If you have an emotional support animal (ESA) or you are considering getting one, you may have wondered whether getting an ESA after you move into your rented accommodation is possible. In this guide, we will explore everything you need to know about ESA letters and whether or not it is possible to present one to your housing provider after you move in.
Can I Get an ESA After I Move In? - ESA Letters for Apartment Rentals
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What is an Emotional Support Animal (ESA)?
An emotional support animal is an animal counterpart who provides love, loyalty, and companionship to its owner. Their physical presence and the routine they offer give huge emotional and therapeutic benefits to their handler. ESAs can support owners through a myriad of mental and emotional health conditions, including depression, anxiety, bipolar, schizophrenia, OCD, and so much more.
While similar to psychiatric service animals or psychiatric service dogs (PSD) in terms of offering therapeutic benefit for mental health disabilities, they differ slightly. In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), service animals must perform a specific task or function directly related to the owner's disability. ESAs, on the other hand, provide therapeutic benefits through their presence, even if they do not perform a specific task (like reminding their owner to take their medication or warning them about an oncoming panic attack).
ESAs can be any legal domestic breed of animal, including cats, dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs, goats, miniature horses, hamsters, snakes, bearded dragons, and ferrets. Many studies have shown that their companionship and ability to provide routine offer significant therapeutic advantages that can alleviate the symptoms of mental health disorders.
What is an ESA Letter?
An ESA letter is an official letter by a licensed mental health practitioner (LMHP) that stipulates that your ESA is needed because of a mental health condition. Much like a medical prescription, an ESA letter states that your emotional support animal is necessary for your health and well-being. Therapists must be licensed in the state in which the qualifying person resides.
Can I Get an ESA After I Move In?
Most of the time, prospective tenants present an ESA letter to the potential landlord before moving in. But what if things change in the middle of a lease, and you need an emotional support animal?
Say you have already signed a rental agreement in a no-pet complex and then qualify for an emotional support animal. In such an instance, it is possible to send your landlord an official ESA letter and request accommodations for your ESA.
People realize they need an ESA at any point in their lives, and this may occur after signing a lease agreement. If this happens, it's important to contact a qualified mental health practitioner who can assist you in writing an official ESA letter that you can present to your landlord.
Can a Landlord Deny an ESA?
Generally speaking, landlords must accept ESA letters as per the Fair Housing Act (FHA). An ESA is regarded as a medical aid rather than a pet, and as such, certain exemptions like pet rental or tariffs are waived. The Fair Housing Act states:
"Housing providers cannot refuse to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services when such accommodations may be necessary to afford a person with a disability the equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling."
Despite the FHA, there are a few situations where a landlord can refuse an ESA. One such reason is that the landlord can identify that the animal's presence will cause "undue hardship." For example, another tenant is severely allergic to the animal, or the animal is aggressive to other animals or children. They may also argue that the animal's size is unsuitable for the particular space.
While the landlord cannot enact an unlawful eviction in such instances, they must follow due process.
Who Qualifies for an ESA?
People with a qualifying mental health condition identified by a licensed medical practitioner qualify for an ESA. Mental health conditions include anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, OCD, schizophrenia, bipolar, eating disorders, and more.
How to Get an ESA Letter Online with Pettable
Happily, Pettable can make the process of obtaining an ESA letter a total breeze. Simply follow our quick and easy steps.
Take our Assessment
Take a quick assessment so we can determine your needs and connect you to a licensed therapist in your state.
Attend a Brief Consultation
Attend a consultation and meet with your therapist. Once you qualify, you will get your ESA letter within 24-48 hours. If for some or other reason you don't, we'll offer 100% of your money back.
Present Your ESA Letter to Your Landlord
Once you've got your letter, show it to your landlord, who must make 'reasonable accommodations’ as per the FHA.
It is possible to give an existing landlord an ESA letter after signing your lease. While there are some situations in which a landlord might deny the letter – for example, if the ESA causes 'undue harm' – for the most part, they should accept your letter as per the FHA.
If you want to connect with a therapist in your state and obtain an official letter, get in touch and follow our simple ESA letter process.