EMOTIONAL SUPPORT ANIMALS AND HOUSING
WHAT’S THE LAW?
If you are dealing with emotional and/or psychological disabilities you have the same right to housing as someone without disabilities. Federal laws allow individuals with qualifying disabilities to keep an animal in a housing unit despite a "no pets" provision.
Virtually all types of housing, whether for sale or rent, are covered, except:
- buildings with four or fewer units where the landlord lives in one of the units; and
- private owners who do not own more than three single family houses and do not use use real estate brokers or agents and do not use discriminatory advertisements.
To qualify under the Fair Housing Act, you must have a qualifying disability, the landlord, managing agent or condo board must know that you have a disability, and that based on your disability, waiving a "no pets" policy is necessary to allow you an equal opportunity to use and enjoy the dwelling.
Emotional and psychological disabilities qualify under the federal statutes if the impairment from the disability affects your ability to perform major life activities such as caring for yourself, walking, or working.
You must request a waiver of the "no pets" policy from the landlord, explaining that you have an emotional or psychological disability and need the emotional support animal to lessen the effects of the disability. A letter from a licensed mental health professional is necessary to support the request for the accommodation. Mere emotional distress that would result from having to give up an animal because of a "no pets" policy will not qualify under federal law. Instead, there must be a link between the benefit you derive from your animal animal and the disability.
Even if you qualify for a reasonable accommodation under the statutes, a landlord does not have to waive a "no pets" policy if doing so would cause a great financial or administrative burden. In addition, if your pet compromises the safety of other tenants or their property, or poses a danger to other tenants the landlord does not have to allow the accommodation.
HOW DO I QUALIFY?
The process of applying for an ESA for housing is similar to that of applying for an ESA for flying, except that the diagnostic standard is different. The licensed therapist must not only find that you have an emotional or psychological disorder, but must also find that with an Emotional Support Animal you would be unable to live independently or have full use and enjoyment of the housing unit.
- that the disorder impairs or substantially limits one or more major life functions (such as walking, seeing, working, learning, washing, dressing, etc.); and
- the specific manner in which an Emotional Support Animal will help you deal with one or more of your disorders; and
- that without an Emotional Support Animal you would be unable to live independently or have full use and enjoyment of the housing unit.
To make this assessment the therapist will need to review your Evaluation form and conduct a follow up telephone consultation. The amount of time required will vary from person to person, but you should schedule at least 30 minutes for your telephone consultation. A second telephone consultation may be necessary, but is included in the fee.
Please note that buildings with “no pet” policies are not always gracious about making ESA allowances even when appropriate documentation is presented. ESA Center and its participating mental health professionals have no control over whether your landlord, managing agent, condo board, etc. will grant you an accommodation.
Generally speaking, in those buildings where the landlord, managing agent or condo board has a policy of waiving the “no pet” when a mental health professional’s letter is presented, the letter you receive from one of our health care professionals should be accepted. Should the landlord also require a special form be submitted as well, completion of the form is included with your fee.
In those buildings with a policy of taking tenants to court over their “no pet” policy there can be no guarantee of how the court will rule.
You will be paying a fee to ESA for your assessment and the issuance of a prescriptive ESA letter for housing. The mental health professional who will be making the assessment is familiar with the Federal laws relating to the accommodation of ESA’s in housing and will write a prescriptive letter that complies with the requirements of the Fair Housing Act.
The cost for the review of your Evaluation form, follow-up telephone consultation(s) and the issuance of a prescriptive ESA letter for housing is $150. Should the landlord require a special form be submitted in addition to the letter, completion of the form is included with your fee.
APPLY FOR A HOUSING LETTER
The process of applying for an Emotional Support Animal letter is easy. The first step is completing an online Psychological Evaluation Form. This is a questionnaire designed to identify and diagnose DSM V psychological disorders.
There’s nothing to download and you can enter your answers directly into the form. The Evaluation Form should take approximately 30 minutes to complete. Please set aside sufficient time to complete the form. If you are unable to complete it, you can bookmark the page and return but your work will not be saved.
Once completed, click on the “Submit” button and your form will be sent to one of our licensed professionals for review. If it is determined that you appear to qualify for an ESA letter you will be contacted by email or telephone to schedule your follow-up telephone consultation(s). This telephone consultation may take as long as an hour so please set aside sufficient time.
If you are ready to take the Form click on the Payment button below. After your payment of $150 is confirmed you will be automatically taken to the Evaluation Form.
REMEMBER - In the event that the mental health professional determines that you do not qualify for an Emotional Support Animal letter a full refund of your fee with be made.