How a Lawyer Can Help if Your Landlord Rejects Your Emotional Support Animal

How a Lawyer Can Help if Your Landlord Rejects Your Emotional Support Animal - DemandLetters

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. 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!

Get Started - Demand Letters

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.

8 comments on “How a Lawyer Can Help if Your Landlord Rejects Your Emotional Support Animal

  1. Ken on

    I had a problem with my apartment management company giving me the run around and trying to get me to pay an animal fee. My lawyer wrote them a demand letter for my esa and they approved me within 2 days from getting my lawyers letter. Sometimes you have to fight fire with fire.

    • admin on

      We’re glad to hear your situation worked out for you. Most landlords are very good at complying with ESA rules, but a few unfortunately will try to give tenants with emotional support animals a hard time.

  2. Mary lapradd on

    My landlord will not let me me to get a emotional support dog he said “that maybe someone might be uncomfortable with me getting an emotional support dog”, yet he never asked anyone about me having a dog. And there’s already a dog here that is a pet.

    • admin on

      That is not a valid excuse to deny a resident’s request to live with an emotional support animal. If you have an ESA letter from a licensed healthcare professional your landlord must reasonably accommodate your ESA request. If you need the assistance of a lawyer to send a demand letter to the landlord, we can help. Just click here to get started:

  3. Naomi Cranfield on

    My landlord says that even though I have a letter for my two ESA’s, I still have to pay a pet violation fee of $600 because I had them in my home before getting the letter. I waited 6 weeks to get my letter and they inspected my home (without notice) 1 month ago. As soon as I got the letter I delivered it my landlord. Do I still have to pay the violation fee?

    • Demand Letters Team on

      Our understanding is that a pet fee or fine would be applicable at any time the pet was not a qualified emotional support animal. Of course, once the pet is an ESA, the landlord can’t impose a pet fee

  4. Gabby on

    I informed my landlord that I had an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) and clarified that my dog was not considered a pet. He responded by yelling at me and refusing to accept the ESA form. At this point, I was holding my dog about two feet away from him. He insisted that there is no such thing as an ESA and that he did not care. Later, I included the ESA form with my rent payment. In response, he placed a notice under my door stating that both he and his mother are highly allergic to dog hair. Shortly after, he served me with a five-day “cure or quit” notice, citing a violation of the no-pet policy (although he wrote “breaking no-pet policy”).

    I proceeded to court and informed the judge about my Emotional Support Animal. The judge then turned to the landlord’s attorney for their response. The attorney argued that I had breached the no-pet policy. When asked by the judge if I still had the pet, I reiterated that this was an Emotional Support Animal. The judge then called the attorney’s name, and he repeated that I had violated the no-pet policy.

    Unfortunately, I was evicted, and now my record reflects a violation of the no-pet policy as the reason. I believe this is not legally sound. I plan to request an investigation into the judge and the case. Could you advise me if I am in the wrong here?

    • Demand Letters Team on

      Unfortunately we can’t provide any legal advice on your situation. We can state however that under federal ESA rules, tenants with ESA letters are entitled to reasonable accommodation from landlords with no-pet policies, unless the landlord can cite a valid exemption. Emotional support animals are not considered normal pets under Fair Housing guidelines.


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