. Most landlords will willingly accommodate emotional support animal housing if you politely discuss the issue with them and present them with proper documentation.
Finally, check the laws of your state and municipality. The Fair Housing Act is a federal statue. However, each state has different rules about documentation requirements. United Support Animals can help provide valid ESA letters in any state.