An emotional support animal provides its owner with therapeutic benefits to help them deal with their mental health conditions. Usually, ESAs are prescribed by compassionate physicians and mental health professionals for patients with anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, specific learning disorder, panic disorder without agoraphobia, dissociative identity disorder, substance abuse disorder, etc.
Under the Fair Housing Act (FHA), you can live with your emotional support animal in a rental apartment. Your landlord can ask you to show the ESA letter, but can’t deny you housing just because you are owning a puppy or kitten. However, you are responsible for your assistance animal’s behavior.
Getting an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) Letter For Housing
The best way to get an emotional support animal (ESA) letter for housing is to talk to a licensed mental health professional (therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist, clinical social worker, or counselor). The professional will evaluate your condition to determine if you genuinely require pet therapy for managing your symptoms.
When talking to the therapist, be honest, and have an open discussion related to your symptoms and what role do your pets play in your life. It’s good to do in-depth research related to how animal-assisted therapy work and emotional support animal laws before seeing the therapist.
What Should an ESA Letter Include?
An ESA letter is a legal document that helps in distinguishing a support animal from a normal pet. Using the letter, the owner can live and fly with the companion animal without paying any extra pet deposits or travel fees. However, only the legitimate emotional support animal letters are accepted by airlines and housing facilities. So, what is a legitimate ESA letter? What should it include? Your ESA letter should be prescribed by a licensed therapist’s official letterhead, and it should include the following elements:
- Name and signature of the therapist
- Name and address of the therapist’s practice
- Therapist’s licensing details
- Date of issuance of the ESA letter
- That you are suffering from a mental illness that can be managed with pet therapy
- Your name and pet details (optional)
Emotional Support Animal Letter Sample
[Date of Issuance]
Name of Licensed Mental Health Professional (therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist)
[Full Name of The Patient] is under my care since [Date]. I am aware of his/her mental health condition and symptoms. He/she meets the definition of disabled under the American with Disabilities Act, The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Fair Housing Act (FHA).
Due to the mental health condition, [First Name of The Patient] is facing problems in social interaction and performing daily life tasks. To lead a better life and manage his/her disability, I am prescribing pet therapy to [First Name of The Patient].
I am aware of the therapeutic benefits of living with emotional support animals for people with mental illnesses, as faced by [Full Name of The Patient]. Upon request, I can share relevant studies and would like to answer all questions that you may have related to my ESA prescription to [First Name of The Patient]. For any queries, please feel free to get in touch with me.
Signature of The Professional
[Full Name of The Professional]
How to Get an ESA Letter Online
Getting an ESA letter is very simple and takes less than 10 minutes. Here’s the complete process:
- Sign up an account
- Talk to the therapist using a HIPAA-compliant software
- Receive your PDF ESA letter through the email
Landlord’s Rights Regarding Emotional Support Animals
The Fair Housing Act prevents discrimination in housing against individuals with disabilities. A housing provider can’t refuse to rent/sell or impose different application/qualification criteria for people with mental illnesses. Sales price, rental fees, etc. can’t differ for disabled and non-disabled persons.
Landlords can ask tenants with mental disabilities to show their ESA letters for verification purposes. As described above, the letters should be signed by licensed mental health professionals along with contact details, licensing information, and date of issuance.
It’s important to note that a landlord can’t contact directly to their tenant’s therapist. However, attempting to do so may be considered a violation of the law.
Here’s how to verify an ESA letter without violating the law
- Talking to the tenant politely and requesting them to show the emotional support letter
- Verifying the therapist’s license by visiting their official site or asking the tenant for help
- Asking the tenant to get a Reasonable Accommodation Form filled from their therapist
Medical researchers have found that emotional support animals can help individuals with mental disabilities to manage their symptoms. The federal laws protect discrimination against patients with Americans with mental disorders. Under the Fair Housing Act, ESA holders can live with their support animals without paying extra pet deposits. To avail these benefits, it’s important to get a legitimate ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional. However, your landlord can ask you to show the emotional support animal letter, but can’t deny you housing.