Moosh - living with emotional support animal

Emotional support animals (ESAs) provide their owners with friendship, affection, love, and invaluable support. This helps people living with mental illness to feel better and function more effectively in life.

Every year, more and more people are diagnosed with a mental illness. Today, there are more Americans living under the strain of a mental illness than at any other time in history. It has been claimed by several psychologists that we are currently living through an epidemic of mental illness.

ESAs are playing a vital role in the battle against an array of debilitating conditions such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, and OCD. These conditions have become all too common, and for many people with mental illness, an ESA is one of the most effective weapons against their symptoms.

ESAs are natural experts at providing affection and unconditional love. This loving connection decreases feelings of loneliness and gives people who suffer from a mental illness hope and a reason to get out of bed in the morning.

Because emotional support animals are proven to provide so much benefit, they have a protected status under the law. They are rightly viewed as essential components of their owners’ treatment. So what about ESAs and rented accommodation? Are ESAs allowed to live in rented homes? Can a person be evicted for having an ESA? Let’s answer these important questions now.

Moosh - ESA owner with kitten
Image by pexels on Pixabay: ESA owners are protected by the Fair Housing Act.

What Are ESA Owners’ Rights In Terms Of Housing?

Federal law protects emotional support animal owners’ housing rights. ESAs, like service animals, enjoy a special status under the law that is not afforded to “regular” (non-ESA) pets.

What Law Deals With Housing And ESAs?

The federal law that deals with housing and emotional support animals is the Fair Housing Act (FHA). The FHA protects people who are renting or buying property from discrimination based on disability, race, national origin, sex, religion, or familial status.

What Does The Fair Housing Act Say About Emotional Support Animals?

The Fair Housing Act states that an emotional support animal is a “reasonable accommodation” for a person diagnosed with a mental health condition. This means that ESAs are viewed as an essential part of a person’s mental health treatment, and that an ESA is to be permitted to live in accommodation with its owner – even if the accommodation usually has a “no pets” policy.

Can I Be Refused Housing Because Of My ESA?

Despite the Fair Housing Act’s protection of ESA owners, it is still possible to be refused housing because of an ESA. Under the FHA, ESAs are defined as “small, domesticated pets that are typically found in homes”, so if your ESA does not fit this criteria, you could be refused housing. For example, if you enjoy the emotional support of an ESA peacock, your feathered friend could reasonably be refused housing.

What Types Of ESA Are Allowed To Live In Rented Accommodation?

The most common types of ESA are allowed to live in rented accommodation. Dogs, cats, domesticated rats, pot-bellied pigs, rabbits, and hamsters all fall under the FHA’s definition of an ESA.

Moosh - dog and cat
Image by mariamza on Pixabay: Can a landlord refuse an emotional support dog? ESA dogs and cats are the most common animals allowed to live in rented accommodation.

When To Tell Landlord About ESA

You are not obligated to mention anything about owning an ESA when applying for housing. It is best not to mention your ESA until you have been made an offer.

However, it is a good idea to be as honest and straightforward with a new landlord as possible. For this reason, and the fact that it is illegal to discriminate against a person on the basis that they own an ESA, you should tell your landlord about your ESA at the earliest opportunity, after you have been offered the accommodation.

What Can A Landlord Ask About An Emotional Support Animal?

A landlord can ask to see your ESA letter, and they can ask what species of pet your ESA is. They cannot ask what type of mental illness you have. All that matters is that you have been prescribed ESA treatment by a mental health professional.

Can An Apartment Charge For An Emotional Support Animal?

A landlord is not allowed to charge extra, in rent or deposit, for an emotional support pet. Charging extra for an ESA is an illegal form of discrimination.

Are There Any Special Cases When A Landlord Can Refuse An ESA?

A landlord can refuse an ESA if:

  • The landlord lives at the property and they, or a family member, have an allergy to the species of ESA you own.
  • The specific ESA has been aggressive or threatening in the past.

Could I Be Evicted For Having An ESA?

You cannot be evicted specifically because you own an emotional support. However, if your ESA is a species that is considered inappropriate, or if the ESA is aggressive or very disruptive and you refuse to remedy the situation, you could potentially be evicted.

What Can I Do If I’ve Been Wrongfully Evicted Because Of My ESA?

If you have been wrongfully evicted for having an ESA, you should contact your local Fair Housing Center or file a complaint with the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development.

How Can I Get An Emotional Support Pet Letter?

The best way to get an ESA letter is to arrange an online consultation with a mental health professional through Moosh.

Featured image by StockSnap on Pixabay