If you suffer from a physical or mental impairment or disability, you have probably tried many ways to treat or alleviate it. A natural treatment used by many sufferers is to live with emotional support animals (ESAs) that comfort their owners and eliminate anxiety and depression. However, many homes and buildings with a “No pets” policy continue to reject customers who try to live with their emotional support animals, or even evict the tenant who has adopted an ESA. For this reason, the United States government works to combat discrimination from property managers or landlords and protect the legal housing rights of ESA owners. The Fair Housing Act (FHA) is the law that provides these individuals with a safe and stable place to live with their emotional support animals. Most landlords and pet owners are still unaware of what the FHA covers, and are unsure of some details. This post will try to dispel your confusion and serve as a guide to property owners.
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What does the FHA offer for Emotional Support Animals and for you?
The FHA requires that property owners provide reasonable accommodation to individuals with invisible physical and mental disabilities. These individuals are allowed to live with assistance animals that can provide help or eliminate their symptoms. Both service animals and emotional support animals are protected by the FHA, even though emotional support animals fulfill other duties than service animals. Because outsiders may not easily recognize indivisible disabilities, ESA owners must fight for their rights when looking for housing. Find out what protection FHA offers your ESA and you:
1. Types of Emotional Support Animals. FHA has no restrictions on the type of emotional support animals. This means that apartments or buildings with a “Cats Only” policy cannot refuse your accommodation with an ESA dog. In addition, the owners must provide your dogs and you with a comfortable living space. However, some large animals such as horses and camels would cause problems for other tenants and damage the property of the buildings, so the FHA does not cover these large “customers”. Commonly, FHA approved emotional support animals include dogs, cats, domestic birds, rabbits, hamsters, chinchillas, snakes, miniature pigs and lizards.
2. Breed. The FHA does not mention limiting the breed of emotional support animals, so your landlord cannot refuse pit bulls or other breeds that do not seem to be very friendly when they are emotional support animals.
3. Weight. Many apartments have pet policies that allow pets up 30 pounds. However, if your emotional support animal weighs 60 pounds, they need to adjust their policy and provide comfortable accommodation for your pet and you.
4. Extra pet fees or deposits. Property managers have no right to charge you additional fees or security deposits due to your emotional support animals. However, if your pet destroys the furniture or public facilities in the building for accidental reasons or due to insufficient training, you will have to pay the repair fees according to the amount of damage.
5. Training. Landlords cannot ask tenants for proof of assistance dog training. In addition, emotional support animals are not required to accept any special training required for service dogs. For this reason, it is inadmissible for a property owner to request you to provide evidence of special training of your emotional support animal. However, it is recommended that you ensure that your pet is obedient, calm and well-behaved most of the time. Otherwise, you could receive many complaints and even be evicted by the property manager.
6. Your health condition. The law also protects your privacy by refusing the landlord to inquire about the condition of your disability or medical records. You can ignore their question and draw their attention to the details of the FHA.
Exceptions to the FHA protections
However, landlords may decline to accommodate your pet and you as the FHA does not cover the situations listed below:
1. The building has less than four units and the landlord lives there as well.
2. Single housing properties available for sale or rent that do not have a real estate agent.
3. Hotels and motels are not governed by the FHA and are therefore public accommodations under the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act). Unlike service animals, emotional support animals are not permitted to accompany their owner in hotels with a “No Pets” policy.
4. It should be noted that property owners are allowed to seek legal guidance and even evict the tenant whose dog is vicious, noisy, threatening, or misbehaving to other residents and property.
Apart from the cases mentioned above, your landlord should comply with your request to live with your emotional support animal and offer you adequate accommodation. If the landlords still refuse to comply, you can:
• Make them aware of the laws (FHA) and inform them of its details/points.
• Let them know the cases where some landlords had to pay penalties because of violating the FHA laws and evicting their tenants who have emotional support animals. You can report the landlord to the U.S. Justice Dept for discrimination.
• Sue the landlords for discrimination if they are still uncompromising.