The Fair Housing Act: Housing Laws for Owning an Emotional Support AnimalEmotional support animals (ESAs) are animals that are specially designated for people suffering from mental or emotional disorders like anxiety, depression, stress, loneliness, or panic attacks. They differ from trained service animals whose task is to help a disabled person with his or her day to day activities. Emotional support animals are not trained and are there just to provide a close, emotional, and supportive bond with their owner and to alleviate the mental and emotional disorders of their owner with sheer love and affection.
A Fair Housing Act (FHA), also known as ‘The Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988’ for Emotional Support Animals and Service Animals, is a federal law that states that any individual who is suffering from mental or physical disability and has an Emotional Support Animal, cannot be turned away from housing even if there is a ‘No Pet’ policy. The landlords or the apartment managers are required to make a ‘reasonable accommodation’ for both Emotional Support Animals and Service Animals.
Even if you can enjoy the privileges that come with ‘The Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988’ for Emotional Support Animals, there are a few conditions that you need to know before exercising your right.
Under the Fair Housing Act and Section 504 for the Emotional Support Animals, if the landlord has a ‘No Pet’ policy and a prospective tenant asks for accommodation with his or her emotional support animal, the landlord can ask a few questions.
Here’s what they are;
- Is the animal a service animal?
- If “yes”, the tenant is allowed to keep the service animal with him or her.
- Is the animal an assistance animal? If “yes”, then;
- Does a tenant have a mental or emotional disability?
- Does the disability need an emotional support animal?
If the answer is “no” for either 2(a) or 2(b), then under the Fair Housing Act for Emotional Support Animals and Section 504 for Emotional Support Animals, the request for accommodation with an emotional support animal may be denied.
If the answer is “yes”, then the prospective tenant or the tenant may have to show proof in the form of valid documents. They are;
- Emotional support animal letter from a licensed mental health professional.
- Their medical records or mental health documentation, if the disability isn’t apparent.
Fair Housing Act for ESA has set in place various rules and regulations to protect your rights. While the Fair Housing Act for ESA and Section 504 for emotional support animals has given you the rights, the concept of owning an emotional support animal is new and not everybody is aware of it. Under the Fair Housing Act for Emotional Support Animal and Service Animals, the landlords cannot;
- Ask about your disability if it’s apparent.
- Ask about your emotional support animal’s training in certain tasks.
- Refuse to accommodate you because their insurance doesn’t cover emotional support animals.
- Charge you a pet deposit.
A pet deposit is a certain amount that your landlord may ask you to pay to accommodate your pet apart from the normal rent. According to the Fair Housing Act and Section 504 for Emotional Support Animals, a landlord cannot ask a tenant for a pet deposit. However, if the animal does any damage to the property of the landowner, the landlord may ask money for the repair.
As stated earlier, owning an emotional support animal is a new concept and not everybody is aware of it. However, under the Fair Housing Act for ESAs, if you provide a recommendation letter from a mental health professional and still your landlord refuses to create a reasonable accommodation, he can be charged under Federal Law. Here what you can do:
Make sure that your landowner is aware of the Fair Housing Act and Section 504 for emotional support animals.
Or, you can;
- File a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) within one year of the most recent date of discrimination.
- File a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) under the Fair Housing Amendments Act, within one year of the discrimination.
- File a complaint against your landowner with your state’s agency.
- Sue your landlord and book him for violence.
Don’t let a landowner or a property manager refuse your emotional support animal. Always remember that you have equal rights to live in accommodation with your emotional support animal under the Fair Housing Act and Section 504 for emotional support animals. Overall, make sure you have a letter of emotional support animal in California with you provided by a Licensed Mental Health Service Provider so that you can have access to legal protection.