Fact checked

Can Apartments Charge for Emotional Support Animals?

Apartments cannot charge for an emotional support animal as long as you have an ESA letter issued to you by a licensed mental health professional. If you present a valid ESA letter to your landlord, they are legally required to provide reasonable accommodation, and can only deny an emotional support animal in extenuating circumstances.

Kristi Carignan
February 2, 2024
July 17, 2023
6 minute read
Updated By
Expert Reviewed By:
July 17, 2023
August 29, 2023
6 minute read
Updated By
 ESAs and assistance animals are exempt from apartment pet fees. Discover how to obtain an ESA letter with Pettable and enjoy the benefits of having an emotional support animal.

If you have an emotional support animal (ESA) or you are thinking of getting one, you may have wondered whether apartments can charge for emotional support animals. Many apartment complexes have pet rental fees, but do these apply to ESAs? Read on to find out everything you need to know about extra charges and emotional support animals.

What is an Emotional Support Animal (ESA)?

An ESA is any legal breed of animal that offers therapeutic benefits to its owner through its presence. Their companionship and love are able to diminish the impact of a wide range of emotional health conditions. ESAs have several benefits:

  • They provide a fantastic routine for owners making it easier for them to function day to day and create a better structure in their lives. 
  • They combat feelings of loneliness and isolation by responding to their handlers and building meaningful relationships with them.
  • They reduce stress levels by boosting happy hormones (oxytocin and dopamine).  Studies have highlighted how caring for an animal can reduce cortisol levels and create more calm. 
  • They help owners through a range of conditions, for example, comforting an owner with anxiety, snuggling an owner having a panic attack, or supporting a handler who feels down and alone.

While ESAs provide fantastic care and support, they are legally differentiated from service animals. Service animals, defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), are animals who are individually trained to perform a specific disability-related task. According to the ADA, service animals can only be dogs or miniature horses. ESAs, however, can be any legal breed, and popular choices include cats, dogs, guinea pigs, rabbits, ferrets, rats, mice, birds, hedgehogs, reptiles, and mini pigs.

While ESAs are not recognized by the ADA, they are protected under the Federal Housing Act (FHA). This law is best navigated with the support of an official ESA letter. 

What is an ESA Letter?

An ESA letter is an official letter from a licensed mental health professional in the handler's state that stipulates that they have a qualifying condition for an ESA. People who wish to obtain an ESA letter must meet with a professional (such as a therapist, psychiatrist, general physician, or psychiatric nurse) who is licensed within their home state. If you live in California, for example, it's essential that the practitioner operates within your state.

Can Apartments Charge for Emotional Support Animals:

Legally, under the FHA, housing providers must make reasonable accommodations for ESAs and not discriminate against them. As such, they may not legally charge rental for ESAs because they are considered therapeutic assistance animals under federal housing laws rather than conventional pets. They can, however, ask owners for a security deposit and ask them to pay for any damages that their ESA causes. Pet rental, nonetheless, is waived.

The Fair Housing Act (FHA)

The FHA is in place to ensure that housing providers do not discriminate against people or deny them access to fair housing on the grounds of race, religion, color, disability, gender, sex, and sexuality. As such, people with disabilities who need an ESA are included. 

If a housing provider does discriminate, then tenants can send a complaint to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to seek recourse.

It is always best to be upfront and chat with your landlord about your ESA and provide them with your ESA letter. 

Do You Have to Pay Pet Deposit for an ESA?

Under the FHA, landlords must regard ESAs as assistance animals rather than pets. Therefore, they may not charge conventional pet deposit tariffs for your ESA. They could, however, charge a security deposit fee in case of any potential damages. 

Can a Landlord Deny an ESA?

Legally, all housing providers must make accommodations for your ESA to ensure that you have access to fair housing. There are a few instances however where a housing provider may deny an ESA. This includes:

  • The ESA poses a threat to other tenants (for example, a dog who is aggressive towards children). 
  • The housing block is operated by private clubs or organizations that limit residential occupancy to their own members. 
  • The house is a single home rented out by the family rather than a realtor.
  • The building has four or fewer units, and one of them is occupied by an owner.

Who Qualifies for an Emotional Support Animal?

Anyone with a qualifiable emotional health condition diagnosed by a licensed medical practitioner in their state qualifies. Conditions include:

  • Anxiety 
  • Depression 
  • OCD 
  • Schizophrenia 
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Social anxiety 
  • Bipolar
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder

How to Get an ESA Letter with Pettable

Follow these simple steps and obtain an official ESA letter.

Complete Our Assessment

Complete a quick assessment so we can determine your ESA needs and check if you qualify.

Consult with a Licensed Mental Health Professional

Meet with a licensed mental health practitioner in your state, and if successful, receive an official letter in 24 - 48 hours. If you aren’t, we guarantee 100% money back. 

Present Your ESA Letter to Your Landlord

Once you have your official ESA letter, provide a copy to your landlord to show the legitimacy of your need for an ESA.

The Takeaway

Housing providers may not charge pet rental fees or pet deposits for ESAs, even if the specific complex or apartment block has pet rental policies. ESAs are exempt from these tariffs. An official ESA letter is a great asset that can save owners a great deal of money and reduce stress by highlighting the legitimacy of their ESA claim.

Meet the author:
Kristi Carignan

Kristi Carignan is a seasoned freelance writer with over 20 years of experience crafting copy for global agencies and brands. When she's not writing, she enjoys spending time with her furry companions, Sugar the PomChi and Rudy the Shiba Inu, and indulging in hobbies like crafting and home renovation.

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