Moving can be an exciting and overwhelming experience. If you plan to get an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) after your move, knowing whether you’ll run into problems with your new landlord is essential. While you’re not required to disclose an ESA prior to moving in, it’s helpful to know the laws and regulations around ESAs post-move so you don’t find yourself in a bad spot.
Read below for more information on your rights as an ESA owner, landlord laws, fees, and other considerations for having an emotional support animal at your new address. By understanding the rights and responsibilities of owning an ESA, you can ensure that you and your ESA will be happy in your new home!
What is the Federal Fair Housing Act (FHA)?
The Fair Housing Act (FHA) federally prohibits landlords and other housing providers (agents, sellers, etc.) from discriminating against potential tenants or buyers due to things such as their race, nationality, religion, family status (having children), or disabilities. It was established in 1968 to prevent landlords or property owners from discriminating against potential candidates during the lease or sale of a residence. Those bound by the FHA include real estate agents, leasing agents, landlords, rental managers, sellers, and contractors.
The Fair Housing Act protects minority groups and those with mental or physical disabilities from being denied housing. This includes those who require a service animal or an emotional support animal. A tenant with an emotional support animal letter that a licensed medical professional prescribed is protected under the FHA, meaning they cannot be denied rental housing or charged additional fees due to their ESA.
Additionally, the FHA requires landlords to make reasonable accommodations for tenants with disabilities, including waiving pet rules or providing access to a pet-friendly area. It’s important to note that landlords are not obligated to make any changes that would cause them undue financial hardship or require significant modification to the property.
FHA and Assistance Animals
The FHA covers “assistance animals.” As defined by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), an assistance animal provides assistance, works, performs tasks, or provides emotional support that alleviates a person’s disability. The HUD goes on further to clarify that assistance animals are not pets. According to this language, emotional support animals are covered under the “assistance animal” definition.
While some emotional support animal laws vary from state to state, this definition is provided by a federal agency so that it will stay the same depending on your state definition applies to all states and all people in the United States.
What Rights as an ESA Owner Do You Have?
As an ESA owner, you have certain rights that your landlord cannot take away from you even if you get an ESA after you move in. These rights include:
- Keeping your Emotional Support Animal in the home, despite any rules that otherwise prohibit pets
- Exemption from any regulations that limit or exclude pets based on breed or weight restrictions
- You have a right to be exempt from any fees related to having a pet in the home, including cleaning deposits or pet rent
These are the reasonable accommodations you can expect when you get an ESA after you move.
Just note that the FHA does not protect your rights to an ESA in the following housing situations:
- If the owner occupies the building and has four units or fewer
- If the housing is operated by a religious organization or a private club with occupancy limited to members
- Single-family housing rented or sold by the owner without help from an agent
Besides these specific scenarios, the FHA applies to all other housing. The only cases where a housing provider may make a case to deny an emotional support animal accommodations involve threats to safety or property damage caused by the ESA.
Can Landlords Legally Deny an Emotional Support Animal?
The answer is yes; landlords can legally deny an emotional support animal in certain situations. They are allowed to do so if the tenant’s a direct threat to the safety or health of other tenants due to their aggressive behavior or if it causes significant damage to the property. The landlord must also provide evidence that these conditions exist and that they cannot be mitigated any other way.
Also, landlords may deny an ESA if there is a legitimate safety issue that cannot be resolved in any other way. This could include overcrowding or insufficient space to accommodate the tenant’s these specific scenarios. Otherwise, a landlord cannot legally deny you access to your emotional support animal, even if they have policies that otherwise prohibit pets.
No Pets Policies
Many landlords have pet policies or “no pets” in their rental contracts. However, these policies no longer apply when it comes to emotional support animals. According to the Fair Housing Act, tenants with an emotional support animal can keep their animals in their homes even if a “no pets” policy exists. Landlords are also not allowed to ask for additional documentation or fees related to the ESA beyond what they would typically charge tenants without one.
Can Landlords Question Your Need for an Emotional Support Animal?
Yes, landlords can question your need for an emotional support animal if they have reasonable grounds to do so. You may be required to provide your landlord with proof of prescription of the ESA by your medical provider. Usually, this is in the form of an official ESA letter.
However, the landlord cannot request further medical documentation beyond what a licensed mental health professional provides or ask for details about the tenant’s disability. This type of questioning is considered discrimination and violates the Fair Housing Act.
Can a Landlord Charge Extra Fees for an ESA?
No, landlords cannot legally charge extra fees for an emotional support animal. If your landlord is asking you to pay a pet deposit or rent, they violate the Fair Housing Act and may face legal action.
The best way to protect yourself from these types of fees is to be upfront about your ESA when applying for a rental. By supplying your landlord with an ESA letter, they will be informed of your rights as a tenant and cannot legally charge you extra fees for having your animal in the home.
If you’re getting an ESA after you move in, you will still need to give your landlord your ESA letter as soon as possible to avoid getting hit with any pet fees or rent. But as long as your documentation is valid, they cannot charge you more for having an emotional support animal.
The only exception is damage to their property or injury to other tenants. If your emotional support animal causes damage, you may be liable to cover the costs of the damage.
Landlord Restrictions Regarding ESAs
Since you and your ESA are protected under the FHA, there are several things they legally cannot require you to do in addition to charging a fee or questioning your need for an ESA. These include:
- Asking extensive questions about your disability or what your ESA does for it
- Asking you to register your ESA (there is no official registration for emotional support animals)
- Requesting a certificate for the ESA (there is no certification process)
- Demanding that the ESA has certain training related to a specific disability
Frequently Asked Questions
Still have questions about getting an ESA after you move into a new place? We have answers.
Can I Get an ESA After I Move in California?
Yes, however, California’s new law requires a few extra steps. You must provide an ESA letter from a healthcare professional that:
- Holds an active, valid license with all license information documented in the ESA letter
- Is licensed to serve in the jurisdiction where the letter is provided
- Established a patient-provider relationship for at least 30 days prior to ESA documentation
- Clinically evaluates your need for an ESA
- Provide written ESA prescription
Can a Resident be Denied Living With ESA?
Only if the animal poses a direct threat to the safety of other tenants or causes significant property damage that cannot be mitigated another way. The landlord must provide evidence of these conditions and demonstrate that there are no other solutions. Otherwise, a resident cannot be denied the ability to live with their emotional support animal.
Can a Landlord Require Vaccination Records or Proof of Veterinarian Visits for an ESA?
No, landlords cannot request any additional documentation, including proof of vet visits or vaccination records, beyond what is required in an ESA letter. They can only require proof of prescription of the ESA from your doctor.
Can You Have More Than One ESA?
Yes, it is possible to have more than one emotional support animal. However, you may be required to provide a prescription letter for each emotional support animal you have in your home or provide information about the specific needs each animal addresses.
Register Your ESA Today!
Are you ready to get an emotional support animal after you move? ESA Registration of America can help. We provide valid documentation that meets all the requirements of your housing provider so you can enjoy living with your ESA without hassle or stress.
Register today and begin the process of obtaining a legally valid ESA letter! We make it easy for you to bring your ESA into your home.