If you suffer from an emotional or psychological disability such as anxiety, depression, or PTSD, then you might already have an emotional support animal(ESA) to help minimize the negative effects associated with these types of conditions. Your trusted pet and companion can help ease your fears, reduce your anxiety, and provide you with the comfort that you need to live a better quality of life. This is why your faithful friend is allowed to sit with you in the cabin of an airplane (an often stressful event for many people), and of course, stay with you no matter where you live.
Although emotional support animals are not afforded the same exact rights as service animals, there are certain mandates within The Federal Fair Housing Act that pertain to these very important pets. While your pal might not be able to accompany you into all public places like restaurants, grocery stores, and other businesses, landlords are expected to disregard any no-pet policies when it comes to potential tenants that plan to keep an emotional support animal as a roommate.
This means, that no matter where you opt to rent, even if the complex has strict policies regarding pets or clear rules about no pets allowed on the premises, the landlord must still make accommodations for you and your support animal.
One of the guidelines that landlords must observe is in regard to pet fees. If a landlord normally allows pets but charges a higher rent, a pet deposit, or any other associated pet fees, he must waive any and all upfront fees or rental charges for you.
In order to be excused from these fees and to have your pet stay with you in a no-pet zone, you must provide your landlord with the proper documentation that your pet is for emotional support. This usually comes in the form of a letter that proves a medical professional has deemed it necessary and helpful for you to have a pet as a part of your treatment and care.
However, your landlord cannot inquire as to why you have a support animal or ask you about any details concerning your disability.
It is important to keep in mind, that even though you are not required to pay extra pet fees, you are responsible for any damages incurred by your pet. Therefore, if your landlord has a policy that includes tenants paying for damages caused by their pets, then you will be expected to do the same.
Just like a landlord has to waive his pet fees for your ESA, he also must do the same with any other pet policies that he has in place. This goes beyond simply whether or not a landlord allows pets; it also extends to any restrictions that are in place as to the type of pets that are allowed on the property.
For example, some apartment complexes might only allow cats, or only allow dogs under 25-pounds, or only accept small pets that can be kept in cages or aquariums (like fish, hamsters, or turtles). In the case of an emotional support animal, these policies would not apply, which means whether you have a 50-pound dog, a 4-foot snake, or a mouse named Mickey, anyone is welcome.
Just like you have your rights and responsibilities, so do landlords. When it comes to emotional support animals a landlord has several things he needs to do and several things that he can do:
A landlord can ask to see proper verification that the animal is indeed a support animal and wait to rent to you until you provide such proof.
A landlord can require documentation that your pet has been properly vaccinated and is up-to-date on all shots before he allows the animal on the premises.
A landlord must waive all pet restrictions and fees for an emotional support animal.
A landlord can charge for damages caused by your pet.
A landlord can make a claim to have your animal removed if your animal is displaying aggressive behavior or has bitten or attacked anyone on his property.
If you have the proper verification form or letter from your doctor showing that your pet is an emotional support animal, then a landlord should do everything in his power to accommodate your situation and rent to you. While there might be some instances where this can become a gray area, such as endangering other tenants or causing undue burden on the property manager, this is a very slippery slope for landlords to try and tackle.
If you try to rent an apartment and are refused tenancy because of your support animal, then you have several options:
If you are in the process of moving, about to rent an apartment, or about to bring your emotional support animal into your existing apartment that doesn't allow pets, you don't have to figure it out alone. Reach out to us to have your questions answered and check out the rest of our site for valuable information and resources regarding your rights. If you think you could benefit from the constant companionship of a loving pet, or you need a letter for your emotional support animal, we are here to help!