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Do I Have To Tell My Landlord About My Emotional Support Animal?2021-06-18
As a renter, you have rights. While some landlords make you feel that everything they put in the lease is the law, sometimes you'll see questionable stipulations. If you are informed of your tenant's rights, you can stand up for yourself and get the respect you deserve.
A common tension between landlords and renters is pets in buildings. If you have an emotional or mental disability and use an emotional support animal to help you, then you may be allowed to keep your animal in no-pets policy buildings.
Under the Fair Housing Act, landlords are forbidden to discriminate based on sex, race, religion, nationality, or disability. They cannot legally stop you from having an animal that officially assists your mental health.
Do I Have To Tell My Landlord About My Emotional Support Animal?
In brief, yes. It is always best for tenants to be transparent and honest when moving into a new apartment. Informing your landlord about your emotional support animal early will ease any questions or concerns down the road.
You would tell your landlord about any pet, regardless of ESA status, so do not make any exceptions for your emotional support animal.
But there are a few more steps to go through before you are ready to sign your landlord's lease and live as you please with your emotional support animal. You want to be fully prepared about everything you need to know on ESAs as early as possible in the negotiations with a landlord. So let's break down how you can confidently approach your landlord as an expert on ESAs.
1. Know The Laws
Before starting your landlord's lease application make sure you have fully researched the Fair Housing Act and know all of its rules and by-laws regarding “reasonable accommodations.”
In 1968, Congress passed the Fair Housing Act to guarantee protections for those purchasing and renting homes. After this law was passed it became illegal for landlords to discriminate based on any sort of handicap or minority status.
A “reasonable accommodation” is any alteration or change to a rule that would provide equal treatment to a person with disabilities. This could mean a landlord would have to install a ramp to the building for someone who uses a wheelchair or add railings to a shower. Allowing an emotional support animal owner to keep their pet in an apartment, is also a frequent reasonable accommodation request for landlords.
There is nothing illegal or shady about having a registered ESA — do not let a landlord bully you. Some landlords may try to discredit the real life-changing benefits being an ESA owner brings you every day. To prove the necessity of your ESA you will need to obtain an official ESA letter.
2. Understand ESA Letters and Emotional Support Animals
An emotional support animal or ESA is generally defined as any small, domesticated pet. Typical ESAs are dogs and cats, but small pigs, rats, snakes, and even fish can all get ESA status. An ESA just needs to provide you emotional comfort, and every pet owner needs something different to feel safe and soothed.
Not to be confused with a therapy animal or service animal, ESAs are specifically suited for the emotional wellbeing of their owner. Emotional support animals do not have any special training and are not recognized by the Americans With Disabilities Act, but are recognized by the Fair Housing Act of 1968.
A letter from a licensed mental health professional can officially diagnose you with a disability that is treated with the support of an ESA. An emotional support animal letter is the only way to get reasonable accommodation from a landlord in a building with a no-pets policy. Depression, anxiety, or PTSD are all common mental disabilities that can warrant getting an ESA letter. Ultimately it is up to your doctor or therapist to determine the exact reason you qualify for an ESA.
3. Be Ready To Answer Questions
Your landlord does have the right to request an ESA letter before allowing you and your pet to move into an apartment with a no-pets policy. So have the letter on hand before signing any paperwork as this will be the first thing a landlord requests. Explain to your landlord that your emotional support animal has been certified by a licensed mental health professional and lives with you under the doctor's orders.
Expect a landlord to ask what species your emotional support animal is. Any animal that is legally allowed in the country should be allowed as an ESA. Larger pets may come with more resistance at first, but as long as you prove how well-behaved your ESA is, there will not be problems.
If the landlord asks if your ESA is trained, it is appropriate to inform them it is no more trained than a typical pet. Emotional support animals are not required by law to have any special training.
4. Beware of Landlord Tricks
If a landlord seems on board with your emotional support animal but puts a pet deposit in the lease, this is a red flag. It is illegal to ask someone with an ESA to pay any sort of fee for this accommodation. Direct the landlord to the Fair Housing Act if they make this unreasonable request.
Any security deposit requested from a landlord that is contingent on a renter's disability or emotional support animal is prohibited and should be reported to the authorities.
5. Be Open, Kind, and Honest
You are most likely to have an easy conversation with your landlord about your ESA if you are gracious and kind throughout the process. Your landlord is looking for happy tenants, so it will benefit both of you to allow your ESA.
Explain to your landlord how well-behaved and easy-going your emotional support animal is. You want your landlord to understand your ESA is not a frivolous extravagance, but a part of you. Introduce your landlord to the animal and quickly your landlord will realize your pet is no troublemaker, but a welcome addition to the building.
How To Make Sure You Can Live Freely With Your ESA
Once you have all the proper documentation for your ESA, you can live almost anywhere you want. It is important to always have easy access to your ESA letter for any situation when it will come in handy.
While airlines no longer are required to allow emotional support animals on board, if you show your letter and compassionately explain your situation, exceptions can be made for your ESA.
Once you've signed a lease with your landlord and are all moved in, you will not have any more issues and can live calmly and protected by the law. ESA owners have rights and protections, and through following the rules and being honest this process and confrontation with your landlord can be painless.
If you are a pet owner considering getting your animal registered as an ESA, contact the professionals at the ESA Registration of America. We can help you through every step of the ESA registration process and answer any and all of your questions along the way. Be confident speaking to your landlord about your emotional support animal, and there are systems in place that will allow you to live with them in harmony.
We can provide you with an ESA letter for your landlord from a licensed mental health professional, list you in our database, and provide online documentation, so you never have to worry about your ESA letter again. Get you and your best friend all the rights you deserve and register now for an emotional support animal!
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