For many people living with mental health struggles, an emotional support animal can make a major difference in their day to day. Unlike your standard pet, this type of critter is certified as your emotional assistant, giving them a few more protections. In many instances, you’ll have no problem keeping one in your apartment or other housing complex — but can you be evicted with an emotional support animal?
Can You Be Evicted with an Emotional Support Animal?
In general, individuals with emotional support animals are protected from eviction under the Fair Housing Act. Landlords are required to make reasonable accommodations for tenants with ESAs unless doing so would pose an undue burden on the landlord or fundamentally alter the nature of the housing.
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What is an Emotional Support Animal?
Simply put, an emotional support animal (ESA) is a domesticated animal that gives emotional support to someone struggling with one or more emotional or mental disorders. It can provide vital affection and companionship, improving their human's mental health and overall life. Unlike service dogs, which are trained to perform specific tasks, an ESA provides relief with their physical affection and loving companionship.
The Fair Housing Act Legally Protects ESAs
If you live in an apartment, condo, or other rental unit, there is at least one law that ensures that your ESA can live with you. The Fair Housing Act (FHA) is the most important law protecting individuals with disabilities in their domestic lives. For renters, the FHA prohibits discrimination against tenants and mandates that their ESA may live with them as long as they have a legitimate ESA letter.
Can You Be Evicted with an Emotional Support Animal?
Unfortunately, there are still some instances in which your landlord can evict you over the presence or behavior of your ESA. While you can always appeal these decisions, certain situations can enable your landlord to bypass the FHA.
When Can a Landlord Legally Deny an ESA?
Your landlord could evict you and your ESA for a few reasons. First, if your faithful assistant poses a threat or shows excessive signs of aggression toward your neighbors, you could be forced out of your home. You can also be evicted if the animal causes significant damage to the property, or if it is too large for the living space or complex. You can also be denied if you are found to have a fake ESA letter.
Landlords: How to Identify a Legitimate ESA
If you’re the owner or manager of a residential property, you will likely come face-to-face with a potential tenant who has an ESA letter and an animal they want to bring along. It’s crucial that you can easily discern the difference between an authentic ESA letter and a phony. Knowing and identifying the difference can save you and your tenant a world of headaches.
Scrutinize the ESA Letter
First, take a close look at the letter and try to spot any glaring errors or signs of forgery. If it looks like a “copy of a copy,” it could be a fake. Look for details that it was made by a licensed mental health professional (LMHP) — if the letter isn’t on official letterhead, it was probably written by a scammer. Any legitimate ESA letter should contain all the LMHP’s professional information, including address and phone number. If you call the number and get a dial tone, you’ve probably been scammed.
Questions You Can Legally Ask Your Tenant
Although a landlord can reasonably scrutinize and verify the legitimacy of your ESA letter, there are certain questions they are legally allowed to ask — and some that they are not. They can ask to verify the source and authenticity of the letter, and they can request a copy of the Reasonable Accommodation Form which would have been completed by the mental health professional that wrote the letter.
However, thanks to legal protections, a landlord cannot ask the tenant for details about their mental or emotional health disability, including their medical or prescription history. They also can’t ask if you have ever been in drug or alcohol rehabilitation, if you’re attending therapy, or if you have been hospitalized for mental health concerns.
Who Qualifies for an Emotional Support Animal?
While qualifications for a psychiatric service dog (PSD) are more specific, you could qualify for an ESA if you are living with a:
- Mental health disorder
- Mood disorder
- Learning disability
- Substance use disorder
- Cognitive disorder
- Motor skill disorder
How to Get an ESA Letter
At Pettable, we make it easy to get an ESA letter, so you can start benefitting from having your own emotional service animal right away. With just a few steps, you can ensure the best-case scenario for living with your emotional support creature.
Take our Assessment
First, take Pettable’s online assessment to see if you qualify for an ESA letter. Our in-house LMPH team will review your information and send you forward to the next step.
Attend a Brief Consultation
After the assessment, we will schedule a brief consultation between you and one of our licensed professionals, who will diagnose you with the appropriate disorder and take care of the rest. Once the process is complete, we will issue you your authentic ESA letter.
Present Your Letter to Your Landlord
Once you have your official ESA letter from Pettable, give it to your landlord and make any necessary arrangements. Remember, communication is key when securing and maintaining housing, so be open with your landlord and they will be more likely to accommodate you. Contact Pettable today to get started!