Have you filled out a rental application and been told the property won’t allow your pet? There are certain requirements that a landlord must adhere to if you submit a letter for an emotional support animal (ESA). Find out what documentation you need and what you can do if a landlord denies or ignores your letter.
For your pet to qualify as an emotional support animal, you need a letter from a licensed mental health professional. That person could be a psychiatrist, psychologist, licensed therapist, or licensed clinical social worker. No one else can provide you with a letter that enables you to request landlords waive pet restrictions.
Some websites say they’ll provide emotional support animal letters, but what they actually send doesn’t come from the right type of professional or comply with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Fair Housing Act (FHA) standards. A valid ESA letter meets the following requirements:
- It’s written on your mental health professional’s official letterhead and contains their signature.
- It was issued within the past year.
- It says they are treating you for a mental health condition described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)
- It states your condition limits your ability to participate in daily activities and that your ESA is necessary to treatment.
- The letter identifies your pet, providing a physical description, identifying the breed or telling its name.
- It also explains you are fit to care for the animal.
Touch offers FHA-compliant emotional support letters for housing when your therapist will not.
Your Housing Rights
Apartments, condos, and other rental housing often have restrictions for pets, but an ESA isn’t just a pet. They’re also a tool for medical treatment. Just as a prosthetic helps someone without a limb walk normally, and an emotional support animal helps enjoy daily living and interact with others despite a mental disorder. Under Fair Housing Laws, landlords must allow you to have your pet even if they have an established no-pets policy. You also can not be required to pay a pet deposit or other associated fees.
When Landlords Resist
Property managers may not be aware of ESA laws, so the first step is to understand your rights. Landlords can require you to supply documentation, but they can’t ask specific questions about your disabilities. Landlords are required to make reasonable accommodations for ESAs except in the following situations:
- Your animal is too large for the space. For example, if your ESA is a horse, landlords aren’t required to let it live in your apartment.
- The property has four or fewer units and the landlord lives in one of them.
- You are applying to rent a single-family unit without going through a realtor.
If your landlord refuses to allow your ESA after you’ve made your request and provided documentation, you still have choices. You can file a housing complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development. You can also talk to an attorney or contact Touch ESA with your questions or concerns.