Within the last few years, Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) have become more and more common. The exponential benefits of ESA’s have become recognized through medical and scientific work with individuals who suffer from emotional or mental disabilities. While all of these benefits have started to become recognized, it is a slow transition for the public population to understand and agree with. While there have been many public incidents of airline and public transportation news on ESA’s recently, there is less on the privately owned homes and rentals. In addition to there being new regulations with housing and ESA animals, many landlords would prefer a “no pet” residency to completely avoid any complications.
Under Federal Law, an ESA owner has many rights that both landlord and owner are often unaware of. Taking a closer look at the laws in regards to renting and Emotional Support Animals may provide more clarity on the potential living situation.
No Pets Policy
The first important tip when discussing or negotiating an ESA into a “No Pets” policy housing is the way in which you start the conversation with the landlord. While the laws protect ESA owners and their animal, it is imperative that you maintain a good relationship with your landlord and the building manager. A good start to the discussion would be to get an ESA letter. This letter along with the accompanying vest and documentation can provide you with the important documentation that you will need before the conversation with a landlord or building manager. If you haven’t yet started that process, it is important that you first consult with a trustworthy company that can provide you with the comfort of knowing your Animal is being certified directly with a therapist.
Letting your landlord or building manager know about your ESA letter and recommendation would be the best next step. Taking this step with your landlord or landowner assuming you’re working on the same side is the best way to discuss. First, try to have this conversation in person, the next best option would be over email although having a face to face conversation can provide more option for negotiation. Many landlords are aware of these new law changes, although if your landlord has not yet been updated, it may be important to discuss the situation with an informative approach. It is your legal responsibility to understand your own disability although, it is absolutely none of your landlords legal business to understand it. You do not have to disclose your disability to anyone and only should ever need to discuss this with your therapist. Another good way to demonstrate your need for an ESA would be through your disability benefits if you receive these through a government agency or through disability at your job. This can help your landlord to understand that you’re not just trying to get a “pet” into your apartment or home. Once your verbal agreement has been settled on, it is important to get both you and your landlords understanding in writing, to verify the date of arrival for your ESA in the home or apartment.
If you have not yet moved into your home, it is important to remember that you do not have to disclose beforehand that your therapist or recommendation for an ESA exists. You may want to let your landlord know beforehand, although if you want to avoid discrimination this conversation can be done after a lease is signed and you’ve already moved in.
When you’ve brought the recommendation letter to your landlords’ attention and you’ve already certified your animal, it is then important to have your landlord meet your ESA. Ensure that your ESA is well behaved and does not exhibit behavior that would destroy or deteriorate the property in any way. While these laws are there to protect ESA owners, there are also limitations to the destruction of a property that a landlord will tolerate. Remember being on good terms with your landlord is imperative to your success in therapy and living with an ESA. Under these same laws, there is a clause where enough damage to property or causing any disturbances to other tenants can ultimately protect the landlord giving them options for evictions.
The Fair Housing Act (FHA)
The Fair Housing Act (FHA) is the law in which you can find the details of the housing laws where ESA’s and their protections are outlined. This law was created in order to prevent discrimination of individuals with disabilities that benefit from the emotional support that an ESA provides them. Many of these individuals find that their search for housing while owning an ESA can prove to be extremely difficult, thus the law was created as a secure way to ensure housing needs were met. This law not only provides residents with their ability to live with their ESA but also for the landlord to make “reasonable accommodations” for their tenant and their ESA.
Disabilities under FHA are described as physical or mental impairments, substantially limiting at least one (but could be more) areas of a person’s major life activities. This disability must have proof and record of the disability’s impairment and the individual must be regarded as having the impairment. The most important documentation that a person must have is a licensed mental health professional’s documentation of the individual with a disability benefitting from their ownership of an ESA. As an ESA owner, it is your right to decide who to share this information with or not. All your landlord needs to understand is that the ownership of an ESA is necessary for functioning in your normal capacity.
There have been many landlords and building managers that do not follow these laws and the FHA. This is ultimately a problem when landlords use intimidation, deny housing, or flat out refuse to house you because of your ownership of an ESA. The next step of action if this is the case you’re in is to contact an attorney in order to file a discrimination lawsuit. There are many cases like this that end in the favor of the ESA owner and handler.
Remember the most important step of the process of introducing your ESA to your rental home or apartment, it is imperative to gain proper documentation through a trusted source.