No matter what state you live in, you are protected by federal law as an emotional support animal owner. Some states, such as New York, California, and Florida, even have additional laws prohibiting discrimination against ESA owners in housing.
For a landlord to accommodate your emotional support animal, they are entitled to see an ESA letter from a therapist or doctor. If you provide them with a valid ESA letter, they can only reject your ESA request in limited circumstances.
What do you do, however, if your landlord, HOA, co-op board, or property manager wrongly rejects your emotional support animal without justification? What if they stonewall you and never respond to your ESA request at all? What if they try to charge you a fee or deposit illegally?
In this article, we’ll explore what your options are if you have a difficult landlord, including how you can have an attorney send a demand letter to your housing provider to enforce your rights.
What is a landlord entitled from you as an ESA owner?
In order to prove that you have an emotional support animal, the landlord is entitled to see that you have a legitimate ESA letter. An ESA letter is a signed document from a licensed healthcare professional, such as a therapist or doctor, stating that you have a mental health disability and require an emotional support animal to help with your condition.
There are some things that housing providers CANNOT request from you to demonstrate you have an ESA:
- Your specific diagnosis or detailed information about your condition.
- Your medical records or medical history.
- Proof of training of your ESA (ESAs do not require any specialized training).
- A certificate, registration, or ID.
- Special forms, including ones that require statements made on penalty of perjury and notarized signatures.
After you submit an ESA letter, the landlord has 10 days under HUD guidelines to respond to your request to live with an emotional support animal.
When can a landlord reject an emotional support animal?
There are instances where a landlord can rightfully reject your ESA. Some smaller landlords are actually exempt from having to allow for ESAs. That includes owner-occupied buildings with no more than four units and single-family homes sold or rented by the owner without using an agent.
A housing provider can also reject an ESA if they determine that it poses a direct threat to the health and safety of others. However, they need to have evidence — they can’t reject your emotional support animal because it’s a certain breed.
What else are landlords not allowed to do regarding ESAs?
Landlords cannot reject your ESA because the building’s rules don’t allow for pets — that is not a valid excuse. ESAs are not considered regular pets under federal guidelines; they are assistance animals and are therefore exempt from rules that apply to pets.
That means landlords also can’t deny your right to have an ESA because your animal is over a weight or size limit. ESA rules trump any policies the building may have that apply to pets.
Housing providers are also NEVER allowed to collect a pet fee or deposit because you have an emotional support animal.
What are my options if my landlord is giving me trouble with my ESA request?
Your landlord may be making your request for your ESA difficult for one of the following reasons:
- Has your landlord rejected your ESA accommodation request without good reason?
- Are they violating HUD guidelines by trying to charge you a fee or asking for you or your therapist to fill out a complex form?
- Is your landlord harassing you or imposing onerous demands just because you need an emotional support animal?
- Are they treating you differently from other tenants because of your disability?
- Are they just completely ignoring your ESA request?
If you’re facing one of these tough situations, you’re probably feeling stress and worry. After all, your emotional support animal is precious for your mental wellbeing, and your home is your sanctuary.
If you have a landlord who is being difficult, an attorney can help by sending a demand letter. A demand letter is a signed letter from an attorney that makes a formal request for your landlord to comply with their Fair Housing obligations.
Sending a demand letter shows your landlord that you’re serious about enforcing your legal rights as an ESA owner, and you won’t be ignored or misled about what you are entitled to.
Unfortunately, sending a demand letter can be expensive — until now. DemandLetters.com will pair you with a licensed attorney that can send a demand letter to your landlord, co-op board, HOA, or property manager for a low flat rate. The attorney will write the letter on their letterhead and send it directly to your landlord.
No need to pay any hourly fees or pay a large retainer — a lawyer can send a demand letter on your behalf for a low fixed rate. Just click on the link below to get started today!
Should I file a complaint with HUD?
Some tenants have filed complaints with the U.S. Department of Housing (HUD) when their landlords have failed to fulfill their Fair Housing obligations. HUD and the Department of Justice have filed charges against many housing providers for failing to properly accommodate ESA owners, and landlords have faced stiff penalties and fines.
However, reaching out to HUD should be a last resort. The process to resolve a dispute through HUD can be long and involved, and they are a busy agency.
The best course of action is to try to come to a mutually acceptable compromise with your landlord. Having a lawyer send a demand letter to your landlord might also help nudge your landlord into doing the right thing.