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 than four units, the housing is probably not covered and the landlord may not be required to accommodate you.

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.

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 SD/ESA Pet Resumé, to the landlord. Send this Certified, with a 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. Article: HUD Complaint Process or File Your Complaint Online

Before you sue, consider carefully how filing suit might affect 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 the rights of 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.

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