Just the FAQs: Emotional Support Animals

What law gives people with psychiatric disabilities the right to emotional support animals (pets) in no-pets housing without deposits or fees?

The U.S. Fair Housing Act (FHA).

What housing does it cover?

  • Because it is a federal law it covers housing in all 50 states and the rights given by it cannot be limited by any state or municipal law or regulation.1

  • It covers every apartment, co-op, and condo complex and most multi-family housing. Both owner-residents and tenants are covered. There are some exceptions for some single-family homes and owner-occupied 4-, 3-, and 2-family dwellings.2

    It also covers covers rental offices, shelters, assisted living facilities, and housing at places of education (http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/documents/huddoc?id=servanimals_ntcfheo2013-01.pdf)

Who can have an emotional support animal?

  • “In order to qualify for a reasonable accommodation under the FHA, § 504, or the ADA, the tenant must meet the statutory definition of having a "disability." The statutes recognize three broad categories of disabilities: (1) a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities (such as walking, seeing, working, learning, washing, dressing, etc.); (2) a record of having such an impairment; or (3) being regarded as having such an impairment.)3

  • U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which enforces the FHA, specifically allows emotional support animals “Assistance animals include guide dogs for persons with visual disabilities, as well as other types of assistance animals that provide services for people with other disabilities, including emotional support for persons with mental disabilities or whose disabilities result in chronic pain.”4

What's the process?

  • A simple note from a doctor or therapist is presented to the landlord or owners' association along with a note from the resident requesting the  animal as a reasonable accommodation. “If one needs an emotional support animal to ease the symptoms of a disability (as defined above), he or she should request a reasonable accommodation, in writing, from the landlord, manager or other appropriate authority. The request should state that the tenant has a disability and explain how the requested accommodation will be helpful. In addition, the tenant should include a note from his or her service provider, such as a doctor or therapist, verifying the need for the support animal (see sample letter, below, [see link in footnote] as an example). Note that the tenant need not disclose the details of the disability, nor provide a detailed medical history.”5

Does the person with a disability have any responsibilities?

  • Yes. “If the emotional assistance animal is particularly disruptive, or the tenant fails to take proper measures to ensure that the animal does not bother other tenants, however, the landlord may be justified in denying the accommodation or ultimately filing for an eviction. See, e.g., Woodside Village v. Hertzmark, FH-FL Rptr. ¶ 18,129 (Conn. Sup. Ct. 1993), in which the court found that a federally assisted housing complex did not violate the Fair Housing Act by evicting a resident with mental illness for failure to walk his dog in designated areas and to use a pooper-scooper.”6

1Article VI, Clause 2 of the United States Constitution, “This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.”

2Fair Housing Information Sheet #6, Judge David R. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, http://bazelon.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=mHq8GV0FI4c%3d&tabid=268

3Fair Housing Information Sheet #6, Judge David R. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, http://bazelon.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=mHq8GV0FI4c%3d&tabid=268

4Discrimination Against People With Disabilities, Testing Guidance for Practitioners, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, http://www.hud.gov/offices/fheo/library/dss-guidebook.pdf.

5Fair Housing Information Sheet #6, Judge David R. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, http://bazelon.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=mHq8GV0FI4c%3d&tabid=268 (includes sample letter)

6Fair Housing Information Sheet #6, Judge David R. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, http://bazelon.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=mHq8GV0FI4c%3d&tabid=268

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