dog on dog bed in apartment

If you’re in the process of moving, it can be nerve-wracking to rent a new apartment with a pet. Landlords often don’t approve pets in their properties – but what about your emotional support animal (ESA)? In the past, this has been a bit of a gray area, but the law is now clearer when it comes to rental rights and emotional support animals.

So do you have to disclose an ESA when moving into a new apartment? If so, what do you need to tell your landlord? Many renters with ESAs find the process confusing – you want to do the right thing, but also want to be treated fairly by your landlord. To help you through the process, here’s everything you need to know about renting an apartment when you have an ESA.

Do you have to disclose an ESA when moving into a new apartment?

First things first: do I have to disclose that I have an emotional support animal when I apply for a new place? Technically, no. An ESA is not considered a pet, so it’s not impacted by a building’s no-pet policy. Just as a person with a vision impairment couldn’t be prevented from having a guide dog in the home, a person with a registered ESA can’t be discriminated against when applying for housing. This means that you can legally move into an apartment with your ESA, even if the building does not allow pets.

However, it’s always best to disclose your ESA in advance, as being open and honest is generally the best policy when renting. Landlords might feel deceived if it appears as if you’ve hidden something from them. Starting off on the right foot is generally the best way to build a positive relationship when renting.

If you’ve applied for a rental and didn’t disclose your ESA, though, don’t worry: it’s not a legal requirement, just a recommended one.

key to rental apartment
Image by Tierra Mallorca via Unsplash: When renting an apartment with an ESA, it’s important to know your rights.

What questions can a landlord legally ask?

The Federal Fair Housing Act protects individuals and families from being discriminated against on the basis of disability. This includes mental health, so issues such as depression and anxiety fall into this category.

This means that landlords are limited to what they can ask you when renting, as you legally don’t need to disclose confidential information, such as the specifics of your disability. There are a few things the landlord can ask, though:

Is it a reasonable request?

Can I have an emotional support animal in my apartment? Yes, but the request must be considered reasonable, taking into account the size of the property.

Your landlord is allowed to ask about this. For example, keeping a miniature pony in an apartment is unreasonable, as is having a large number of ESAs within one home, if you’re an individual applicant. Common sense dictates that your ESA should be of an appropriate size and obedience level to live calmly and safely in the apartment you’re applying for.

Can you demonstrate evidence that the animal provides support?

A landlord is allowed to request documentation that an ESA is necessary for you, due to a disability or mental health issue. The disability does not need to be stated. You can provide evidence from your doctor in the form of an ESA letter.

Can you be denied housing because of an emotional support animal?

No, you can’t be denied a rental apartment because you have an ESA. This is good news for many, as the rental process is stressful enough without the added worry of being denied because of an ESA.

If you feel like you’ve been discriminated against because of your ESA, you might want to seek legal help, as everyone has the right to be treated fairly.

What else should I know about renting an apartment with an ESA?

When you’re moving into a new place with your ESA, are there any extra requirements? Legally, there aren’t; however, to make life easier for yourself, here are a few suggestions of extra steps you can take.

Let the neighbors and HOA know

Most of us have dealt with a nosy neighbor at some point in the past. It seems like there’s someone in every building who loves to gossip and pay attention to what everyone is doing!

For this reason, you might want to notify your neighbors and your building’s HOA that you’ve just moved in with an ESA – especially if the building has a no-pets policy. You don’t want your neighbors to make assumptions about you and your ESA and cause trouble. Letting everyone know right away can help avoid an unwanted confrontation.

english bulldog on leash
Image by Lauren McConachie on Unsplash: The rental process can be stressful, but you’re sure to find the right place for you and your ESA.

Make sure your ESA is well-behaved

We’re sure your ESA is polite and well-trained, but it’s important to make sure your animal is well-behaved in the apartment at all times. Loud noises or messes are a disturbance to other neighbors, so be sure to showcase how perfectly trained your beautiful ESA is! To make this easier, you can make a few house modifications, ensuring your animal always knows where to be and what to do indoors.

If an animal is causing a disturbance, then the landlord may request that you undergo obedience training to remedy the problem.

Know your rights when it comes to renting and ESAs

An ESA can be life-changing for many people, although the sad truth is that many members of the public don’t really understand what an ESA is or why it’s important.

This means many renters can face unexpected issues when trying to move. However, with the help of this guide, you can understand your rights and make sure that you’re treated fairly when you’re applying for a new rental apartment.

Featured image by Jamie Street via Unsplash