Emotional support animals (ESAs) are increasingly becoming a source of tension between landlords and tenants. Some landlords have committed to providing a safe and comfortable living environment for all tenants. Some, however, have had complaints where they feel that tenants have been abusing their rights to keep an ESA in their living accommodations.
This article will explain whether or not a landlord can evict a tenant who has an ESA and will give you some tips on how to avoid this type of situation.
What is an ESA?
An ESA is a pet that provides comfort and emotional support to a person with a disability. They can be prescribed to people who have certain debilitating conditions, such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), severe anxiety, depression, and many more. If you are disabled and require an ESA, you must be approved by the appropriate licensed mental health professional (LMHP) before you can obtain one.
Emotional support animals are different from service animals, though they’re often mistaken for one another. Service animals are trained to perform specific tasks for people with disabilities. For example, a service dog may be trained to pull a wheelchair or fetch items for its handler. Meanwhile, an emotional support animal does not necessarily need training, so long as they’re proven to help maintain their owners’ mental and emotional health.
What Are the Housing Rights of ESA Owners?
Having an emotional support animal generally means you can bypass many of the rules and regulations that govern apartment living. For example, you can bring your ESA to live in your unit even if it has a no-pet policy.
As a whole, ESAs and their owners are protected by Fair Housing laws. This means that landlords cannot discriminate against their tenants based on their disabilities. A landlord should not deny you access to your unit, terminate your tenancy, or charge you extra fees solely because you have an ESA. If your landlord attempts to remove the ESA from your living quarters or bullies you into providing them with unnecessary documents, you can file a complaint under the claim that the landlord has violated your Fair Housing rights.
What to Keep in Mind When Owning an ESA
Just because you’re protected by federal laws doesn’t mean that landlords are helpless to your every whims. They can, for example, reject your ESA if it is proven to cause a serious health hazard or is too disruptive to the other tenants. They are also allowed to do so if the animal is too large to fit in your living spaces, or if the accommodations they’d need to provide will cause them undue financial hardship.
Above all, keep in mind that you need to have a valid ESA letter if you want to apply for a unit. An ESA letter can be obtained from your doctor or a licensed mental health professional. You will also need to provide this letter to your landlord and ensure it remains valid throughout your stay. Keep in mind that an ESA letter is only applicable for one year after it is received. Beyond that, you’d need to get a new letter.