While emotional support animals might appear to be just pets, they are devoted companions that provide therapeutic benefits to their owners. Unlike service animals (that are trained to perform a specific job their owner cannot), emotional support animals help their owners cope with anxiety, depression, and related mental health challenges.
Emotional support animals are typically dogs or cats, but they can be any type of species—from pigs to squirrels—as long as they can be reasonably accommodated inside an apartment or house.
If you’re a renter with an emotional support animal, you know that finding a place to live can be complicated. Buildings or landlords may have rules restricting large pets or prohibiting them altogether. But renters with emotional support animals have certain rights when it comes to seeking housing.
“Whether you are talking about a service or an emotional support animal, they are allowed to reside in any dwelling regardless of a no-pet policy and without further deposits, rents, or fees,” says Stacy Brown, director of technical training for Real Property Management, a Neighborly company.
Of course, there are certain steps that renters must take to affirm that they have medical need for an emotional support animal and that the pet is properly certified.
Read on to learn about the process of renting a property with an emotional support animal.
The Fair Housing Act of 1968 protects these renters
Under the Fair Housing Act of 1968, tenants and their emotional support animals are protected and have rights.
“The FHA is a federal law established to eliminate discrimination for individuals seeking housing accommodations,” says Jessica Simpson, senior specialist of public policy in the Companion Animals department at the Humane Society. “It includes protections for assistance animals, including emotional support animals, and assures that people can find appropriate housing for their needs.”
Federal law also allows landlords to request reasonable documentation from a renter seeking to live with an emotional support animal in a residence that has a restricted-pet or no-pet policy.
You will need an emotional support animal letter
When a tenant with an emotional support animal applies to live in a rental with a no-pet policy, the tenant will be required to show proof of a registered, medically necessary pet. This comes in the form of an official, signed emotional support animal letter.
Simpson says tenants requesting a reasonable accommodation with an emotional support animal will need to provide the landlord with a letter from a doctor or therapist that explains how the companion animal is needed to help them cope with and improve their symptoms.
Landlords may also have their own paperwork that needs to be filled out, so it’s important to check with them first.
And while landlords can ask for an emotional support animal letter, they can’t ask the tenants about their disability.
“Housing providers may not ask for a diagnosis, access to medical records, or speak with the author of the letter to discuss its contents,” says Simpson.
Landlords must provide accommodation
A landlord can refuse to allow a renter to live with the emotional support animal only if the animal is illegal in the state, there’s insufficient documentation, the animal is too large, or it’s destructive or aggressive.
But landlords cannot refuse housing to the renter or require the emotional support animal to have certain training.
“If a tenant believes that a landlord has discriminated against the tenant—after the tenant has provided reasonable documentation for their emotional support animal—the tenant can report the landlord to the relevant state agency or make a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity,” says Rebecca Huss, general counsel of Best Friends Animal Society.
The post Emotional Support Animals: What Renters Need To Know appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.