Emotional support animals (ESAs) are animals that provide comfort to people with disabilities. Many people find that owning an ESA and being able to see them first thing in the morning and last thing at night, helps them live more independently.
This is why the Federal Fair Housing Act (FFHA) prohibits discrimination in housing based on disability. These Fair Housing laws allow ESA owners to bypass pet-only policies, and landlords cannot deny them housing simply because of their ESA. But how do you determine if an ESA is a reasonable accommodation under the FFHA? Read on this article to find out.
What is an ESA?
An ESA is an animal that acts as a source of emotional support to an individual with a disability. They can be a cat, dog, or any other animal. People may get an emotional support animal if they have a mental or physical disability. This includes post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, and other disabilities.
Many people confuse them with service animals, but the two are not the same. Service animals are animals that assist people with disabilities in the tasks they need to do. They are trained to perform specific tasks for their handlers, such as guiding a blind person, or alerting a deaf person to sounds. Meanwhile, emotional support animals don’t need to be certified or trained by any organization.
Housing Rights for ESAs
The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing based on disability. So if you have an ESA, you can be denied housing for that reason. This means that your landlord must provide you with reasonable accommodations so that you can live comfortably with your emotional support animal. You can even bring your emotional support animal to live with you even if the unit usually has a no-pet policy!
Of course, there are certain exceptions and limitations in place. Your landlord only has to abide by your requests so long as they remain reasonable. You can’t, for example, ask for luxurious benefits in your unit if they’re not necessary. Furthermore, a landlord can ask for your emotional support animal to leave your premises if they’re causing harm and undue stress to the landlord and the other tenants.
The Importance of an ESA Letter
A letter from your doctor is an important part of the process. This is because an ESA letter is needed if you want your pet to be legally considered as an emotional support animal.
An ESA letter can be given by your doctor or any other licensed mental health professional (LMHP). You’d have to get an assessment from a LMHP first before you can get an ESA letter. They will take a look at your conditions and symptoms and decide if an emotional support animal is needed and can actually benefit you.
Once you have an ESA letter, it’s time to present it to your landlord. If you’re living in a place that doesn’t allow pets, then the landlord will ask for proof that your ESA is needed and safe. Keep in mind, however, that an ESA letter will go out of date within a year of receiving it. After that, you’d need to get a renewed letter.