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What is the Fair Housing Act and How Does it Help Emotional Support Animals?

The Fair Housing Act or FHA is a federal law that protects discrimination against tenants. So, if you suffer from physical or mental challenges that are preventing you from carrying out daily life activities, then, you can keep your emotional support animal even if the societies or condos follows “no pets” policies.

What is the Fair Housing Act And What Does it Include?

The FHA law limits landlords and property managers to discriminate against tenants based on disability, race, religion, sex, or national origin. So, if you have a qualifying medical condition to fit in the category of disability, this law will benefit you in the following ways.

  • As per this law, it is illegal to ignore your request for a reasonable accommodation if you need to enjoy a similar status in terms of dwelling.
  • It will allow you to live in a society or a condo even with “no pets” policies. But only after you prove that you are entitled to this exception.

Now that we have understood the importance of FHA, the next step is understanding the concept of “reasonable accommodation.”

What is a Reasonable Accommodation under the FHA?

A reasonable accommodation is nothing but a change in any service, rule, or policy that might be helpful for a patient with disability to enjoy a dwelling similar to others. No one can deny anyone such an opportunity, and if somebody refuses, they might be penalized under the law.

However, there are some exceptions to this law as well. One can deny the request to provide a reasonable accommodation if it poses an unnecessary financial or administrative burden. It will also apply if the landlord needs to make a significant change in their housing.

Mostly this law waivers “no pet policies” as a part of providing reasonable accommodations to the ones with disabilities. For instance, in a famous case of Castellano v. Access Premier Realty, Inc., 181 F Supp. 3d 798, the court waived “no pet” policy to allow a patient’s demand for reasonable accommodation for his emotional support cat.

Who is Protected Under FHA?

Under the Fair Housing Act of 1968, the following types of disorders are protected against any discrimination. The only criteria that you must abide by are that the condition should limit you from doing any major life activities daily. The following are the conditions that are protected under the FHA.

  • Visual Impairments
  • Auditory Impairments
  • Mobility Impairments
  • AIDS, HIV
  • Epilepsy
  • Mental Illness (as listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5))
  • Cognitive Disability
  • Past Substance Use Disorder
  • Traumatic Brain Injury

The list mentioned above will answer your query for “who is not protected under the FHA?”

What Are The Categories of Housing Apartments Covered Under The FHA?

You can avail the perks of having an emotional support animal only for the following housing categories.

  • Nursing Homes
  • Group Homes
  • Seasonal Facilities
  • Residential Facilities
  • Mobile Homes
  • Trailer Parks
  • Condominiums

But, unlike what you think, this law does not cover every type of dwelling. The following are the types of apartments that are not covered under the FHA.

  • If your landlord occupies one of the units with the number of units being four or less than that.
  • If you are trying to lease a single-family housing without a real estate broker.
  • No motels or hotels come under the FHA (But they are a part of public accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act for Private Clubs).

What Type of Documents Do You Need to Rent a House?

If you think you can avail of all these perks without any proof or documentation. Well, then you are highly mistaken. Under the FHA, a landlord can ask you for all the documents that prove your disability. And that it is your right to ask for a reasonable accommodation for your emotional support animal.

For starters, you will need an emotional support animal letter or ESA letter signed by a licensed mental health professional (LHMP) including psychologists, or psychiatrists, a licensed social worker. You can also ask your family doctor to issue you an ESA letter. Just make sure that all of this is printed on the official letterhead of the mental health professional.

Other than that, you can also share your emotional support animal’s vaccination records and behavior certificates. It will improve your chances of signing a lease agreement with your landlord. In addition to that, you can also share your pet insurance records. This will allow your landlord not to worry about any additional expenses. If, by any chance, your pet causes any destruction in their apartment.

What Are Landlords Prohibited to Ask Under The FHA?

If you have an ESA, FHA makes sure that you are protected against any discrimination so that landlords don’t refuse your demand for accommodation.

  • They cannot ask you to pay extra pet fees or deposits just because you have an emotional support animal.
  • They can never ask about your specific disability.
  • They can never ask you to register your emotional support animal.
  • They cannot force you to go for specialized training for your ESA.
  • They can never refuse you any accommodation because their insurance does not cover emotional support animals.

So, if you have any emotional support animal, you will be allowed to access the places of public accommodation within your society besides your house.

What to do if Your Landlord Still Refuses to Accept Your Request?

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), you can file any of your complaints that come under the FHA with the HUD within one year of that incident. If you need any more information, visit www.hud.gov/offices/fheo or call 1-800-669- 9777. You can also file a complaint with the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department.

What is the Fair Housing Act For Emotional Support Animals?- The Summary

If you are looking for reasonable accommodation for living with your emotional support animal, make sure you have the following-

  • A qualified physical or mental health disability
  • ESA letter

If you have these, then you will be protected under FHA for availing the perks of reasonable accommodation along with no more discriminations based on your disabilities.

Hopefully, this article helped you solve all your search queries like “ what is the Fair Housing Act?”, “What is the purpose of the Fair Housing Act?”, or “What is a reasonable accommodation under the Fair Housing Act?” If not, write to us in the comments section below, we will answer all your FHA related queries as soon as possible.

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