Renting with an Emotional Support Animal

March 22, 2017 by Tails Magazine in Featured, Lifestyle with 0 Comments

Close up shot  from behind of older woman with glasses hugging brown puppy

By Jacob Stern

When seeking rented accommodations, it is not uncommon to find that landlords or housing providers have imposed a “no pets” policy. This is usually due to factors such as noise, potential damage to their property, or insurance restrictions. While the majority of renters have to abide by this policy, there are some situations where individuals are allowed to keep animals in accommodations where a “no pet” policy is imposed.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) states that disabled persons may live in accommodations with their service animals, even where pets are not usually allowed. This is because service animals are not considered pets in the traditional sense. Emotional support animals, which are prescribed to individuals as a therapeutic treatment for their psychological disorders, are not considered service dogs under the ADA, but some landlords will allow them to live with their guardians despite a “no pet” policy. They are not always obliged to though, and many landlords will still not allow it.

So what can you do if your landlord does not accept your emotional support animal?

Emotional support animals do not have as many rights as service animals

Animals have long been used to medically assist humans with various needs, such as a service dog to aid a visually impaired person with navigation and protection, or an emotional support animal to provide affection and companionship as part of a therapeutic treatment plan for anxiety issues. These animals both provide a service, but are not regarded equally in the eyes of the law.

While service animals are recognized by the ADA, emotional support animals are not. Therefore, they are not exempt from certain restrictions such as access to public or private accommodations in the same way that service animals are. While applying to rent private accommodations with a “no pets” policy can be a relatively straightforward process for those with service animals, the same process can be a little tricky for people with emotional support animals.

Some landlords may be fine with emotional support animals, and some might not

Because landlords are not legally obliged to accept all emotional support animals, you may have to accept that some accommodations are off limits to you, especially if you do not have documentation or an ESA letter from a licensed therapist.

Whether you already have an emotional support animal and are seeking new accommodations, or already live in accommodations with a “no pet” policy and have been assigned an emotional support animal, you may face a few barriers regarding your application.

What to do if your landlord says “no” to your emotional support animal

If you provide the correct documentation from a licensed therapist and your landlord is still insistent about not allowing your ESA, you have a few options.

  1. You can contact the HUD and file a complaint
  2. You can contact a lawyer and have them write a strongly worded letter to your landlord
  3. You can contact ESA Doctors for support

Thanks to the Fair Housing Act (FHA), all hope is not lost

There are certain circumstances where landlords are not obliged to accept emotional support animals, such as:

  • Buildings that have four or fewer dwellings of which the landlord is the occupant of one
  • Single family accommodation rented or sold without a real estate broker

Thankfully, accommodations that do not fall under these categories are not imposed by such restrictions and must consider all emotional support animal applications.

While certified service animals are generally looked upon more favorably in these circumstances, the fact that emotional support animals are technically not pets goes a long way when a landlord processes your application.

Should your landlord decide not to accept your emotional support animal, and if your accommodations don’t come under one of the above categories, then you should provide them with a letter from a licensed mental health professional, which, under the FHA, should be sufficient proof of your need for an emotional support animal.

If for any reason you are unable to obtain a letter from a licensed mental health professional, there are many services available to provide sufficient proof after a successful assessment, including ESA Doctors who can determine your eligibility for an emotional support animal.

Getting a legitimate ESA letter online:


Although applying for accommodations is usually a straightforward process for individuals with emotional support animals, sometimes it can be a little trickier than it ought to be. By providing a letter from a licensed mental health professional such as a psychologist, therapist, or psychiatrist that verifies your need for an emotional support animal, you should have little problem making a successful application under the FHA.

Jacob Stern is a writer and animal lover from Los Angeles, CA. His hobbies include surfing, skating, and hiking with his dog Mollie. You can find more information about him at https://about.me/j.stern.

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