Fact checked

Can You Be Evicted for Having an Emotional Support Animal?

Individuals with emotional support animals are protected from being evicted only due to having a support animal under the Fair Housing Act. Landlords must 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.

Matt Fleming
May 9, 2024
August 2, 2023
8 minute read
Updated By
Matt Fleming
May 9, 2024
Expert Reviewed By:
Marvy BeckmanMarvy Beckman
Sunstar Clinical
August 2, 2023
August 29, 2023
8 minute read
May 9, 2024
Landlords cannot deny a valid ESA letter without a reasonable cause. Know your rights and find out how to get an ESA letter with Pettable.

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?

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 or if the accommodation is not reasonable.

Examples of When a Landlord CAN Evict You with an ESA

Landlords and housing managers are typically responsible for numerous tenants at any given point, so they must guarantee their safety. On the other hand, you are responsible for having the proper documentation, communicating clearly with your landlord, and keeping your ESA under control at all times. Some instances that may get you evicted include:

  • Improper, fake, or fraudulent documentation
  • Non-disclosure of your ESA
  • Damage to the property caused by your ESA
  • Other tenants feel threatened or are attacked
  • Undue hardship for the landlord to accommodate an ESA

Examples of When a Landlord Cannot Evict Your ESA

In some cases, your landlord may attempt to evict you unlawfully, either with or without malice. Whether their concerns are valid or not will depend on how they adhere to FHA regulations prohibiting discrimination against disabled individuals. Unfortunately, some housing providers will try to deny your application or give you a 30-day eviction notice. Some examples of instances where your landlord cannot legally evict you and your ESA include:

  • Standard “no-pet” policies
  • Fear of potential nuisance
  • Size or breed restriction
  • Multiple ESAs for a tenant

If your landlord threatens eviction for these reasons or others that they won’t explain, file a complaint with HUD.

Options If Wrongfully Evicted for Having an ESA

Even if you have followed all the rules and kept your ESA and property under control, some landlords may try to evict you wrongly. If that happens, don’t panic — the Fair Housing Act (FHA) protects you from housing discrimination. First, file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD); you can do this easily online or by phone, or submit a claim by mail (if necessary). You can also contact an attorney who specializes in disability or housing discrimination; they can provide legal assistance and contact the housing provider directly to try and resolve the matter. If these means don’t work, consider contacting local authorities, but this should be a last resort.

How to Tell Your Landlord about Your Emotional Support Animal

Most landlords and housing providers want what’s best for their tenants and understand FHA regulations. Before you tell your landlord about your ESA (or multiple ESAs), make sure you have the proper documentation to verify your needs. Next, be upfront with them, and don’t try to sneak any pets past them. Give your landlord notice well before you move in or adopt your ESA, so they have enough of a heads-up before you sign a new lease. No matter what, try to resolve any issues ahead of time to avoid undue stress for you, your ESA, and your housing provider.

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. 

An example of what a legitimate ESA letter should look like.

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. 

What Documentation Do You Need for an Emotional Support Animal?

If you want to bring an emotional support animal into your life — and home — all you need is an ESA letter. First, take the Pettable online ESA assessment and we will determine your eligibility. From there, we will match you with a licensed mental health professional (LMHP) certified in your state. They will meet you for an online evaluation, where they will diagnose your condition and determine your need for an ESA. Finally, they will issue your official ESA letter, which will be delivered to you within 24-48 hours. This is the only document required to verify your need for an ESA; it will not disclose the specific disorder or expose your medical history. Contact Pettable to get started today!

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 see if you qualify, so you can start benefiting from having your 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 Consultation

After the assessment, we will schedule a 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, and you fully qualify,  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!

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

What is an Emotional Support Animal?

An emotional support animal (ESA) is a domesticated animal that supports 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.

04/03/2024 Update: Article was reviewed for accuracy by Marvy Beckman, LCSW.

05/09/2024 Update: Article was updated to provide more information on when an ESA owner can be evicted, and their options if they are wrongfully evicted.

Meet the author:
Matt Fleming

Matt is a Midwestern-based writer and devoted dog dad, living with a sweet mixed-breed pup named Robin. A life-long dog lover, he had the pleasure of growing up with several German Shepherds, a Cocker Spaniel, and a Black Labrador. He is a full-time editor, as well as a musician and poet, who loves basketball, birdwatching and listening to The Cure and Nick Cave.

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