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How To Get an ESA Letter in Washington: A Complete Guide2023-04-11
If you have (or are eligible for) an emotional support animal (ESA), then you may also qualify for an ESA letter in Washington. You might need this for rental agreements with landlords - but getting one isn't always as simple as it seems. There are criteria to meet, and you'll need an approved person to write you a letter.
We've compiled everything you need to know about ESA letters, from the benefits of having one to what is actually inside one right through to how to get one. Read on to find out everything you need to know.
Do You Qualify For An ESA Letter in Washington?
If you live in Washinton State, we have good news for you. The rules and regulations are very accommodating, meaning that if you think you might need an emotional support animal, you likely will be able to obtain the letter to allow that.
That's because getting a letter is possible for anyone in the state with a mental or emotional disability. This includes OCD, panic attacks, and anxiety. The state recognizes the benefits of having an ESA and therefore tries to make it as easy as possible for you to receive the help you need.
Who Can Write an ESA Letter in Washington
In order to confirm that only those entitled to an ESA get one, Washington State only allows certain professionals to issue these letters. Those professionals are known as state–licensed mental health professionals - or LMHP for short. If you are looking to get a letter issued, you will have to ensure it comes from an LMHP in order for it to be legitimate in the eyes of the law, landlords, and beyond.
What's Inside a Washington ESA Letter
An ESA letter is akin to a prescription and must be supplied solely by a healthcare professional. So what exactly is one made up of? Essentially, it will consist of your healthcare professional outlining why they believe an ESA will help you and addressing your needs in detail. It will need to be written on their letterheaded paper, include their license number, reasoning, and their provided contact information.
Benefits of Getting an ESA Letter in Washington
The benefits of having an emotional support animal are far-reaching and have been supported heavily by research and studies - and that's why Washington State is so accommodating to people's needs. One of your most significant benefits is how you will save money. This is in the way of extra fees pets usually cost - from rented accommodations to public transit to airplane cabins! With an ESA letter, you will no longer have to pay pet fees, application fees, or deposits. All of a sudden, your monthly bills will start to be a lot more manageable.
You Can Live Anywhere
Similarly, when it comes to finding a place to live, having a pet can greatly reduce your options. So many landlords - in Washington State and beyond - have a no-pets policy that can automatically rule you out of a place in their housing. But with an ESA letter, landlords will have to waive these rules and allow you into their housing with your pet (as long as you meet all other criteria as per usual). This can make a massive difference to your general well-being and daily life.
You Can Go Anywhere
And this also applies to location restrictions for public spaces. With an ESA letter, you will be able to go places that otherwise do not allow pets. If you are a person who suffers from anxiety or other social pressures, this can make a big difference in your life. From coffee shops to hotels to beaches, anywhere you want to go; you can bring your pet now. This kind of benefit can allow you to live the life you want to have.
No Expiration Dates or Renewals Needed
What's better than having a letter and getting your emotional support animal approved? The fact that it has no expiration date and doesn't require any renewal in the state of Washington. That's right - once you have the document from a licensed medical professional, your landlord (or anyone else) won't require you to redo it at any time. If you have an older pet, you can relax - you won't have to renew due to age, either. This is another way that Washington State shows understanding and care toward those struggling with the ramifications of mental health problems.
Travel With Your Pet Everywhere
And last on this list is that you can travel anywhere with your pet. That extends to all restrictions you would have otherwise faced, including size and weight restrictions. In fact, unlike many other states, your ESA letter will allow you to take your pet on board a flight to sit with you and won't be subject to the alternative arrangements for non-ESA pets. This single benefit may allow you the most freedom of all and makes getting a letter worthwhile - despite the potential mental hurdles of retrieving it.
Emotional Support Animals Laws in Washington
In keeping with the section above on traveling anywhere with your pet, let's look into the travel laws in Washington State for your ESA. You may still have to pay a fee in this area, especially if your pet is too big to fit under the seat in front of you (just like the cabin luggage rule). While there are no specific laws for other types of travel (e.g., trains, buses, etc.), you can check with the provider of each mode of transport you need to take.
The housing laws are much more straightforward: basically, the ESA laws override any other law or restriction regarding pets - including those put in place by landlords. That means any landlord must let you keep your pet in the place you rent, even if they usually do not allow pets. And even more, this must be allowed free of charge. That includes college and university dorms, too, so you can take your ESA for your studies!
As a state, Washington does not have any specific employment laws. That means that each employer has the right to decide their policy on emotional support animals. Unfortunately, that does mean there's a chance you might have to leave your pet at home when you go to work. But, with the rise of working from home, you will more than likely be able to switch to a WFH or hybrid model to experience the best of both worlds.
There is only one real exception to all of the ESA laws we have discussed so far: the state government can override all of these exceptions if your pet is aggressive or causes damage or destruction to the home or apartment you are renting. In this case, your landlord retains the right to insist that the animal can no longer stay on the property. With this being the case, it's best to ensure your pet is fully trained (and fully vaccinated).
How To Get An ESA Letter in Washington: A Step-by-Step Guide
Choose a Provider
We made it to the exciting part: getting started on your application and making the first step towards a happier life with your pet companion. The first task is to find a provider to issue you the letter. There are several different options that you will find online, so it's best to do your research and compare them - taking into account your budget and circumstances. Remember that you must choose a provider that requires you to have a telehealth consultation with a licensed mental health professional, as this is one of the criteria for the letter to be legitimate.
This prescreening process is in place to ensure that neither your nor the provider's time is wasted. It will likely comprise an online quiz and will ask you several questions to ascertain your situation. These questions may center on your mental health issues and symptoms (if you have any). Be clear and transparent here. Using your answers, the operators can then decide whether you are likely to be eligible. While this can feel like a pointless step considering you will need a live consultation anyway, use it to prepare for the live consultation and get your answers ready.
Once you're through the screening process, you will be asked to pay for the letter. At this point, you will be sent a few forms to complete and sign, such as HIPAA information. When finished, you'll be able to schedule your live consultation appointment. This conversation could be over the phone or a video call; each provider differs - this might be something to consider when choosing your provider. You will discuss your mental health issues, and if the LMHP agrees to diagnose you and you meet the requirements for an ESA, they will let you know at the end of the call.
Receive Your Letter!
This is the moment you waited for: you will receive your letter! It will likely be a digital copy with the option to request a physical copy if you wish. The time it takes to get your letter will differ between providers - that's another thing you may want to check when choosing one. Ensure to check all the details on your letter correctly when you receive it, and make sure it's on letterheaded paper and has the LHMP’s license number and contact information on it. After that, you're good to go - anywhere with your pet, that is!
While it might seem like a hassle to begin with, getting an ESA letter is a lot simpler than it seems in the state of Washington. Not only are there laws in place to give you rights for your pet, but the actual steps you need to take to get a letter in the first place are relatively straightforward, too. Think you need one? What are you waiting for - get in touch now to start the process!
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