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Emotional Support Animals in Housing

How can I convince my landlord to let me keep my ESA in "no pets" housing?

Please remember that we cannot offer legal advice here. These are the steps others have used with success. They may work for you too or they may not. If you need legal advice on your specific situation, you should consult a qualified attorney. Also remember that not all housing is covered under the FHAA. If the housing is owned by a religious entity or there are less that four units, the housing is probably not covered and the landlord may not be required to accommodate you.

The following steps are based on regulations published by HUD October 27, 2008, in the Federal Register pertaining to HUD housing. While that rule does not apply to non-HUD landlords, the process is approximately the same.

1. Get a prescription from your doctor.

Consult a doctor for an evaluation on whether you have an impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. Ask the doctor if he or she believes the presence of an emotional support animal would be necessary for your mental health. If the doctor believes you are disabled and you need an emotional support animal (ESA), ask him/her to write a letter addressed to your landlord to that effect or to write you a prescription for an emotional support animal.

2. Print out the Bazelon article Fair Housing Information Sheet # 6 Right to Emotional Support Animals in "No Pet" Housing

3. Write a "request for accommodation" letter

4. Send a copy of the prescription and the Brazelon info sheet, along with your letter and a copy of your pet's resumé, to the landlord. Send this CERTIFIED, RETURN RECEIPT.

5. Assuming you have already spoken with your landlord and been denied, do not speak to the landlord informally about this again. Insist that all discussion on the matter be by mail or email (so you have a record of who said what and when).

These steps resolve the issue for most people. If it does not work for you, consider filing a complaint with HUD or hiring an attorney to file a civil suit against the landlord. This article from the official Housing and Urban Development (HUD) site on housing discrimination gives you step by step instructions for filing a complaint with them. HUD was charged by Congress with regulating the FHAA and it is their job to investigate cases of discrimination. http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/program_offices/fair_housing_eq...
Or file your complaint online

Before you sue, consider carefully how filing suit might effect your relationship with your landlord. It may be healthier to find a different place to live that is more accepting of ESAs. This is a very individual choice that must be made on a case-by-case basis with an eye toward the best interests of the person with a disability. There is no particular honor in throwing oneself under a bus to improve rights for others. It is always possible to file a discrimination complaint after you have moved to a safer location if the reason you moved was discrimination.

Most people who have filed suit have reported that whether they win or not the experience was the most stressful event of their lives, so please do proceed with caution.

Sample letter requesting reasonable accommodation for an ESA

NOTE: On March 15, 2011 changes to the definition of "service animal" under the Americans with Disabilities Act became effective. These changes do not affect the use of emotional support animals in housing or on commercial aircraft because those two situations are covered under different federal laws that were not changed when the ADA regulations were changed.

See the attachment below for an official statement by HUD regarding emotional support animals under housing law.

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HUD FHEO 2-17-2011 Assistance Animal Memo.pdf48.83 KB