ESA Letter For Housing 2022: Steps to Get a Legitimate ESA Letter

Emma

Updated on - Written by
Medically reviewed by Kathy Shattler, MS, RDN

esa letter for housing

For those with post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorders, or a number of other related mental health concerns, an emotional support animal, or ESA, can be a vital lifeline. Without a valid ESA letter, however, your animal companion might not always be allowed in the same spaces as you are on your own.

Under the Fair Housing Act[1], an ESA letter for housing guarantees your furry friend a place in your home, even if your housing providers do not normally allow regular pets on the premises. These housing providers are required to provide reasonable accommodation for you and your emotional support animal; when a landlord refuses, the transgression is considered a federal offense. 

The only documentation that you need to provide is an ESA letter on professional letterhead. An ESA letter for housing is not difficult to procure from your own healthcare provider, but many ESA owners don’t know where to begin. 

If you happen to be one of them, Certapet makes defending your ESA rights easy, all without requiring an in-person visit with a mental health professional. First things first: what is an ESA letter? Why should you be interested in getting one?

Who Can Provide An ESA Letter For Housing?

An ESA letter for housing can potentially be provided by many of the healthcare professionals that you regularly consult for your needs:

  • Your primary care physician
  • Your counselor
  • Your psychiatrist
  • Your social worker

If you are already working with any of the above, you can certainly make your wishes known during your next appointment. If you would prefer to expedite the process, however, Certapet’s team of ESA doctors online can get you what you need as soon as possible.

How to Get an ESA Letter for Housing: 3 steps

Certapet makes the process of acquiring a valid ESA letter easy and simple. There are three steps to this extremely convenient process:

Step 1: A Free Screening Test 

Our digital screening process allows you to qualify for your ESA letter online. All that you have to do is declare any mood disorders and symptoms that you are experiencing currently, no medical records required. This screening helps us to determine your ESA needs and whether or not you would be a good candidate for an emotional support animal.

Step 2: A Session With One of Our Licensed Mental Health Professionals 

Once your mental health needs have been determined, you’ll be able to choose whether you need an ESA letter for housing, for travel, for work, or for anything else. Your appointment with a licensed therapist will be reserved. Simply submit your payment information to continue.

Step 3: A Custom Treatment Plan

 After being evaluated by a medical professional, you’ll be given recommendations for dealing with the mental illness that you’re struggling with. If you qualify, you’ll be able to print your ESA housing letter yourself, instantly. We can also send you your prescription letter in the mail.

Our licensed professionals are trained to be sensitive, understanding, and kind, no matter what your circumstances happen to be. We pride ourselves on the service that we offer ESA owners of all possible circumstances.

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What Does a Legal ESA Letter Look Like?

ESA doctors like to keep this part simple. ESA letters are nothing more than a glorified doctor’s note outlining the type of emotional support that you require. They also provide the contact information of the licensed mental health professional who has diagnosed you and that they agree that your need for emotional support is sufficient to warrant an emotional support animal.

ESA letters can vary significantly in format. If you’re curious to see what one looks like, The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has a really great ESA letter for housing template available for direct download[2]. While a sample ESA letter isn’t exactly valid in a legal sense, this ESA template will show you everything that a real ESA housing letter must contain in order to be recognized by any sort of housing discrimination authority.

What Information Should Be Included in an ESA Letter?

Legitimate ESA letters must adhere to several important ESA letter requirements. Your counselor, doctor, or social worker should include the following in your own ESA letter:

  • The emotional disability that your emotional support animal is here to help alleviate. The mental disorder detailed in your signed ESA letter must include its classification in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV).
  • The reason why it’s necessary for your furry friend to be with you at all times. The DSM IV diagnosis maybe PTSD. The reason for an ESA associated with this condition may be that your support animal is able to calm you down when a panic attack sets in.
  • The fact that you are, indeed, actively under the professional’s care.

Aside from this information, your emotional support animal letter also must meet the following qualifications in order to be considered valid:

  • It must be less than one year old to date.
  • It must be signed by the licensed professional on their own official letterhead. This ensures that the defending party is able to contact your provider with any questions or concerns that they may have.

The letter should also document the type of specific animal that you keep with you – dog, cat, lizard, hamster, or otherwise.

Where Can I Use My ESA Letter?

Aside from when together in public spaces, ESA owners and their companions will generally need to refer to their emotional support animal letter when doing two things: when they need to find housing and when they want to travel with their service animals. 

Those living in rental housing are able to keep their emotional support companion close to them as long as they’re able to provide an ESA letter for housing. Free housing may come with many restrictions in terms of having pets on the premises, but none of these rules supersede an official ESA letter from a certified professional. This includes Section 8 housing under HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO)[3].

The Air Carrier Access Act protects your rights on the road and in the air, just like the FHA and the FHEO protect your rights in your own home. You may need to provide documentation proving the legitimacy of your need up to 48 hours in advance, but with a legitimate ESA letter, no ESA owner will be denied their right to fly so long as their companion adheres to all of the associated rules[4].

Do I Need to Train My Emotional Support Animal?

Can you picture a scenario more embarrassing than your emotional support dog running amok as you try to go about your errands in public? We’re all familiar with the discipline that service dogs for the blind and even police dogs carry themselves with. They’re 100% business, and it takes a lot of training and unconditional love to instill that discipline.

Support animals do not need to be formally trained in order to qualify for their ESA letters; no licensed medical professional will demand this of you. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA for short, federal law protects service animals in any space where their presence does not disrupt the nature of the service or program that the space is meant to provide, as long as the emotional support companion is “under control[5].”

This is kind of a broad term. In essence, as long as your emotional support animal is calm, collected, at your side, and not bothering anybody or destroying anything, they will be considered under control and covered by federal law. An emotional support dog must be kept on a leash and remain under the supervision of its ESA owners or any accompanying parties at all times. For many respectful support animal owners, this part will be a no-brainer. 

Benefits of Having an ESA Letter

Always having an ESA letter on hand means that the legitimacy of your emotional support animal will never be called into question. 

A few of the most immediately obvious benefits of having an ESA letter (For housing, especially):

  • You’ll be free to rent anywhere, even in communities where pets are normally forbidden. The worst that your landlord will be able to impose on you is a monthly pet fee accounting for your emotional support animal. Your housing status will never be pulled out from underneath you because of your ESA companion, no matter what.
  • Your employer will be legally required to provide accommodation for both you and your service animal, no questions asked. You will never need to worry about losing your job as a direct result of your companion animal’s presence.
  • You’ll be free to enjoy the emotional benefits that your ESA confers anywhere and at all times – you’ll be less anxious, less tense, less depressed, and more engaged with your daily tasks and your surroundings.
  • You will never have to worry about finding care for your ESA while at work, away on vacation, or in a space that would not be inclusive without an ESA letter in hand. . Both you and your ESA will avoid unwanted feelings of loneliness or separation anxiety.
  • There is an entire world of other ESA owners and ESA culture to explore and to become a part of. Who knows? You might just end up making yourself a new friend (And a friend for your companion animal, too!)

Final thought

Emotional support animals are a simple solution to a common and often crippling need: comfort, emotional support, and companionship, even when it feels like the walls are closing in on you. 

These beacons of light in our lives help us preserve the mental health of the most sensitive among us. If you feel like your own mental health may benefit from the inclusion of an emotional support animal, we recommend that you consult a licensed mental health professional. As always, we have to recommend our own team here at Certapet for all of your emotional support animal needs and concerns. 

To learn more about emotional support animals and compliance, you can reach out to us through our site. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

Do Landlords Verify ESA letters?

Your housing provider may reach out to the licensed mental health professional who has issued your ESA letter without violating any privacy laws. The professional’s license number and contact information will be more than enough for this purpose; you do not need to verify your service animal status in any other way aside from your emotional support animal letter.

Can a Landlord Deny an ESA Letter for Housing?

While your landowner may balk at the needs of other tenants, they are not allowed to discriminate against you on the basis of your service animal, especially if you have backed up your claim legally with the appropriate documentation. They may ask for a pet deposit or that you pay pet fees monthly along with your rent, but these provisions should not put you under any undue financial strain.

Can an ESA Be Denied Housing?

The Fair Housing Act applies to all Americans living with mental health conditions. This includes those who require reasonable accommodation for any of the furry friends that make a happy and healthy lifestyle possible for them. If you feel that your rights are being withheld from you, you can file a complaint[6] with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.

How Long Do ESA Letters Last for Housing?

Federal laws mandate that ESA owner renew their own form annually. An emotional support letter that is more than one year old is not a legitimate ESA letter and cannot be enforced legally.

Is an ESA Dog the Same as a Service Dog?

A service dog is not the same as an emotional support animal. ESA companions come in all shapes, sizes, and species and are generally not trained to perform a specific task for their owners. Guide dogs, for example, are trained specifically to perform tasks for the blind[7]. In the case of an emotional support animal, their presence in the service that they provide.

How Many Emotional Support Animals Can You Have With an ESA letter?

The ADA imposes no limit on the number of emotional support animals that you’re legally allowed to have with you at all times. Many mental health professionals will agree that most patients will not need more than two emotional support animals, however. Three, as they say, is a crowd.


+ 7 sources

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  1. Hud.gov. (2021). Assistance Animals | HUD.gov / U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). [online] Available at: https://www.hud.gov/program_offices/fair_housing_equal_opp/assistance_animals
  2. ‌Google.com. (2021). Redirecting. [online] Available at: https://www.google.com/url?q=https://www.hud.gov/sites/documents/DOC_7399.doc&sa=D&source=editors&ust=1632978928639000&usg=AOvVaw037CfHE0TZmNv9099dFKkg
  3. ‌Hud.gov. (2021). Assistance Animals | HUD.gov / U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). [online] Available at: https://www.hud.gov/program_offices/fair_housing_equal_opp/assistance_animals
  4. ‌US Department of Transportation. (2017). Service Animals (Including Emotional Support Animals). [online] Available at: https://www.transportation.gov/individuals/aviation-consumer-protection/service-animals-including-emotional-support-animals.
  5. ‌Ada.gov. (2015). Frequently Asked Questions about Service Animals and the ADA. [online] Available at: https://www.ada.gov/regs2010/service_animal_qa.html
  6. ‌Hud.gov. (2021). File a Complaint – Main Page | HUD.gov / U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). [online] Available at: https://www.hud.gov/program_offices/fair_housing_equal_opp/online-complaint
  7. The Humane Society of the United States. (2021). The Fair Housing Act and Assistance Animals. [online] Available at: https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/fair-housing-act-and-assistance-animals
Emma

Medically reviewed by:

Kathy Shattler

Emma Garofalo is a writer based in Pittsburgh, PA. A lover of science, art, and all things culinary, few things excite her more than the opportunity to learn about something new." It is now in the sheet in the onboarding paperwork, apologies!!

Medically reviewed by:

Kathy Shattler

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