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Emotional Support Animals And Renting: The Complete Guide 2024

Heather Freudenthal

Updated on - Written by
Medically reviewed by Dr. Maya Frankfurt, PhD

emotional support animals and renting
Get the facts about emotional support animals and renting. Photo: Shutterstock & Team Design

Having to navigate the laws and best practices of renting a home or apartment can be daunting for anyone, especially for those with furry companions.

When those furry companions are functioning as emotional support animals (ESAs), it can be that much more important that you know your rights, as well as the expectations landlords may have and the laws they have to abide by.

This article will define what an ESA is, the functions they serve (and for whom), and outline six tips for renting a home or apartment with an ESA. By the end, you’ll know the laws regarding emotional support animals and renting.

Emotional Support Animals And Renting: Helpful Tips

Renting apartments and emotional support animals–the process can be confusing. To increase your chances of living with your ESA, follow these six tips:

  • Obtain a legitimate ESA letter.
  • Ensure your ESA is vaccinated.
  • Ensure your ESA is housebroken.
  • Ensure your ESA is well-behaved.
  • Ensure your ESA is quiet.
  • Know your rights.

6 Great Tips For Renting An Apartment With An ESA

Obtain A Legitimate ESA Letter

A landlord is entitled to ask for documentation to support your request for an ESA. The best documentation is an ESA letter from a LMHP. Make sure you obtain a valid ESA letter and can provide a copy to the landlord upon request. You may wish to include it in the housing application.

Ensure Your ESA Is Vaccinated

In some states, such as New York, and for some animals, specifically, the law states that you must vaccinate your pets.[1] This includes ESAs. A landlord may deny a request to have an ESA on the property if they feel the animal is a danger to other tenants.

If an ESA is carrying, or potentially carrying, any diseases because it hasn’t been vaccinated, a landlord could argue that this is not safe. A landlord may request proof of vaccination. Having your ESA vaccinations up-to-date is essential.

Ensure Your ESA Is Housebroken

Landlords can reject requests for an ESA if the animal poses undue hardship on the building or other tenants, or forces the landlord to incur fees for damages. If your ESA repeatedly goes to the bathroom inside the property, the landlord could argue that this could cause property damage, is unsanitary, or is a nuisance to the other tenants. 

Ensure Your ESA Is Well Behaved

Similarly to making sure your ESA is housebroken, you’ll want to ensure that your ESA is well behaved. This means they do not damage property or behave dangerously toward other people. If your animal is prone to scratching, biting, knawing, whether people or property, a landlord may deny or revoke your ESA privileges.

Ensure Your ESA Is Quiet

A part of being well behaved is being quiet. Dogs, in particular, can be especially disruptive when they bark loudly or incessantly. If neighbors are disturbed by the noise and complain to the landlord, this could hinder your ability to keep an ESA in your apartment.

Know Your Rights

If you have a valid ESA letter, and your ESA is housetrained, quiet, and poses no harm or nuisance to others in the building, there is no legal standing for a landlord to deny your request for an ESA.

Landlords can request documentation, such as ESA letters and proof of vaccinations, but otherwise they must allow ESAs, even if there is a “no pets” policy, without charging pet fees.

Only a licensed mental health professional (LMHP) can designate an animal as an ESA. Individuals wishing to have an ESA must meet with a LMHP for an evaluation or assessment, and afterwards, the LMHP can determine if having an EMS is beneficial for treatment.

Can Apartments Charge For An Emotional Support Animal?

The short answer is no. If you have a valid ESA letter, the landlord must allow reasonable accommodations for you and your ESA, even if the building has a no pet policy, and the landlord may not ask for any pet fees,[2] including deposits or additional rent for the animal.

Do Apartments Have To Permit Emotional Support Animals?

Yes. Under the Fair Housing Act, landlords are required to make reasonable accommodations[3] for ESAs. As long as your request for an ESA does not cause hardship for the landlord, the building, or the other tenants, the landlord may not deny accommodations for your ESA.

An Emotional Support Animal (ESA): What Is It?

emotional support animals and renting
An ESA provides emotional support as a form of treatment. Photo: Shutterstock

An ESA is any animal (dog, cat, bird, pig, etc.) that provides emotional support or other forms of comfort as a form of treatment for specific mental or emotional disabilities. For example, a dog may provide a sense of purpose and joy for someone struggling with depression.

What Is The Difference Between An ESA And A Service Animal?

An ESA is often confused with a service animal,[4] such as service dogs. Service animals are also support animals, but they undergo specialized training to perform specific tasks for individuals who have a physical or mental impairment.

For example, service dogs may act as guide dogs for the visually impaired, parrots may make loud noises to alert someone who is hard of hearing, and dogs can be trained to retrieve medication if their owner cannot reach it.

An ESA is not specifically trained for any of these functions, however, they do play an important role in emotional well-being. If an individual feels they need more than one ESA, a LMHP must be consulted. A different ESA letter will need to be written for each animal, explaining the different needs for them and the function(s) they perform in an individual’s treatment.

Emotional Support Animal Housing Laws

United States law prevents housing providers from discriminating against housing applicants based on disability. This means that if someone has an emotional or mental disability and requires an ESA, landlords may not refuse housing to them; they must make reasonable accommodations for the individual and their ESA.

Qualifying For An ESA Letter For Housing

emotional support animals and renting
Mental disabilities may qualify you for an ESA letter. Photo: Shutterstock

A LMHP may write you an ESA letter for housing if you suffer from any of the following mental or emotional health conditions:

  • Anxiety.
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder.
  • Post traumatic stress disorder.
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
  • Depression.
  • Phobias.
  • Panic attacks.

This is not an exhaustive list of all mental and emotional disabilities[5] that may qualify someone for an ESA letter from an LMHP. However, having a disability doesn’t necessarily guarantee that you will qualify for an ESA letter. The LMHP must deem an ESA a necessary part of your treatment.

How To Obtain An ESA Letter?

Complete A Pre-assessment

Complete a pre-assessment on a site like Certapet, which is one of the best legitimate ESA agencies. They can then match you with a LMHP who can write you an ESA letter. Read the Certapet review to learn more.

Speak To A Licensed Professional In Your State

If you already have a LMHP who is licensed to practice in your state, you can ask them to write you an ESA letter based on your need. If you do not have someone you can go to, use an online ESA agency, fill out a pre-assessment (see above), and based on your assessment, the site will pair you with a licensed professional.

Make Sure The Letter Has The Correct Information

The ESA letter itself will need to be written on the LMHP’s official letterhead. It should contain their license number and all their contact information, as well as details outlining why an ESA is necessary for your mental or emotional disability. Learn more about how to obtain an ESA letter.

Make Copies And Carry It With You

Once you have the ESA letter, make copies and keep them in a safe place. Also carry one with you at all times so that you can show it to whomever may need to see it.

This letter should be included in your housing application if you are requesting that your ESA live with you. The ESA letter will ensure that your ESA is allowed in the building (provided the animal is well-trained) and that you do not have to pay pet fees.

Conclusion

Having emotional support animals and renting an apartment can be confusing to navigate, but it doesn’t have to be. Under the Fair Housing Act, a landlord cannot discriminate against you if you require an ESA to live with you.

As long as you have a valid ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional in your state, housing providers must make reasonable accommodations for your ESA(s) to live with you, even if the building doesn’t allow pets. Additionally, a landlord may not charge any pet fees for your ESA. This includes additional rent or deposits.

However, landlords have an obligation to the building and their other tenants, so they may reject your request for an ESA if your animal poses undue hardship or danger to others. To ensure your request is approved, make sure your ESA is vaccinated, well trained and housebroken.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I have an ESA if I live with roommates? 

Legally, as long as the landlord approves, you have the right to live with an ESA. 

What if my landlord denies my request for an ESA? 

A landlord could deny your request if they feel the ESA would cause damage, disruption, or danger to the building or the other tenants. However, if the animal is well-trained and safe and the landlord denies your request, you are entitled to ask the government to investigate possible discrimination.

How many ESAs can live with me?

There’s no limit to how many ESAs a person can have. This is at the discretion of a LMHP, if they feel you need multiple ESAs. Landlords must make accommodations for all your ESAs, assuming they are not causing an undue burden in the building or to other tenants.


+ 5 sources

Health Canal avoids using tertiary references. We have strict sourcing guidelines and rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic researches from medical associations and institutions. To ensure the accuracy of articles in Health Canal, you can read more about the editorial process here

  1. RABIES Health. (n.d.). Available at: https://www.nyc.gov/assets/doh/downloads/pdf/vet/rabies1.pdf.
  2. Minnesota.gov. (2023). Housing / Minnesota.gov. [online] Available at: https://mn.gov/mdhr/yourrights/service-animals/housing.jsp.
  3. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (2000). Housing Discrimination Under the Fair Housing Act. [online] Hud.gov. Available at: https://www.hud.gov/program_offices/fair_housing_equal_opp/fair_housing_act_overview.
  4. Howell, T.J., Nieforth, L.O., Thomas-Pino, C., Samet, L., Agbonika, S., Cuevas-Pavincich, F., Nina Ekholm Fry, Hill, K., Jegatheesan, B., Kakinuma, M., MacNamara, M., Sanna Mattila-Rautiainen, Perry, A., Christine Yvette Tardif-Williams, Walsh, E., Winkle, M., Yamamoto, M., Yerbury, R., Rawat, V. and Alm, K. (2022). Defining Terms Used for Animals Working in Support Roles for People with Support Needs. [online] 12(15), pp.1975–1975. doi:https://doi.org/10.3390/ani12151975.
  5. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). (2022). Caring for Your Mental Health. [online] Available at: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/caring-for-your-mental-health.
Heather Freudenthal

Medically reviewed by:

Maya Frankfurt

Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and Wellness Writer with a holistic and functional medicine/root cause mindset. My writing style is engaging, relatable, and educational, designed to help readers digest and relate to complex topics in nutrition, gut health, hormone health, mental health, and spiritual health, then inspire them to take action.

Medically reviewed by:

Maya Frankfurt

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