You’re moving into a new apartment complex with your emotional support animal and there is a strict rule on no pets allowed. What do you do? “Will my apartment accept my ESA?”
Learn more about how to make sure your ESA can live with you even if your landlord does not allow pets.
People suffering from an emotional/mental disability find relief through emotional support animals (ESAs), which in turn improves their mental health. These pets are more than companion animals to certain Americans with disabilities. An emotional support dog or cat provides therapeutic benefits for different people with disabilities like post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, or depression.
Let’s Talk Law: A Look at the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and What it Means for ESAs
The Fair Housing Act protects people with disabilities and gives those who have an emotional/mental illness the right to keep emotional support animals (ESA) even if their landlord does not allow pets.
People who have a psychiatric disability can have their emotional support animal live with them whether it is an apartment complex that has a strict no-pet policy or a single-family home with a landlord that does not want a tenant with a pet.
The landlord or property manager cannot deny you as a tenant for having an emotional support animal. Not if you have an ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional!
They can not increase the security deposit with a pet deposit or pet fee. Emotional support animals are assistance animals, not pets.
Repeat: your landlord must follow the federal law and allow your emotional support animal live with you.
Exceptions to the FHA Rules: When Can a Landlord Deny an ESA?
Will my apartment accept my ESA? – Yes, BUT let’s look into the exceptions.
Landlords have to provide reasonable accommodations to disabled tenants. If you want to live in a studio apartment, your landlord has no legal obligation to accept your African Elephant as an emotional support animal. Landlords can deny an ESA if they can prove it requires a fundamental alteration or causes an undue burden.
An emotional support dog or cat does not have to be as trained as a service dog would. However, it’s safe to say that they do need basic obedience training and know how to behave in public. They need to be non-aggressive and relieve themselves in the designated areas.
Landlord Rights and a Few Pointers to Making Sure You’re Ready to Apply for an ESA Letter!
Contact an LMHP (The Only Way to Get an Emotional Support Animal Letter)
The question isn’t “will my apartment accept my ESA?”The question is “how do I get my apartment to accept my ESA?”
Contact a licensed mental health professional to get your ESA letter. Many fake services offer certificates and badges that give a pet the appearance that is a support animal. It’s under the landlord’s right to deny your ESA if you do not have a letter from a certified mental health professional.
You can take a free, 5-minute pre-screening to see if you qualify for an ESA and get in contact with a local licensed mental health professional.
Emotional Support Cat or Dog: Have an Animal That Will Fit
Choose a domestic animal that is the correct size for the space. Landlords may be able to deny your ESA if it is an exotic animal that could pose a threat to other residents. Animals like cats and dogs are easier to train than other animals like snakes.
Even if you have a mental impairment, you will not be able to bring your full-sized emotional support horse to an apartment or off-campus housing.
No Training Required Doesn’t Mean Bad Behavior
Make sure your animal is on its best behavior. It’s easy to find local pet trainers and training classes to help your dog to be social and obedient. If your dog or cat shows aggressive behavior such as, lunging, growling, or biting other residents, then your landlord could have you evicted.
ESAs Are There To Calm, Not Disturb
Will my apartment accept my ESA? Yes – but make sure your emotional support animal knows how to act.
Minimize disturbances for the other residents. If you’re renting or buying in a place with a strict no-pets policy, it’s possible that the other residents are not pet-friendly. They may report your animal for jumping on them, barking, or causing other disturbances.
In the case of loud noises or other disruptive behaviors, be sure to correct them and let the other residents know you are actively fixing the issue.
4 Steps to Ensure Your ESA is Accepted
Send a Written Request
When looking to rent or buy in a place that doesn’t allow pets, you should inform your landlord. Send your landlord the email explaining that you have a disability and need for an emotional support animal, along with your letter.
You can go into as much detail as you are comfortable with. It may help if you can explain that you have post-traumatic stress disorder, but do not feel obligated to.
Get Your ESA Proof!
Will my apartment accept an ESA? Yes – but with proof!
An emotional support animal requires approval by a licensed mental health professional prescribing the ESA. LMHPs evaluate patients on a case-by-case basis to see if an emotional support animal would provide therapeutic support.
Have a Letter from Your Licensed Mental Healthcare Provider Ready!
Once you have notified your landlord, the next step is to provide them with your emotional support letter. You can give a hard copy of the letter or send them a digital copy. It is up to you.
Take Good Care of Your ESA and the Landlord’s Property!
Landlords often to do not allow pets because they are worried about damage and any potential disturbances. Make sure your emotional support animal does not cause any damage to the property, including inside your unit or home.
Pay attention to common areas too! See to it that your pet does not relieve themselves there, and if they do, clean up after them quickly.
What to Do if Your Landlord Rejects Your ESA
“Will my apartment accept my ESA? If so, why are they denying me this right?”
Some landlords do not believe that they are legally obligated to accept your emotional support animal. If your landlord rejects your ESA and does not offer you acceptable alternative housing, there are a few things you can do.
File a Complaint with the Department of Housing and Development (HUD)
If you have a disability like post-traumatic dress disorder and are denied housing because of your emotional support animal, you can file a complaint with the Department of Housing and Development. You can file the complaint online, over the phone, via email, or through traditional mail.
Consult the Pros! Ask the ESA Advocates and Your LMHP!
If you need further help, your LMHPs specialize in making sure that those who need emotional support animals receive protection. They can advocate on your behalf and make sure you get fair treatment.
It’s important to know the rights you have as someone with a disability. If you need an emotional support animal for your mental health, you deserve not to be a victim of discrimination.
A landlord or property manager can not deny you housing because of your ESA. Not if you have a letter from a licensed mental health professional and have a qualifying disability.
They must provide you with reasonable accommodation. You must receive accommodation as long as your ESA is obedient and is not a dangerous exotic animal.
If you are in search of an LMHP, take the free, 5-minute pre-screening to get in contact with one today.