Does the Fair Housing Act Allow Emotional Support Animals?
Yes, the Fair Housing Act is a federal law requiring housing providers to allow the accommodation of owners of an emotional support animal (ESA) such as dogs, miniature horses, etc.
The Fair Housing Act emotional support animal law covers psychiatric service dogs, guide dogs, and service animals. Regarding ESAs, these laws, created by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), state that no landlord may deny or restrict a person due to the person’s disability or their need for an assistance animal, regardless of the type of animal.
They are required to make reasonable accommodations to suit the needs of the owners of ESAs if a reasonable accommodation request is completed to meet the person’s disability-related need.
What does Reasonable Accommodation Mean in the FHA?
Reasonable accommodation, as defined in the Fair Housing Act emotional support animal law is “a change, exception, or adjustment to a rule, policy, practice, or service that may be necessary for a person with disabilities to have an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling.”
This can mean the waiver of a pet fee or pet deposit in pet-friendly housing or requiring housing providers of no-pet housing to allow the ESA. It also requires landlords of any type of housing to accept the ESA regardless of their breed.
Do Landlords Verify ESA Letters?
Yes, landlords can verify an emotional support animal letter but only in a way that does not violate HIPAA or Fair Housing Act emotional support animal laws. The ESA letter will be printed with a professional letterhead and have a contact number and medical license number.
Although a licensed mental health professional cannot answer a direct question about a person’s mental illness or medical records, a landlord can look up the license number through their state’s online portal.
What Documentation Does a Landlord Need for an ESA?
A landlord is legally allowed to ask for an ESA letter from a licensed mental health care provider.
This letter will describe the need for the emotional support animal to handle major life activities due to mental impairment, mental disability, or physical disability and is proof the animal is, in fact, an emotional support animal.
A landlord is not allowed to ask for proof of disability, as this is illegal under several laws including the ADA, the Fair Housing Act, and HIPAA.
Can my Landlord Charge a Fee for My Emotional Support Animal?
No, according to the Fair Housing Act emotional support animal, no landlord is permitted to charge a pet fee or require a pet deposit for a tenant.
However, they can require the owner to pay for repairs of damages the animal causes while living in their building and require a higher security deposit.
Can Landlords Deny Emotional Support Animals?
No, a landlord cannot deny someone housing based on their need for the ESA. Under the Federal Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), landlords are required to allow people with disabilities to have an emotional support animal even if there is a no-pet policy in place.
Owners of a companion animal must have an ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional for the landlord to be legally required to make the accommodation. The only time a landlord can deny or restrict a tenant is if the ESA poses a direct threat to the well-being and safety of others.
What do I do if my Landlord Denies my Emotional Support Animal?
There are times when a landlord has the right to deny an ESA. For example, if the accommodation is unreasonable for the landlord, occupancy is already at max, or when a building simply cannot meet the ESA’s needs.
If you feel an unfair denial has been made (or if public accommodations are not met appropriately in a public setting), you may file a claim on the HUD’s website.
You will need your name and address, the offending landlord or complex’s name and address, the date of the issue, and the general information to describe what happened and how it trespassed on your rights under the FHA and relevant state laws.