Emotional support animals can be incredibly helpful to those who need them. However, they do not have the same kind of protection that service animals do.
Because of this, a lot of questions remain about whether they can be denied in housing scenarios.
If you want to find out about emotional support animals, you’re in the right place! Here, we will briefly go through what an emotional support animal actually is, and if they can be denied in apartments.
However, nothing is ever as simple as that, so if you’d like to find out more, all you need to do is keep reading!
Can Apartments Deny Emotional Support Animals?
Many people who have emotional support animals might be wondering about housing.
Service dogs are protected, but what about emotional support animals? Before we can answer this question, we first need to understand a little about emotional support animals.
That includes what they actually are, how you get them, and finally, whether they are protected in housing or not.
Understanding What an Emotional Support Animal Is
It’s important to understand the difference between a service dog and an emotional support animal. Service dogs are highly trained to do jobs and functions for their humans.
Their owners will either have an intellectual, physical, or emotional disability or condition that affects their daily lives.
An emotional support animal is simply an animal that provides companionship for their owner. These animals have no training, and can be any animal, from birds to llamas.
While these animals might be their owner’s “emotional support”, they are not service dogs, and should not be treated as such. They are not protected in the same way that service animals are.
These animals do not have to be trained in any way. They do not have to undergo training to better help their owners, as they are not there to provide aid in the same way service animals are.
How to Get an Emotional Support Animal
You cannot simply choose to have an emotional support animal. You might think that you can pick up your dog and walk around with it, claiming that they are your emotional support animal, but that isn’t the case.
In reality, an emotional support animal has to be regarded as such via a letter. This letter has to be written by someone who is a licensed mental health practitioner.
In the letter, the practitioner must outline that the presence of the chosen pet has a beneficial effect on the person’s psychological state.
If this doesn’t happen, or the mental health practitioner doesn’t notice a benefit of having the pet around, you will not get a letter.
This is similar to getting a “prescription” from your licensed mental health practitioner.
The letter is a statement that says that the presence of the pet is beneficial to you.
Without it, your pet cannot be considered an emotional support animal. Businesses can request to see this letter to ensure that your pet is, in fact, an emotional support animal.
Can Apartments Deny Emotional Support Animals?
Thanks to the Federal Fair Housing Act, individuals with disabilities are not allowed to be discriminated against.
This includes individuals who have emotional support animals. In the case of someone applying for a tenancy with an apartment, or even a house, the landlord cannot discriminate against them for having an emotional support animal.
This is the case even if the property has a no pets policy.
In other words, whether you are allowed to have pets on the property or not, someone with an emotional support animal is exempt.
This is the case as long as a prospective tenant can prove that their pet is, in fact, an emotional support animal.
To do this, they would need to have the letter given by their registered mental health practitioner.
Landlords are not allowed to require a pet deposit for emotional support animals.
However, owners of these animals are still liable for damages that their pets cause to the property.
As such, deductions can be taken from the security deposit that the tenant handed in as a means to pay for the damage.
However, there are instances where landlords do have the right to deny emotional support animals.
We will take a look at all possible reasons in the section below.
When Landlords Can Deny Emotional Support Animals
Having an emotional support animal does not mean that you can live anywhere you like.
While the FFHA does protect you and your emotional support animal to an extent, they do not put you above the law.
A landlord can still deny someone with an emotional support animal for a number of reasons.
Emotional support animals can be reflected because:
- The landlord would be financially burdened for accommodating the animal
- The building has four units or fewer, and one unit it occupied by the owner
- The animal is too big for the space – e.g. someone wants to bring an emotional support horse into an apartment.
- The tenant doesn’t meet the qualifying standards that all tenants are required to meet in order to rent
- The animal is a threat or causes damage
- The single family home was rented out without a realtor, as the owner of the home can’t have more than three single-family homes
It’s important to note that the number of emotional support animal scams happening is at an all-time high.
Unfortunately, it’s very easy to get a letter printed out from a fraudulent site.
To find out the truth about an individual needing an emotional support animal, landlords should work directly with medical professionals through the tenant.
That way, they cannot use fraudulent documentation in order for them to have a pet.
Emotional support animals are protected in housing laws, but they are not exempt from being removed if they cause issues.
Prospective tenants should have a letter from their mental health practitioner confirming that their pet is an emotional support animal.
However, if a tenant would not meet the eligibility criteria that other tenants would have to meet, or the environment would be unsuitable for the animal, they can be rejected.
It’s important for the environment where an animal would be to be safe and spacious enough to house the animal, no matter their size.