What Does The Fair Housing Act Say About Emotional Support Animal Rights
Pets provide companionship and joy for their owners. But for the millions of Americans who struggle with anxiety, depression, and PTSD, the therapeutic benefits of an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) positively impact their quality of life.
For this reason, ESAs are officially and legally recognized support animals that are granted privileges to ensure they remain near their owner's side. Such is the case with the Fair Housing Amendment Act of 1988, which partly requires landlords to accommodate requests for ESAs to live with their tenants.
Even though ESAs are not granted the same rights under the ADA as service animals, they are considered assistive necessities rather than pets. This entitles their owners to reasonable accommodations with their ESA despite the landlord having a "no pet" policy.
This guide will explain how to request ESA accommodation on your own. However, as you will soon discover, DoNotPay offers a more efficient way to generate ESA accommodation letters for various situations.
What Is an Emotional Support Animal?
- An Emotional Support Animal provides companionship and support to individuals who suffer from the debilitating effects of trauma, anxiety, stress, and other types of distress. A licensed therapist prescribes the ESA to alleviate the patient's suffering.
- Unlike service animals, they do not assist in specific tasks such as alerting seizures, opening doors, crossing streets, and other functions that require specialized training.
- Service animals are covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act, while ESAs are only covered under the Federal Fair Housing Act.
The table below shows the difference between an ESA and a service animal:
|Definition||A pet, whose presence is determined to be needed for a patient’s mental health. The pet is prescribed by a licensed mental health professional to a person with a disabling mental illness.||According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), service animals are dogs that are trained to perform tasks or do work for people with disabilities.|
|Does the assistance animal have access to public areas?||No||Yes|
|Can the assistance animal be banned or restricted when the owner is obtaining housing?||No||No|
|Will the owner of the assistance animal be charged a pet deposit for living with one?||No||No|
|Is the assistance animal allowed on flights free of charge?||No||Yes|
What Is an ESA Letter?
An official letter signed by a licensed mental health professional is required to be accepted as an ESA. The following elements must be included in this letter:
- The letter must be written on the prescribing licensed medical professional's official letterhead.
- The therapist's license number, date, and direct contact information.
- Date of issue.
- The patient's name and the therapist's recommendation that the ESA be used as part of treatment for the mental disorder, and the patient must live a full lifestyle.
- Signature of the licensed mental health professional who issued the letter.
Example of an ESA Letter to a Landlord
The following is an example of an ESA letter that you would submit to a landlord informing them of your support animal.
Dear [Landlord's Name],
In accordance with the Fair Housing Act, I am writing to request reasonable accommodation for my support animal, which will reside with me within my rental at [Rental Address].
I have a disability and, as such, require full-time assistance from this animal. I have attached a letter from my healthcare provider confirming my need for this form of assistance.
The animal in question is [include a brief description of your ESA].
If you wish to discuss this matter in more detail, you can reach me by phone at XXX-XXX-XXXX or email at [your email address].
Who Can Write the Letter for an Emotional Support Animal under the Fair Housing Act?
The following mental health professionals are qualified to write the ESA letter under the Fair Housing Act:
- Primary care physicians and physician assistants.
- Mental health professionals, including the following:
- Licensed Social Worker (LCSW)
- Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT)
- Licensed Professional Counselors (LPC)
- Licensed Mental Health Counselors (LMHC)
- Registered Nurses
What Are the Exact Housing Laws for Emotional Support Animals?
The Fair Housing Act passed in 1968 protects individuals and families with disabilities and states that landlords must make "reasonable" accommodations for them. For example, dogs, cats, and many small animals can be easily accommodated in an apartment.
However, if a horse or llama is your ESA, your landlord is not required to allow it under the law because these animals need stables and fencing, which are not Emotional Support Animal reasonable accommodations.
How to Ask for an ESA Letter on Your Own
The only person who can prescribe or recommend an ESA is a licensed healthcare professional. It's important to note that many websites sell certificates and other documents claiming the pet is an ESA. However, these are not legally binding and do not have to be accepted by a landlord or airline.
To ask for a qualified ESA letter, do the following:
- Determine if an ESA would benefit your condition. Keep a record of your symptoms to discuss with the healthcare professional.
- Contact a licensed mental health professional if you are not already under treatment by one. You can also obtain a valid ESA letter from an online therapist since the U.S. Department of Housing officially allows them to prescribe ESA letters as well.
- Explain why you think an ESA would suit your mental health condition. Mention the benefits an ESA could provide for you and how it would improve your quality of life.
- Your mental health provider may respond with follow-up questions and conduct tests for an accurate diagnosis. They will issue you an ESA letter as requested based on their findings.
How DoNotPay Can Help You With an ESA Letter
Through their new Service and Emotional Support Animals product, DoNotPay can help you with your ESA-related letters, including contacting your landlord about your ESA and finding the most affordable online ESA letter service in three easy steps.
- Search "service animal" on DoNotPay.
- Select the type of issue you need help with, including contacting your landlord about your ESA/service animal, asking your airline about ESA options, or requesting ESA/service accommodations at other venues.
- Answer a series of questions about your current situation and the details of your ESA/service animal, so we can generate the best results for you.
Depending on your issue, DoNotPay will generate a letter to your landlord and mail it on your behalf or send a letter to your mental health professional requesting an ESA letter.
DoNotPay Works for Emotional Support Animal Letters on Airlines
In addition to assisting you with obtaining accommodations for an ESA with your landlord, DoNotPay can help generate letters for taking your ESA on the following airlines.
Why Use DoNotPay for Your ESA Letter Needs
- DoNotPay's proven process to help obtain an ESA letter is faster than doing it yourself.
- DoNotPay's process is easier than spending time searching for a therapist and asking them to write the letter.
- You can rest assured that DoNotPay will make the best case for an ESA letter for your landlord.
More DoNotPay Products for Your Pets
- Working with animal control to find your lost dog
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What Else Can DoNotPay Do?
In addition to helping you with ESA matters and other pet-related issues, here are just a few other matters DoNotPay can help you with.
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