Your house is your safe space. It’s where you go to get away from the world and relax after a long day. It’s also as much a home to your emotional support animal as it is to you. Where you reside is especially important to your quality of life and is based on many factors: location, affordability, and function in regard to what type of space you need.

If you have an emotional support animal, you need them around to help you deal with the symptoms of a mental illness. Their existence in your life is non-negotiable. So, in light of them being more than just a pet, can HOA deny emotional support animals to the people who live in them?

HOA pet rules

There are a lot of different rules and regulations outlined by the homeowners association that you’ll need to take into account if you are considering buying a property that operates under the HOA jurisdiction. The bylaws in place aren’t meant to make life difficult for you, but to make sure that everyone in the condo can enjoy their living situation. They are also made through due process, and can only be enforced after they have been officially written in.

The association will be allowed to make the call when it comes to how many animals you can own, how big the animal is, and what breed. It also has the power to decide what animals to exclude from the condo altogether, though it’s usually only exotic and farm animals on the no-go list. The laws will also change depending on what state you’re in. For example, California residents are allowed to have at least one animal in their dwelling by law.

Moosh - ESA dog in house
Image by Bruno Emmanuelle on Unsplash: Can a condo association deny an emotional support animal? The Federal Fair Housing Act can override HOA pet rules.

Do condo associations have to allow emotional support animals?

Under the Federal Fair Housing Act (FFHA), HOAs are obligated to allow both service animals and emotional support animals to live with you. In efforts to ensure that communities remain inclusive, people with disabilities and those who require therapeutic support cannot be discriminated against and denied housing.

The FFHA goes so far as to state that even if a particular condo association denies any pets, it can’t be enforced for those with service and emotional support animals. So, can a condo association deny an emotional support animal? No, it can’t.

What qualifies under the FFHA and HOA as a reasonable need?

Having an emotional support animal isn’t the same as having a furry best friend to get you through hard times. Your illness or condition must be clearly outlined and has to interfere with at least one of life’s major activities.

Because there are so many illegitimate claims made by people who want to bend the no-pet rule, having the proper documentation can go a long way with the HOA you’re dealing with.

This can come in the form of a written document from your mental health professional that clearly outlines why you need an emotional support animal and what it helps you deal with on a day to day basis.

Can my HOA make me get rid of my dog?

Under the FFHA, homeowners associations are not allowed to force anyone to get rid of their pet as long as the proper channels were followed during the initial process. If you don’t have the proper documentation to support your claim that your dog is an ESA, and it clearly outlines that pets are not allowed, you could face a warning letter, fines, or even a written demand to get rid of your pet.

The story is a little different if your pet is an ESA, though, as the HOA cannot force you to give up an emotional support animal based on the FFHA. But remember it is ultimately your responsibility to ensure that you’re within your rights and have the proper proof that your pet is an ESA.

Moosh - ESA owner in house
Image by Avi Naim on Unsplash: Knowing that your condo association can’t deny your ESA can be a great relief for many people with emotional support animals.

How to get the proper documentation

As previously mentioned, you’ll want to get the proper documentation from your health care professional. It’s not enough to just say that your pet is an ESA. This is because many people try to get around certain no-pet policies by claiming they need an ESA for an illness they don’t have. This kind of fraud is illegal and can be punishable in a court of law.

The information you may need to provide to your HOA includes proof of disability, a verified letter from your health care provider or therapist, and certification. You don’t have to disclose the full nature of your disability to your HOA, but you may have to outline how your ESA improves your overall quality of life.

Your obligations in your community

Just because the HOA can’t deny your emotional support animal doesn’t mean you don’t have to adhere to community standards while you live there. Having a well-trained ESA goes a long way with your condo board. If your ESA isn’t well trained and poses a risk to public property or other residents within the community, that could cause potential problems for you.

You’ll have to make sure that your ESA falls under the proper guidelines and is well-behaved enough to ensure that other residents of the area aren’t affected. Knowing your rights when it comes to your emotional support animal and the homeowners association you fall under is the first step in living a healthy and productive life in the place you call home.

Featured image by Roberto Nickson on Unsplash