Emotional Support Animal Letter For Housing
Thousands of patients suffering from mental, emotional, and psychological conditions find support in emotional support animals. These animals, untrained and usually domesticated, become part of the treatment of these patients through ESA letters. When it comes to living under the same roof and being exempt from pet restrictions a patient must apply for an ESA letter for housing.
In this guide by My ESA Doctor, we’ll go over all the basics and frequently asked questions regarding ESA letters for housing.
Who Can Issue an ESA Letter for Housing?
As per the U.S. Department for Housing (HUD), an ESA letter must be issued by a licensed healthcare professional. Generally, most ESA letters are issued by the following mental health professionals:
- General Physicians
- Licensed Counselors
- Physician’s Assistants
- Psychiatric Mental Health Nurses, and
- Licensed Clinical Social Workers
HUD also allows all of these healthcare professionals to provide their services virtually. This means that you can connect with a licensed mental health practitioner via video or phone call to discuss your health condition and get an ESA recommendation. If you’re worried about the validity of an ESA letter that has been issued over the internet, rest assured. As long as you’re connecting with a licensed practitioner, your letter remains valid.
If you want to get the process started online, you can begin by filing up a basic questionnaire, following which, you’ll be connected to our licensed doctors.
How to Get an ESA Letter for Housing?
To get an ESA letter for housing, you must first connect with your therapist/ mental health practitioner and discuss your mental health condition. If you do not have a family doctor or a familiar one, you can connect with our licensed practitioners at MyESADoctor.com.
Here is the process to get an ESA letter for housing:
Find a Licensed Physician
If you’re currently consulting a mental health professional, you can choose them to write you an ESA letter. If not, you can find licensed practitioners online. It is crucial to find an ESA provider that has a valid license and can provide you with a legitimate ESA letter.
When choosing the doctor, you can compare the cost of the consultation as well as the ESA letter. Compare all factors like comfort of application, reviews of customers, and more before making your decision. Once you’ve chosen the healthcare practitioner, you must go through a pre-screening test. For a telemedicine platform, you can start by answering a questionnaire and then submitting the application for evaluation. You’ll only qualify for a real-time consultation if a doctor approves your application.
Go Through an Evaluation
The doctor will require you to share your medical history as well as your current condition and the reason behind requiring an ESA. If the doctor believes that you require an emotional support animal to help you through your mental condition, they will approve your application and write you a letter. In most cases, patients suffer from mental, emotional, and psychological conditions like anorexia or bulimia, agoraphobia, attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and panic disorder, social anxiety, schizophrenia, etc.
Get Approved and Receive Your ESA Letter Via Email
If the doctor finds you eligible for an ESA letter, they’ll write one and sign it. You will receive a digital copy almost instantly via email. This letter must consist of the physician’s letterhead, their valid license number along with some other details. This ESA letter can be shown to your landlord when demanding accommodation. Remember, apart from this ESA letter, you do not require any other documentation to demand housing.
There are multiple ways to apply for an ESA letter for housing.
- Online – You can connect with mental health practitioners via our telemedicine platform, discuss your current health condition, and get approved for an ESA letter. All of this can happen online, so you don’t have to visit a clinic at all. You’ll also receive your ESA letter via email.
- Phone – You can connect with our ESA doctors via phone call, to discuss your medical condition. This way, you won’t have to be physically present at the clinic, nor would you be required to sit through a video consultation. You can connect with our doctors at (866) 360-5652.
What Should an ESA Letter for Housing Contain?
An ESA letter should contain the following information:
- Tenant’s name
- Healthcare professional’s name, license number, and contact information
- Signature of the licensed doctor
- Date of issuance
- Type of emotional support animal needed by the patient.
- Diagnosis details (Impairment, mental disorder that limits one of their major life activities)
- Confirmation that the patient is in need of an emotional support animal
How Do You Qualify for an ESA Letter?
Patients that are diagnosed with mental or emotional disabilities that can be improved with the companionship of an emotional support animal can qualify. There are certain medical conditions that make an individual eligible to get an ESA.
- Anorexia or Bulimia
- Attention-Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Bipolar Disorder
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Panic Disorder
- Social Anxiety
The list is not conclusive. There are multiple other mental health conditions that can make a patient eligible for an emotional support animal. In such cases, patients must get evaluated by licensed medical health physicians (LMHP), who can decide whether an ESA will benefit or not.
Your ESA letter must be written and signed by a licensed professional, otherwise, it would hold no lawful importance. Since an ESA letter is similar to a prescription for medication, you cannot write your own ESA letter.
If you already have a pet (that you want to turn into your ESA), a licensed professional might evaluate your relationship with them as well. If the doctor believes that the assistance animal is helping you cope with your condition or reduce the severity of your symptoms, they will write you a letter.
Where Can I Use an ESA Housing Letter?
An ESA housing letter can be used at any residential facility that has a no-pet policy or has a restricting limit to the number of pets you can keep.
You can use an ESA housing letter at an,
- Home Owners Association (HOA)
- Rental Home
The Fair Housing Act (FHA) makes it illegal for all housing providers to discriminate against the disabled. In other words, landlords cannot refuse accommodation to those with a legit ESA letter, even if they have a no-pets policy.
Let’s get into the details of the act and what it means for assistance animals.
Fair Housing Act and Assistance Animals
The Fair Housing Amendment Act protects the rights of U.S. citizens to live in any dwelling with their emotional support animals. As per the act, no landlord can discriminate against a tenant on the basis of their disability. Therefore, as long as a tenant has a signed ESA letter from a licensed healthcare professional, the landlord must provide them with accommodation. The ESA letter works as proof of the tenant’s medical diagnosis and clarifies that the patient requires the companionship of their ESA (pet).
Landlords cannot subject the tenants to any additional costs to keep their pets along. Even in apartments or condos with no-pet policies, property owners must provide reasonable accommodation to the tenant.
Even when the landlord is not fully certain about the disability of the tenant, they cannot refuse to provide them with accommodation.
However, the law does allow house owners to make a few exceptions. A housing provider can refuse your ESA request in the following cases:
- The property owner can prove that an ESA would lead to excessive financial and administrative stress.
- The ESA may be too large for the property.
- The ESA poses a threat to the safety of other tenants or has already caused damage to property or life.
- The property is owned by the owner with less than four units or is up for rent or sale by the owner only.
- If the accommodation is owned by a religious organization or is “members only”.
What Isn’t Required to Be Included in an ESA Letter?
An ESA letter does not have to include the details of your medical conditions, your medical history, the severity of the issue medical records, or any other sensitive information. Under the Fair Housing Act, tenants have the right to keep all these details confidential and private. Housing providers cannot ask the tenant to provide them with an ESA letter from another medical practitioner (for the purpose of confirmation), any medical records that state the complete diagnosis of the condition, or even the specific details of the condition. To protect the privacy of patients, healthcare professionals do not add any sensitive details in the ESA letter for housing, making them appear generic and impersonal to the landlords.
The sole purpose of the ESA letter is to clearly state that the patient is in need of an emotional support animal to manage their condition better, whatever it might be. The letter does, however, mention the type of animal that the patient must keep as an ESA.
Does an ESA Letter Have to Follow a Landlord’s Form?
No, a landlord cannot ask for a separate confirmation, a different form/ documentation, or any additional letter as proof. An ESA letter for housing is enough to prove that the tenant suffers from a mental, emotional, or psychological condition that can be managed better with an emotional support animal. As per HUD’s guidelines, a tenant is not required to submit any other documentation to obtain accommodation.
Does an ESA Letter Have to be Notarized or Have a Sworn Statement?
ESA letters do not need to be notarized or have a sworn statement. A tenant only requires an ESA letter with the healthcare professional’s letterhead for housing that states the following:
- The patient/ tenant is suffering from a mental/ emotional/ psychological condition
- The condition and its symptoms can be improved with the companionship of an emotional support animal
- The specifics of the type of ESA that is best suited for the patient
A landlord cannot demand that healthcare professionals notarize the documents to make any statements under penalty of perjury.
Can a Certificate, ID Card, or Registration Substitute for an ESA Letter?
No other documentation like a certificate, ID card, or registration can substitute an ESA letter signed by a licensed healthcare professional. With multiple scammers in the market selling different registrations and cards for ESA holders, patients/tenants must be careful not to get entrapped in them. As per the HUD guidelines, an ESA letter for Housing is the only legal document that you need to demand accommodation from landlords.
Even landlords cannot ask for any other documentation to prove that you’re suffering from a mental or psychological condition or that you require an ESA.
Are There Special Requirements for “Unique” Animals?
Yes, for unique animals like horses, goats, snakes, etc, an ESA letter requires additional language that clarifies why the tenant requires such an exotic animal. On the other hand, HUD guidelines state that any small, domesticated animal can be assigned as an emotional support animal. These animals include dogs, cats, birds, fishes, rabbits, hamsters, or any other traditional pet.
Does an ESA Letter Have to Name My Emotional Support Animal?
Your ESA letter will specify the type of emotional support animal you require but will not name the particular animal in question. This is because:
- Most patients adopt an ESA after the issuance of the ESA letter.
- Healthcare professionals are trained to diagnose the condition of humans and write the letters as per their requirements. Since the doctors are not veterinarians, their judgment in the case of the animal is limited.
How Do I Renew my ESA Letter for Housing?
To renew your ESA letter you can, consult the health practitioner who wrote your original ESA letter or apply for an ESA renewal online. Follow this process:
Find a licensed practitioner and book an appointment for a consultation (You can consult our licensed professional online at My ESA Letter).
- Fill in an ESA questionnaire.
- Connect with a licensed doctor who will re-evaluate your condition.
- Receive the digital copy of your ESA letter via email.
- Submit your renewed ESA letter to your landlord.
Do ESA Housing Letters Expire?
No, but it is beneficial to get your ESA housing letter renewed after a year.
In reality, an ESA letter expires annually, but the same is not true for an ESA housing letter. As per the Fair Housing Act and guidelines from the U.S. Department of Housing, there is no specific expiration for a housing letter.
If you’re a tenant who continues living at the same property, you might not be required to apply for a renewal after 12 months. However, if the landlord has a no-pets policy or requires you to show a renewed letter, you must apply for one. Even when moving to a new place of residence, you’ll have to provide a renewed ESA letter for housing.
Can a Landlord Refuse an ESA Letter?
Under certain circumstances, a landlord may refuse to provide you with accommodation, even with an ESA letter. Here are some of those situations:
- The landlord can prove that providing accommodation to the ESA will lead to unjustifiable financial and administrative stress.
- The ESA can pose a threat to the safety of the owner or other tenants residing there.
- The ESA is responsible for damage to the property.
- The property is rather small to accommodate the animal.
- The accommodation might alter the nature of the housing provider’s program
When to Tell a Landlord About Your Emotional Support Animal?
It is preferable to discuss your ESA requirements with your landlord before you sign the lease. As per the Fair Housing Act, you need to ask your landlord to accommodate your assistance animal. While in most cases, a landlord cannot refuse to provide you with a dwelling on the basis of an ESA, there can be exceptions.
If you’re moving with an ESA into a new apartment that has pet restrictions, it is preferable to ask for accommodation for your ESA before you move in. If you’re already living in an apartment with a “no-pets policy”, and decide to get an ESA, you should discuss with the landlord at the soonest.
Remember that your landlord cannot demand an additional fee or fine. All assistance animals are exempt from pet fees so make sure you aren’t paying a higher rent than you ought to.
Can Apartments Charge for Emotional Support Animals?
No, apartments cannot charge for ESAs. Even if your place of residence charges a pet fee, your ESA or any other assistance animal is exempt from the additional expenses.
Do Emotional Support Animals Count Towards the Pet Limit?
Emotional support animals do not count towards the pet limit set by a landlord. Under the FHA, assistance animals are exempt from the land owner’s pet rules and regulations.
As long as you have the necessary documentation for every assistance animal that you own, you are not subjected to any pet limitations.
An emotional support animal letter for housing allows you to find accommodation with your ESA. The document acts as proof of your medical condition and your need for the company of your assistance animal. With just the right documentation, you and your ESA can enjoy multiple exemptions and benefits that you cannot experience with a pet. In this blog, we’ve covered all aspects of an ESA letter for housing in depth.
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