Living situations come with all sorts of complexities. There are a variety of issues to navigate, including the relationships you build with your neighbors. When you have an emotional support animal in the housing complex, things can occasionally get tricky. Luckily, the law is on your side.
Here’s what you need to know about navigating your living situation with your emotional support animal, and when you should think about introducing them to your neighbors.
ESAs And Housing
The Fair Housing Act has allowed many people to enjoy the companionship offered by an ESA. Under state and federal housing rules, it is illegal for a landlord to discriminate against you for having an emotional support animal, even in places that have a “no pets” policy.
The Fair Housing Act allows those with disabilities to have an emotional support animal, and distinguishes ESAs from ordinary household pets. That means that the normal policies of a landlord do not apply to an ESA and the landlord is required to make accommodations for someone with an ESA.
If you have an ESA, it’s vital to understand the rules surrounding them so you can live comfortably and safely with your animal. Even while a landlord is obligated legally to make an accommodation for your ESA, you still want to be a tenant who is cooperative and easy to work with.
You should consider a few steps in approaching a landlord, homeowner’s association, or co-op that you may have to deal with in order to bring an ESA into your home. At the minimum, you’ll need to:
- Get an ESA letter. Having the appropriate paperwork is essential, which is why you need an ESA letter from a licensed health care professional. Landlords, co-ops, and HOAs can request documentation for your animal, and an ESA letter will be accepted under the Fair Housing Act.
- Tell your landlord. Under the Fair Housing Act, you are not required to disclose your ESA when you apply for housing. Nevertheless, it is a good idea to let your landlord know as soon as possible. You can request accommodations for your ESA in writing or verbally. After you submit your request for ESA accommodations, your landlord is required under the law to respond within 10 days. Landlords can only deny ESAs under the law if the ESA is found to be a safety risk to others.
The Behavior Of Your ESA
When thinking about bringing your ESA into a new environment and whether to disclose the fact that you have an ESA to your new neighbors and landlord, it’s important to make sure that your animal behaves well. Remember, a landlord can deny an ESA if they are a threat to the health and safety of other people. They can also deny you if they believe your ESA can cause substantial damage to other people’s property.
Remember, pets do not need specialized training in order to be deemed an emotional support animal, but they also should be obedient and well-behaved in public. Being a good neighbor and a good tenant means that your ESA isn’t a nuisance to others that live around you.
If your ESA causes damage to the building or the common areas of shared living situations, such as apartment buildings, then the owner is responsible for paying these costs. Even though a landlord cannot require those with an ESA to pay extra fees or a pet deposit, they can deduct any expenses related to your ESA from your deposit in general.
Remember, an ESA that is well-behaved serves as a good example for other ESAs in the community. Your ESA can help the larger ESA community to be seen in a better light and assure people that emotional support animals, in general, are not disruptive to their property, safety, or daily lives.
Should You Tell Your Neighbors That You Have An Emotional Support Animal?
Whether or not you should discuss your ESA with your neighbors is really up to you. According to the law, you’re under no obligation to discuss your ESA or your disability status with your neighbors. If they question you about your ESA in a housing situation where pets aren’t generally allowed, you can either answer them yourself or direct them to discuss it with the landlord.
You have no responsibility to inform your neighbors, but if you’re comfortable it can be a nice gesture. The best thing you can do is ensure that your ESA is well trained and well behaved, and remains a good ambassador for ESAs everywhere.
The law may be on your side when it comes to ESAs and housing, but there are still a lot of prejudices to overcome. People around you may have opinions about why you’re allowed a “pet” while they are not. You cannot control their thoughts or actions, but you can control what you and your ESA do. Be respectful of your neighbors while ensuring your rights are being upheld and allow your ESA to do their job in helping to keep you comforted and safe.