Emotional Support Animals (ESA)
Reasonable Accommodation Requests
Under Fair Housing Act
Attempting to convert an existing family pet into an Emotional Support Animal to avoid deposits, fees or restrictions is disability fraud. Guilty parties can be subject to significant fines, civil liability and/or criminal prosecution depending upon the location.
Emotional Support Animals are legally prescribed only for mental health disabilities.
Rental property residents with emotional support animals (ESA) treatment plans only have civil disability rights when ALL the following conditions are met.
- Must be a FHAct qualifying property…. There are many different exclusions which can exempt any specific location including most individual homes.The only sure way to know a property qualifies is if it is represented by a licensed real estate agent. FHAct does not cover any guests visiting a property or adults not identified in the written lease… No transient property are covered (hotels/motels/camp grounds/sub-leases/religious premises/hospitals/retreats/treatment centers etc.)
- The handler must have a prescribed ESA treatment plan within the last 12 months from a medical professional qualified through government licensing and their education to make a mental health diagnosis under DSM IV+ criteria and write scripts for patients under their treatment. This excludes many general practice MDs and most PhD/counselor/therapists who do not have additional psychiatric or pharmacology education or certifications. While an individual might obtain one a ESA letter from a non-qualified source, these notes are only placebos and offer no legal protection should the individual be challenged in a court of law by the property owner.
- The prescribed handler must make a written request of the property management/owner for an approval for specific exceptions to the terms of a lease or policy and include the medical professional’s mental health diagnosis + ESA treatment plan.The request must be approved prior to bringing any animal on the property. The request should be updated each time a lease is renewed or extended. The handler can expect to complete the property owner’s paperwork which may include verification of the treatment plan directly with the medical professional. When all paperwork has been submitted, the property owner has up to 30 days to consider the request. Any approval or denial should be documented in writing with the reason given.
Do NOT bring any animal on the property without getting a written approval from the property owner first, otherwise you are in-violation, subject to any fees and eviction proceedings. If there is any conflicting testimony, the courts will not use any conditions claimed in a verbal agreement and would instead default to the written terms of the lease.
In all other cases, the animal is legally considered a pet and is subject to applicable restrictions, deposits or fees as found in the terms of the lease rental agreement.
* NON FHAct property owners can decline any ESA requests, can charge pet fees/deposits, can ban breeds and can have no pets policies.
** Invalid treatment plans are a legitimate reason for a property owner to deny an accommodation request. Expect the property owner to verify of any diagnosis directly with your medical professional and validate their credentials. “Are you willing to testify in a court, under the penalties of perjury and/or malpractice, that X person is your patient and you have the authority to make a diagnosis and to prescribe an ESA as part of their treatment plan for Y?”
*** ESAs have no legal status outside of qualified/approved FHAct housing and domestic air travel. They are not considered an assistance animal or service animal under ADA and should only be going with their owners to pet-friendly businesses.
**** Legitimate ESA treatment plans are never found online with a one minute questionnaire website selling letters. It’s 99.9% of the time cheaper and faster to pay the property owners fees than the medical bills associated with a mental health diagnosis and ESA treatment plan.