Yes, your emotional support animal letter will expire after one year from the date of issuance. This means that you have to renew it before the date of expiration nears. Some emotional support animal owners have faced the brunt of outdated documentation in the past. They either failed to receive decent accommodation or got rejected by an airline.
The ESA letter can technically expire and the recommended practices suggest that an ESA owner should renew the letter each year. So, in this article, we will help you understand the different nuances associated with an ESA letter and what can you do when the due expiration date nears.
First, Let’s Introduce You to the Basics
An ESA Letter is a document that helps ESA owners live and travel with their pets freely. However, it has to be noted that ESA letters are only provided to qualified patients. And what do we mean by qualified patients? Well, under the American Disability Act and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, a list of disabilities (both physical and mental ) has been clearly categorized as the qualifying conditions for having an ESA. So, as per the law, anyone with these conditions can get an ESA letter from a state-certified mental health physician.
Individuals with an ESA letter are privileged to certain rights. For instance, you can rent accommodation in a building with no pet policy. You can also fly with your ESA in the airplane cabin. The housing provider will give you accommodation and ensure that no extra fees are charged. On the other hand, airline authorities have the right to adjust policies according to the safety of the passengers. But they have to accommodate an ESA owner, provided they have certified documentation and they enter the airport one hour before the boarding time.
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In addition to this, an ESA letter must contain the date of issuance and expiration. The letter must also mention the contact information of the mental health professional along with an active license number. Other information such as the name of the patient and details of the ESA should also be mentioned in the letter. That said let’s dive into the nuances related to ESA expiration and renewal.
ESA Letter Renewal for Flights
Under the Air carrier Access Act (ACAA), airlines can ask for current documentation from the passenger traveling with an ESA. The term current documentation indicates that the ESA owner must have documentation not older than one year from the date of the scheduled flight.
Additionally, many airlines also require passengers to fill an additional form before departure. While some ESA owners can request their therapist to complete the form each time they fly with an ESA, DOT has still not been able to halt this practice. The therapist can also use this application as proof to validate the need for an ESA. However, a passenger must carry a recent ESA letter.
This also means that whether you fly on an airline that requests an ESA letter or requires you to fill an extra ESA form, you have to get your ESA letter renewed before its date of expiration nears. In simple words, you have to renew your ESA letter annually. The only exception, in this case, is that your ESA letter should not be dated more than a year from the day of the flight.
If the same happens, the airline authorities have the right to reject your request for flying with an ESA. Worse yet, you will be asked to pay extra fees to board with an an-assistance animal and some flights may ask you to board without your ESA altogether.
ESA Letter Renewal for Housing
The documentation requirements for housing is quite similar to the ones for flying. For housing, an ESA owner needs a letter from a certified mental health professional. The letter will establish the patient's need for an emotional support animal. The only difference, in this case, is that the Fair Housing Act does not address the issue of the expiration date for an ESA letter.
Despite the lack of proper guidelines and no clarity on when ESA letters expire for housing, the recommended timeline is one year. Here’s why:
- Most services provide an ESA letter for a period of one year. Even housing providers do not accept letters with an expired date. They will ask a tenant with an ESA to submit the most recent letter.
- Under the Fair Housing Act, the landlords are not allowed to look into the patient's medical history or request medical documentation. The landlord can however ask the tenant to present an ESA letter signed by a state-certified therapist.
Also, in a situation where a house owner reaches out to the healthcare professional, the doctor might feel uncomfortable verifying the information. So, it's best to get a fresh letter from a state-licensed medical health professional. Especially for those individuals whose ESA letter is about to expire or the date has already passed.
Can I Get an ESA Letter Renewal From the Therapist I No Longer See?
If you got your ESA letter from a therapist that you no longer see, you should get a renewal from a different doctor. And by a different doctor, we mean the one who is currently taking care of your mental health condition. If in case, you don’t have a therapist or you have stopped going to the therapist, you can get in touch with our team. We have a team of state-certified mental health physicians.
They can help you get an ESA letter both face-to-face and through telehealth options. However, you have to keep in mind that our licensed doctors will first determine what difference the ESA can make in your life and study your medical history for a thorough evaluation. Once approved, you will receive an ESA letter on the doctors’ letterhead.
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How Do I Renew My ESA Letter?
To renew your ESA letter you have to follow three simple steps:
- First and foremost, you have to fill an application. The application is very similar to a questionnaire that requests you to provide personal and medical details. You can also submit medical records along with the application for a proper evaluation process.
- Soon after submission, you can talk to a state-licensed health physician over a video call or have a face-to-face consultation. Either way, the mental health professionals will ask you questions, determine how an ESA can help you, and study your medical records.
- On qualification, the patient will receive an ESA letter via email. The letter will be printed on the letterhead with his license no. and contact details on it.
If you believe that an emotional support animal helps you alleviate the symptoms of your mental health condition, you can talk to your therapist. They will help you learn whether or not an ESA can be a part of your existing treatment plan.