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Emotional Support Animals

Can a Landlord Refuse Emotional Support Animal Due to Breed, Weight or Size?

Emotional support animals are special pets which provide emotional support or perform tasks for a person with a physical or mental disability. These animals enable their owners to carry out a major life activity or function which they otherwise can not perform. Imagine you have a pet which provides you significant support and you cannot imagine living without it. You have to move into a new residence but your landlord won’t allow your ESA to live with you because of its breed, size or weight. What would you do in such a situation? You would obviously want to know the laws which protect your right to live with your pet. The good news is that the law is in your favour. The Fair Housing Act (FHA) provides rights of individuals to live with their emotional support animals provided they have proper documentation.  Let us look into it in detail.  

Breed restrictions on emotional support animals:

As per the FHA and the guidelines issued by the U.S. Department of  Housing and Urban Development (HUD), every individual who has a need for assistance or support is entitled to have reasonable accommodation and no landlord or housing authority can discriminate against him/her on the basis of a disability. The assistance animal can be a cat, dog, small bird or any other domesticated animal which is kept in house for non-commercial purposes. Reptiles other than turtles are not included in this list. The animal can be of any breed and there are absolutely no breed restrictions of any sort. If an individual provides proper documentation which shows that the person has a need for emotional support, the landlord is bound by law to provide him with reasonable accommodation. Proper documentation means an emotional support animal letter which is obtained from a certified mental health practitioner.  

Weight limit for emotional support dogs:

Most of the people have dogs as their support animals. Dogs are the most loyal pets and valuable companions of human beings. Dogs are of different sizes and breeds. Some of them like German Shepherds and Huskies are of more than normal weight. They can weigh from 50 to 70 pounds. Most of the landlords are often reluctant to accommodate owners of such pets. They see these pets as a potential threat to the property and other residents. But under the FHA, there are no weight or size restrictions on emotional support animals. It is a legal right of the person to live with his ESA even if it weighs much higher than normal. There are certain conditions under which a landlord can choose not to accommodate an ESA. These will be explained in the next section.  As emotional support animals are technically not considered pets, a landlord cannot charge a pet fee to any resident with an ESA. Complaints can be filed with HUD against a landlord who does not fulfil his legal obligations. 

Can a landlord refuse an emotional support animal:

A landlord can refuse to give accommodation to an ESA owner if his pet poses a direct threat to the health and safety of other individuals or if it causes substantial damage to the property. The landlord has to prove the above facts. The conditions apply in the case that the threat posed by the assistance animal cannot be eliminated or minimised to an acceptable level by the actions of the owner. If the landlord cannot prove that the pet owned by an individual causes damage to property or the safety of others, he is obliged to provide accommodation. In order to avail these rights, an individual is required to have an emotional support animal letter.

Getting an emotional support animal letter online:

An ESA letter is provided by a licensed mental health professional to a patient requiring assistance of his pet. The mental health professional has to certify on the letter that he/she knows and has evaluated the individual; the individual has a need to keep an ESA with him. The letter also has to contain the information about the doctor and the specific activity with which the ESA helps the individual. As telemedicine is the norm these days, getting an ESA letter is easier than ever. All you have to do is to set an online appointment with a licensed doctor. The doctor evaluates you over a phone call or a video chat and if he is satisfied that you have the qualifying conditions, he writes you an ESA letter which you can then provide to the landlord to request a reasonable accommodation. No pet fees or extra deposits can be charged by a landlord to a person having an ESA letter. 

Bottom line:

The Fair Housing Act provides for owners of assistance or support animals to have reasonable accommodation. An ESA letter written by a licensed mental health practitioner is essential to be able to live with one’s ESA. Landlords and housing complexes are legally bound to accommodate persons owning ESAs. The FHA does not impose any restrictions on the breed, size or weight of an assistance. Based on this, landlords and housing facilities cannot refuse any pet unless it is a direct threat to the health and safety of others. These are the benefits of an ESA letter one can count on. So, get your letter online now and live a happy and stress-free life with your pet anywhere.

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