4 Reasons Why Your Landlord Might Deny an Emotional Support Animal

published Mar 21, 2020
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emotional support animal with owner in bed
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People living with mental illnesses have found that having a furry friend goes a long way in managing their symptoms. Known as an emotional support animal, or ESA, these companions—typically a dog or a cat—provide comfort to their owners on a daily basis, both at home and in public spaces. 

While some landlords enforce a no-pet policy in their buildings, the Fair Housing Act, a federal law protecting tenants from discrimination, upholds tenants’ right to have an ESA at home. All you need is a letter from a doctor or therapist stating your disability and how your pet is necessary to help you cope with that disability. 

According to the Humane Society of the United States, there are a number of situations in which a landlord may be allowed to reject a tenant’s ESA. Make sure you are informed before you choose to move into a no-pet building. Ahead, four reasons why you may not be able to have an ESA in your building.

The ESA is causing physical damage to property

An ESA can range in species, age, and size, depending on the owner’s preferences. An ESA can not only be a dog, but it can also be a bird, monkey, reptile or even a horse. 

This wide range may open the doors for some unruly animals, or animals who may not fit in certain living settings. If there is physical damage to the property caused by an ESA, a landlord has the legal right to try and remove it. 

The ESA causes harm to others

A landlord has the right to deny an ESA if the animal is causing harm to any other tenants in the building. This varies case by case, but some animals may not be fit to cohabitate with other people. 

The ESA brings undue financial hardship to a landlord

Your landlord may have to take on a financial burden if an ESA causes damage to property, or harm to others in their building. In this case, the landlord can seek funds from the support animal’s owner or block the animal from living in the building.  

Your housing is not covered by the FHA

There are three exceptions to the type of housing covered by the FHA: Rental dwellings of four units or less, where one unit is occupied by the owner, single family homes sold or rented by the owner without the use of a broker, and housing owned by clubs or religious organizations that restrict occupancy in housing units to their members. 

If you live in any of these types of housing, you may not have the legal right to an ESA at home. In any case, if you feel that your request for a reasonable accommodation was unfairly denied by your landlord, you can request a government agency to investigate the claim by filing a discrimination complaint electronically, or by mail, with the Department of Housing and Urban Development.