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Can a Landlord Deny You Housing if You Have an Emotional Support Animal?


Pets that provide us with comfort and affection have the right to live with us. If you are looking for rented accommodation (eg an apartment), it is possible that some landlords or housing managers will reject your pet according to their “No Pets” policy. They will claim that the pet could potentially destroy their property, cause noise, or frighten neighbors, as they have experienced in the past or through complaints from other residents. However, there are situations where people are allowed to take their animals into a “No Pets” house. For example, under the ADA (American with Disabilities Act), people with disabilities may live with their service dogs, who are trained to perform specific tasks for the dog handlers. Landlords or housing managers do not have the right to refuse you and your service dog. Since the emotional support animals (ESAs) provide owners with mental comfort and affection, they are not protected by the ADA. You may choose to create an ESA at the property based on the landlord’s opinion.

Emotional support animals do not have the same right as service dogs. Although animals have long been medically useful for a variety of needs, including physical impairments, and as mental companions, they are not considered the same in the eyes of the law. Since emotional support animals are not ADA-approved, there are certain restrictions for them, such as access to public places and private facilities that allow service dogs. Therefore,  renting a home with a “no pets” policy is not always straightforward for owners who have emotional support animals. But do not worry. The Fair Housing Act allows ESA owners to live with their animals in most cases.

1. First tell your landlord that you have an ESA

Although the law is on your side, it is better to inform your landlord honestly about your ESA when you are applying for accommodation, rather than confronting him with the fact after the move. Many landlords are not aware of the ESA regulations. So if you inform them about your rights in advance, they may be sympathetic to your request for adequate accommodation. However, some of the landlords may bully you by requesting your medical record or medical certificate, which is not legal and violates the Fair Housing rules. It is time to fight for the rights of you and your emotional support animals.


2. Can a landlord refuse my application if I live with an ESA?

Since landlords are not required to accept emotional support animals as they are required to accept service dogs, the accommodation may be off limits for your ESA if you do not provide relevant documents such as an ESA certificate or an ESA letter from a licensed therapist. You should submit your request and documents in advance. Once the landlord accepts your request, you can bring your pet to the apartment without paying a deposit for your pet or a monthly fee. However, it does not mean that all landlords are obliged to accept your emotional support animals under the Fair Housing Act. The landlord can legally refuse you in the following special situations.

  • The building has less than four apartments, and the landlord occupies one of them.

  • The single-family homes are rented or sold without a real estate agent. 

  • The animal is too big for the size of the house, like a horse or a llama. 

In general, however,  the accommodations in these situations have no restrictions on emotional support animals.

3. Can a landlord kick me out for getting an ESA?

More and more people living alone would consider raising a dog or a cat in the rented accommodation. If you live in a “no pets” house but would like to have a cute ESA, it is possible to fight your landlord if he wants to evict you and your ESA. You should not worry too much, because he has no right and would directly violate the Fair Housing regulations. You are only obliged to prepare the relevant documents and submit them to the landlord.

4. Can a landlord ask questions about my mental disability?

Emotional support animals assist people with mental disorders and are psychological companions. But that does not mean that the landlord can try to find out what your problems are if you want to live with an emotional support animal. If this happens, you should remain calm and patiently explain your rights. Let him know that your request is legal and inquiring about your disability is not allowed. Most of the time, landlords simply do not know what is allowed.

To avoid all this, you can also send your request by email and attach the necessary documents. If necessary, you could go and seek legal advice before making your request.