New ESA owners and potential landlords may not always be too clued up on the laws surrounding emotional support animals (ESAs). One common question that comes up is “do you have to pay a pet deposit for an emotional support animal?”. The answer to this question is clear and clean cut, but ESA owners and landlords need to know the ins and outs of ESA laws to understand the answer.
Pet vs. Emotional Support Animal: What’s the Difference?
ESAs, service animals (think guide dog), and psychiatric service animals are all assistance animals. These animals assist their owners with a wide range of disabilities, whether they’re psychological or physical disabilities.
What sets pets and ESAs apart, is the fact that the animal’s owner has a diagnosed mental illness or condition. ESAs are prescribed by licensed mental health professionals (LMHPs) as part of the therapy of the patient in question.
Once a person is diagnosed with a mental disability, if the therapist thinks an ESA will help the patient on their road to recovery, an ESA letter is issued and both owner and animal have legal protection under two federal laws.
What about therapy animals? A therapy animal does not have legal right like let’s say a service dog does, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t incredibly important!
Why You Need an ESA Letter
An ESA letter is a legally binding document that proves someone has a mental illness or psychological disability, and that they need their emotional support dog or cat with them. Without an ESA letter, your animal is a pet, and you don’t have the right to make use of the benefits of ESA laws.
Do You Have To Pay A Pet Deposit For An Emotional Support Animal?
Absolutely not. Ever. ESAs are not pets. The Fair Housing Act (FHA) protects people with disabilities from being discriminated based on the fact that they have a disability, and therefore, need to live with their ESA.
Ignorance is the only excuse for landlords and property owners demanding you pay a pet deposit for your ESA. Even then, you won’t have to pay that pet deposit. An ESA is not a pet. It is an assistance animal with legal protection. It won’t take much to help get the potential landlord up to speed with ESA laws in rented housing.
Emotional Support Animal Housing Laws: An Inside Look into The Fair Housing Act (FHA)
According to the FHA, anyone with a disability must be provided with reasonable accommodation. If you have a legitimate ESA letter, this is proof that you do in fact have a disability, which entitles you to the legal rights covered by the FHA.
Do you have to pay a pet deposit for an emotional support animal? Let’s see: The FHA states clearly that the ESA and its owner may live in rented accommodation without paying a pet deposit or any “pet” related fees such as monthly pet maintenance fees.
A Landlord Must Provide Reasonable Accommodation
A landlord cannot deny accommodation in rented housing, whether it’s a house or an apartment, based on the fact that you need to live together with your ESA. But here’s the “however”: the keyword here is “reasonable”.
If you insist that your emotional support horse or alligator has to live with you, that does not even come close to the sphere of “reasonable”. There is fine print that outlines the legal limitations of reasonable accommodation.
The reason CertaPet LMHPs only prescribe emotional support animal letters for dogs and cats (and the occasional bunnies), is to make sure that ESA owners don’t run into problems when making use of the legal protection of ESA laws. Renting housing and living with your ESA dog or cat falls well into the limitation of reasonable!
What About a “No Pets” Policy?
Again, an ESA is not a pet, so a “no-pets” policy does not apply to them. The FHA states that because they are assistance animals, ESAs can live with their owners free of charge, and despite any no-pet policies that may be in place.
Bonus: Fido Flies for Free with the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA)
Do you have to pay a pet deposit for an emotional support animal for flights? Nope!
Another federal law that protects ESAs and individuals with disabilities is the ACAA. This law states that people can fly with their ESA free of charge. You need to do your homework before booking that plane ticket for you and Fido. Although the ACAA says you can fly with your ESA, the airlines also have a say in the matter.
Because of the explosion of ESA numbers on flights, airlines now have tight ESA restrictions in place. Many only allow certain breeds of cats and dogs and limit the number of animals allowed on each fight.
The Landlord’s Rights: When they are Emotional Support Animals Not Allowed in Rented Accommodation
Do you have to pay a pet deposit for an emotional support animal? No. But you do have to pay up for any damage your ESA causes. Support animals don’t have to be trained, but a little bit of obedience training can go a long way in making sure your neighbors and the landlord are happy to have you guys around.
Having an emotional support animal comes with a lot of responsibility. Before you get one, make sure that you can look after them. ESAs need food, water, shelter, and love. They also often come with a promise of vet bills, so think twice before asking your mental health professional to prescribe one for you.
Exceptions to the Rule
There are a few instances, in which a landlord or housing provider can put their foot down and have a tenant evicted. If your ESA is aggressive, destructive or disruptive, the landlord has a strong case for ending the lease.
Another factor is neglect or animal abuse. If you neglect or abuse your ESA, you will lose your ESA rights! If Fido barks throughout the night, don’t be surprised if your neighbors file a complaint. Pet rules are a good guideline to follow for Fido as a courtesy.
How to Get an Emotional Support Animal Letter: It’s Easier than You Think!
If you are having a rough time and think you may be suffering from a mental illness, it’s time to get help. Whether it’s for anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), an ESA can have a massively beneficial impact on your life! CertaPet’s entire reason for existence is to help people who are struggling with their mental health, to get an ESA letter.
CertaPet’s Simple Process
The last thing persons with disabilities need is to be overwhelmed by the idea of finding and meeting a licensed mental health professional. CertaPet has you covered! All you need to do is start by taking our free online 5-minute pre-screening.
If your answers show that you may qualify for an ESA, we will connect you with a LMHP in your state, and you could have your ESA letter in as little as 48 hrs.
Common Questions on Do You Have to Pay a Pet Deposit for an Emotional Support Animal: