We understand with pets on your property, there are chances of property damage and pet noises, and on top of that, other tenants can also get uncomfortable. However, you just can’t deny tenants to keep their pets, especially when the tenant mentions the term emotional support animal or says something related to their mental or physical illness. We suggest you handle this type of situation with little delicacy because there might be a case where your tenant needs a pet due to their medical condition. If our advice seems too lousy, then it might be a case you have never heard of the term emotional support animal. For situations like these, as a landlord, you should be well aware of terms like emotional support animal, emotional support animal letter, and how to verify an ESA letter?; very well. Readout this blog till the end to gain this information.
- What is an Emotional Support Animal?
- How can I check if the ESA letter is not fake?
- What additional proof can I demand to verify that a pet is an ESA?
- Emotional support animal breed restrictions
What is an Emotional Support Animal?
An emotional support animal is an animal that provides therapeutic benefits to its owner who suffer from mental illness like stress, anxiety, depression, etc.
An LMHP, a local licensed mental health professional, can confirm that an animal is an emotional support animal. Along with this, an LMHP checks whether the patient’s mental illness can be cured with the assistance of an emotional support animal.
The following health care professionals can evaluate the patient regarding ESA application:
- A licensed psychiatrist
- A licensed psychologist
- A Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
- A Licensed Behavioral Therapist
- A Licensed Addiction Therapist
- A Licensed Cognitive-Behavioral Therapist
- A licensed doctor qualified to conduct mental health assessments
- A licensed Professional Counselor
- A Licensed Clinical Social Worker
- Any Licensed Mental Health Professional
What are the ESA landlord laws and rights?
Now, you must be aware of the fact that as part of an independent country, you are not permitted to discriminate against any individual. As per the Fair Housing Law (FHA), this discrimination by a landlord indicates: “Denial in rules, applications, policies, or services to make a reasonable accommodation, in a situation where this accommodation is important to give equal opportunity to use that dwelling.” So you cannot deny a tenant to adopt an ESA without a solid reason. Now the denial can be acceptable in sporadic cases like:
- In a case where accommodation might become a financial or management inconvenience for you(landlord).
- Other than that, if the tenant’s request is changing the nature of housing.
Now, talking about “Who is fit for a reasonable accommodation?” As per FHA, a renter pass for a reasonable accommodation, if they have a well-defined disability, including components like: A physical or mental inability that can restrict major life activities,
- A legitimate document that claims the patient’s disability,
- Being regarded as having such a disability.
Other than this, the renter should confirm that the assistance of an emotional support letter is vital for them to relish the dwelling. In short, the link between the renter’s disability and the need for an ESA should be evident. A mental or emotional disability means a mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities permanently or temporarily. It includes any mental or psychological disorder, such as an intellectual disability, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities, including but not limited to such conditions as emotional illness, drug addiction, and alcoholism. Major life activities mean functions, such as caring for one’s self-performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working. What can be considered discrimination? Just like the tenant, you as a landlord are not allowed to violate housing law in any case. Be cautious while dealing with the renter as if they are genuinely suffering from an illness; they are a patient before your tenant. You are not allowed to ask anything related to:
- Details of the tenant’s disability.
- Symptoms of the disability.
- The seriousness of the disability.
- Medications of the patient
- Or requesting medical records.
The points mentioned above are a direct representation of discrimination against the renter.
What are the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Guidelines?
HUD guidelines: The HUD supporting the Emotional Support Animal, or we can say assistance animals allowance, has also released the following guidelines:
- It is unlawful to refuse a reasonable accommodation request which can also be an illegal denial for an exception to a no-pet policy.
- The tenant with an Emotional Support Animal Request needs to provide necessary documents, probably from the healthcare professionals, to prove their disability and need to have Emotional Support Animals(assistance animals).
- If all the conditions are satisfied, it is an obligation to grant the Emotional Support Animal request of the tenant.
- These obligations are for both public accommodations and government-funded facilities.
HUD made these guidelines with the sole purpose of providing equal opportunities to all individuals to enjoy the dwelling unit. The guidelines highlighted the role of these animals and the mental and emotional need for them for individuals, for example, veterans or senior citizens, etc. HUD emphasized that every Landlord should realize the importance of these animals. Note: If any landlord violates these guidelines, Tenants can contact HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at (800) 669-9777 or visit File a Complaint on HUD’s website.
What Type of Documents Are Required For Emotional Support Animal Verification?
” How can you really trust your tenant?”
“What if they are lying about their medical condition?”
Still, you have no right to judge that only a health professional can decide that.
As per FHA, landlords can ask for a valid proof of a document signed by a licensed health professional. This document approves the mental illness of the patient along with the need for ESA assistance. This document is called emotional support animal letter housing. The document needs to be signed only by a state-licensed health professional.
We have already mentioned what type of health professional can evaluate a patient looking for an ESA letter. Other than them, psychologists, physician’s assistants, nurse practitioners, psychiatrists, counselors, therapists, etc., can give an ESA letter.
Now, carefully note this point, not, in any case, accept an ESA registration document.
Many scammers claim to certify ESA and ESA owners with fake ESA registration or certificates from non-healthcare practitioners. Most ESA owners fall for these scams due to fewer prices.
As a landlord, you have the complete right to deny these fake documents.
Even ESA badges, vests, and ID cards are not sufficient proof that an animal is an emotional support animal.
How Much Time Do Landlords Have to Respond to ESA Requests?
Earlier, HUD used to prohibit landlords from delaying the tenant’s ESA request without a valid reason. There was no mention of the exact time interval. However, now landlords are strictly obliged to respond to an ESA application within 10 days after receiving documents.
How Can I Check if the ESA letter is not fake?
To check the authenticity of an ESA letter, you can check the following details of ESA letter:
- Kind of animal registered
- Name and breed of animal
- Issuance date and termination date of ESA letter
- ESA ID number
Along with this, as the central pillar for the genuineness of a landlord, an emotional support animal letter is the licensed health professional. Hence, the letter must contain the following details of the health professional:
- Name and specialty of the therapist
- Type of medical license of a therapist
- Registration number of medical license
- Issuance date and termination date of doctor’s medical license
- Proper Contact details of health professional
Checking these details can confirm the legitimacy of an emotional support animal letter to the landlord. However, if still not convinced, you can check by following methods:
Contacting the therapist: Contacting the renter’s therapist seems to be a straightforward approach. However, you cannot simply call the therapist as you need to first take permission from the tenant for doing it. Now, this is because therapists are not allowed to reveal any information about their patients. Due to duties of confidentiality and Fair Housing rules, therapists are unable to tell anything about the patient. If the renter finds your queries regarding the letter genuine, they can permit you to contact the therapist. Therefore, a therapist can provide you with limited information, such as a therapist can confirm if they wrote the letter or not.
Reach out to Pet Screening: In case you don’t know about Pet Screening, let us explain it to you in simple words. It’s just a third-party service used by landlords and property managers to validate reasonable accommodation requests. You can reach out to them; they can assess the ESA application of your tenant if it stands as per FHA guidelines.
What Additional Proof Can I Demand to Verify That a Pet is an ESA?
If you want to simplify the ESA verification process, you can ask for an additional document other than the tenant’s ESA letter. “Reasonable accommodation form” This form is to be filled by the tenant and the health care professional who approved the ESA application. Through this form, a health care professional confirms that the patient has a mental illness, and that’s why they require accommodation under ADA. What are the details that a Reasonable Accommodation should contain? Details to be filled by tenant:
- Pet’s basic details like type, breed, name, and weight.
- Tenant confirmation regarding ESA application and responsibility if their ESA causes any harm to property or other tenants in the future.
- Contact information of the tenant
Details to be filled by health care professionals:
- Pet’s basic details like type, breed, name, and weight.
- Information about the health professional is the same, as mentioned in the Sample letter to the landlord for emotional support animals, like the doctor’s name specialty, and license details.
- Doctor’s validation for ESA application approval.
- Contact information of a healthcare professional.
Details to be filled by a licensed veterinarian:
- Pet’s basic details like type, breed, name, and weight.
- Information about veterinarians like name and license details.
- Name and time of pet’s last vaccination details.
- Veterinary health professional contact details.
Following the above framework, you can design your reasonable accommodation form for tenants.
Emotional Support Animal Breed Restrictions:
As per HUD, Housing, And Urban Development, a landlord can’t deny an emotional support animal based on its size, breed, or weight. However, a landlord has the authority to deny an ESA on their property if an ESA can be a direct threat to the health and safety of other tenants. Here the direct threat is defined as the personalized evaluation that can be carried through objective evidence of an animal’s actual behavior. Clarifying this more, an animal’s threat is not dependent on fear of a particular breed or type of animal or harm caused by other animals of its kind.
Now, we hope you are prepared if any of your tenants come up with the request to keep a pet with them. Suppose they claim their pet to be an ESA. It would help if you were extra cautious. Ask for an ESA letter from them and verify that the ESA letter is through the above-described methods. We understand property management is complex; we wish we have helped you in any sort.
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Looking To Apply For An Emotional Support Animal Letter?
2. Join the video/audio call consultation with the doctor.
3. Get approved and receive your ESA Letter.
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