HOUSING RIGHTS FOR EMOTIONAL SUPPORT ANIMALS
The Fair Housing Act protects a person with an emotional support animal and allows them to live in homes, apartments, condos, etc. where pets are not allowed. A person cannot be legally charged a deposit or other fee for their ESA.
An Emotional Support Animal Doesn’t Need Special Training
Because the presence of an emotional support animal pet is what is effective to help a person with an emotional disability, the pet is not required to have any specific training.
How to Qualify for an Emotional Support Animal
It’s not difficult to qualify for an emotional support animal. If you have anxiety, depression, PTSD experience, or other emotional challenge is disabling, you qualify!
Even if a property has a cats-only policy, the landlord must accept your emotional support animal if it is a dog.
If the property has a policy that only allows dogs that weigh no more than 30 pounds and the emotional support animal weighs 75 pounds, the property manager must accommodate you and your pet. If the property accepts all dogs except pit bulls and your ESA is a pit bull, the property manager must allow your pit bull to live with you.
Under the Fair Housing Act, property managers/landlords are NOT required to make a reasonable accommodation for ESAs or service dogs in these cases:
- Buildings with four or less units where the landlord occupies one of the units
- Single-family housing sold or rented without a real estate broker
- Private clubs
- Ask a tenant to pay a deposit, fee, or surcharge in exchange for having an emotional support animal, even if they require such a practice from owners who wish to obtain pets in their dwelling.
- Require that an emotional support animal have any specific training.
- Require the emotional support animal to wear or carry any special collar, harness, vest, emblem, or other means of identifying it as such.
- Inquire about the extent of the disability or ask for detailed medical records for the individual requesting the emotional support animal.
- Refuse to accommodate you and your animal because their insurance policy won’t allow a species, breed, or weight. They are still subject to the law.
- Failure to accommodate a physically or emotionally impaired person is a violation of federal law. A landlord/property manager who refuses to comply may be sued and be financially penalized by the U.S. Department of Justice. Refusal to allow an ESA is considered discrimination against a disabled person, which is something the government takes seriously.
- Clients are encouraged to make sure the landlord or property manager are clearly aware of the law and consequences to help them avoid prosecution and punitive damages. Most are in violation simply because they do not know the law.
- A client can report the landlord/property manager to the U.S. Department of Justice and file a complaint for discrimination.
- A client may sue the landlord/property manager for discrimination.
- You’ll need to be prepared to reinforce your position and case with supplemental documentation from a physician or mental health professional that verifies your need for the animal.