An ESA, or Emotional Support Animal, is critical to the emotional well-being of many people. Like all service animals, ESAs perform a vital function for their owners. Millions of Americans struggle with emotional issues which affect their day-to-day lives. Whether the struggle is related to PTSD, OCD, depression, anxiety, phobia, or other emotional or mood disorder issues, there is concern that many people struggling with mental health and wellness are on the rise.
Many treatments are available for people who struggle with mental health. One of the increasingly popular treatments is an emotional support animal. These affectionate companions are there to listen without judging, cuddle on call, and lift the spirits when they are low. However, ESA-letter scams are popular, so be sure that you qualify and go through the proper process.
An ESA can be a tremendous support for those suffering from emotional stress or mood disorders. However, the landlords and managers of many rental units do not permit companion animals or will charge higher rents or higher security deposits for the privilege of having a pet. If you live in this kind of rental unit, you will need to provide your landlord with a copy of your ESA Letter for Housing.
To get an ESA Letter, you must work with a licensed mental health professional who will evaluate you for a qualifying emotional or mental health disorder. Suppose they diagnose such a condition and believe that having an ESA will assist in treating the condition. In that case, they will issue the letter, which serves, in effect, as a prescription for your Emotional Support Animal.
Effect of the Letter
Under the Fair Housing Act, most landlords cannot deny a rental unit to a person with a disability if they can reasonably accommodate it. FHA rules define a person with a disability as an individual with a mental or physical impairment that can substantially limit one or more of the person’s major life activities. The FHA also considers an individual as having a disability or handicap if there is a history of the person having an impairment or if others regard this person as having an impairment.
FHA rules also require landlords and apartment managers to make reasonable accommodations for those with any type of certified mental disability or impairment. Allowing a disabled tenant to have an emotional support animal will be a reasonable accommodation. Rules such as pet bans and restrictions, including about the size, weight, or breed of your animal, are waived for people who have legal documentation (an ESA Letter for Housing) for their emotional support animal. Emotional support animal owners are also exempt from pet fees or pet deposits under the FHA.
Exceptions to the Exception
The FHA rules do not apply to every possible rental unit. The rules do not apply to owner-occupied buildings with no more than four units, to single-family housing sold or rented without the use of a broker, or to housing operated by organizations and private clubs that limit occupancy to members. So, unless you're trying to get into a very small building where the owner lives or want to bring your companion animal to a private club, your ESA letter should allow you to bring your animal into your new rental unit.
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