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Having an emotional support animal letter opens up a whole new world of possibilities for you and your pet. One of the most popular reasons for people to register their pets as emotional support animals comes down to living arrangements; if a doctor decrees that you need an emotional support animal to help you cope with an affliction, you’ll be able to live with the animal wherever you are. This is because emotional support animals are not restricted to the same renting and living rules that are applicable to normal pets.

In this article we’re going to break down what an emotional support animal is, how your pet can become an emotional support animal and how once they are ESA-certified you can live with your pet regardless of any landlord policies that forbid it.

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Don’t let your emotional support animals risk being left out in the cold; read up on your renter rights!

First things first, what are emotional support animals?

A wide variety of pets can become an emotional support animal. Most commonly, emotional support animals are dogs, but it’s also common to find a variety of other pets including anything from cats and rabbits to mice, pigs and even snakes, which all qualify as potential emotional support animals. Unlike service animals, an emotional support pet doesn’t require any kind of specific training. Essentially, because of the legal benefits they provide their owners, they have to be toilet trained and behave in public spaces, but other than that they aren’t required to undergo any specialty additional training.

Now you’re probably wondering what the difference is between a pet and an emotional support animal? Well, the main difference is that these animals are given special privileges because of their owner’s emotional or psychological disability. These privileges include and are not limited to being able to fly on a plane with their owners in the cabin for free, and being able to live with their owners regardless of any private property rules that explicitly forbid it.

Sounds great! Right, how do I get an emotional support animal?

In order to make the most of all the great benefits that come with having an ESA pet, especially being able to live with them you’ll have to follow a few simple steps. First and foremost, you’ll need to be considered emotionally or in some way mentally disabled by a fully licensed and qualified mental health professional.

Typically these professionals are either a psychiatrist, therapist or psychologist, but any mental health professional with a license qualifies. This professional must declare that you have an emotional or mental disability, before providing you with that all important ESA letter. This letter will state that you are their patient, are under their care for a specific disability or disorder, that this disability affects your everyday life in some way and that an emotional support pet should be prescribed to you as treatment. With this letter you and your pet immediately gain a plethora of new rights, which you are entitled to the day you get your letter. 

What is the law when it comes to renting with my emotional support animal?  

If you want to be able to live with your pet in a property that has a no pet’s policy, all you need is that ESA letter given to you by a qualified mental health professional. Due to the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988, the manager or landlord of a property you live in, or are looking to move into, must adjust any policies they have that prevent an animal from living on the property. This is regardless of the species or size of the animal.

Unfortunately, there are a few exceptions to this rule; but don’t worry too much as they are limited. If you live in a hotel an ESA letter will not qualify, as it is not considered a legal dwelling. The same is true with buildings with four or less units with a live in landlord or for single family housing rented without a real estate broker. These are the only exceptions, but make sure that they do not apply to your current living situation to protect your rights. The one exception where you can be evicted while having an ESA pet is if it is unruly or dangerous. The landlord will need to provide proof in this case to serve an eviction notice.

You’ll need to provide your landlord/property manager with your ESA letter from a certified mental health professional, but with this it is illegal for them to discriminate against you (as a disabled person) and they are required by law to allow you to live, with your pet, on the property.

Here are a few of your basic rights when it comes to having emotional support animals in your home:

  • You do not have to provide your ESA-certified pet with any specific training. No one can force you to do this.
  • You do not have to pay any form of pet deposit or any additional charges that a property manager or landlord asks you to pay. This is illegal and you are not responsible for paying anything.
  • Except for the exceptions listed above, your landlord cannot refuse your animal living on the property regardless of species or size.
  • You do not have to provide detailed information about your disability and how it affects you to your property manager or landlord.
  • Finally, your landlord cannot refuse you based on any longstanding insurance policies that don’t cover animals.
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Uh, we’re going to need a bigger house…

What if your landlord or property manager still refuses to allow you to live with your ESA pet?

This is illegal and it is considered an act of discrimination for a landlord or property manager to deny a person suffering from a mental or emotional disability the right to live with their ESA pet. However, if you find yourself in this situation where they still deny you the right of living with your ESA pet, you can and should, sue the landlord or property manager for discrimination. You have every right to live with your ESA-certified pet and these rights cannot be violated.