Landlord won't allow an Emotional Support Animal?

One of our veteran's, with an emotional support animal due to PTSD, recently had a run-in with their landlord - who served a 30 day eviction proceeding notice saying they don't allow pets. Well, guess what, by federal law, an emotional support animal is NOT a pet and they cannot do that - it is discrimination under the Fair Housing act.

If you, or anyone you know runs into problems the following summary and links may help you. It is a bit dry - 'cos the law is - but I have tried to make it as easy to read as possible!

What Is An Emotional Support Animal?

An emotional support animal is a companion animal that a medical professional has determined provides benefit for an individual with a disability.

Unlike service animals, emotional support animals do not require training to perform specific tasks. Instead, they provide assistance in reducing the effects of a disabling mental ailment. Though they are not considered service animals, they are protected under the Fair Housing Act - a federal law that prevents discrimination against tenants in their homes.

You can have an Emotional Support Animal in rented accommodation even if they say “no pets” - The Fair Housing Act

Under the Fair Housing Act, a disability is defined as a physical or mental impairment which significantly limits a person’s major life activities. Even if a lease says "no pets" or restricts pets, landlords are required to make what is called a “reasonable accommodation” to allow pets who serve as assistance animals, which includes animals that provide emotional support.

An assistance animal is not a pet according to HUD - which is why pet restrictions and fees are waived for them. They are animals that work, assist and/or perform tasks and services for the benefit of a person with a disability or provide emotional support that improves the symptoms of a disability.

The Fair Housing Act does NOT require an assistance animal to be individually trained or certified. And, while dogs are the most common type of assistance animal, other animals can also be assistance animals. Breed and weight restrictions do not apply to assistance animals. [if !supportLineBreakNewLine] [endif]

Housing covered by the Fair Housing Act

All types of housing, including public housing, are covered by the FHA except:

1. Rental dwellings of four or less units, where one unit is occupied by the owner

2. Single family homes sold or rented by the owner without the use of a broker

3. Housing owned by private clubs or religious organizations that restrict occupancy in housing units to their members.

What is reasonable accommodation?

A reasonable accommodation is a change in current policies or practices that is necessary to provide an equal opportunity to use and enjoy one’s home. Accommodations must be related to the disability.

What is the act and who enforces it?

It is the Fair Housing Amendments Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. (FHAct, 42 U.S.C.A. 3601 et seq.)

This is enforced by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). They will investigate and enforce any discriminatory behavior constituting a denial or violation of reasonable accommodations.

What can the landlord ask?

There are only two questions that HUD says a housing provider should consider when someone says they want accommodation for an emotional support animal:

1. Does the person seeking to use and live with the animal have a disability — i.e., a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities?

2. Does the person making the request have a disability-related need for an assistance animal? In other words, does the animal work, provide assistance, perform tasks or services for the benefit of a person with a disability, or provide emotional support that alleviates one or more of the identified symptoms or effects of a person's existing disability?

If the answer is "yes" to both, then HUD states the Fair Housing Act requires an exception to a "no pets" rule.

To see the actual notice that states this – click on the link below:

https://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/documents/huddoc?id=servanimals_ntcfheo2013-01.pdf

Getting a Doctor's Letter

In order to prove that a dog is an emotional support animal, you may be asked to have documentation from a licensed professional (doctor, nurse practitioner, psychiatrist, other mental-health professional or social worker) stating that the animal is an essential part of treatment for a disability. A doctor’s letter must have these essential components:

  • It must state that you have a disability. The disability does not need to be identified.

  • It must state that it is the professional opinion of the provider that is it essential for you to have a service/support animal.

  • State that the animal is an essential part of your treatment.

  • Use the term “assistance animal” to differentiate it from a pet.

  • Must be on doctor’s letterhead and have doctor’s signature.

Regardless of whether you are asked to show a doctor’s letter, it is very helpful to have one on file just in case.

Conditions that housing providers apply to pets may not be applied to Emotional Support Animals.

If your landlord allows pets with conditions then these conditions do not apply to an emotional support animal. For example, while housing providers may require applicants or residents to pay a pet deposit, they may not require applicants and residents to pay a deposit for an assistance animal.

Landlord-Tenant Issues

Most landlord-tenant issues involving support or service animals begin with a landlord requesting that a tenant remove a “pet” from their home. It is important to recognize that service and support animals are not “pets” but rather necessary treatment for or assistance with a disability. Service and support animals do not violate pet policies contained in leases or homeowner agreements because they are not pets and should be reasonably accommodated.

When encountered with a request by a landlord in reference to a service or support animal here are two suggestions:

1. Have all appropriate documentation regarding existence of your disability (i.e. doctor’s letter), need for the animal, vaccination records, animal license records, etc. Documentation is important to show that the animal is not a pet.

2. Engage in a courteous conversation with your landlord. Often landlords are either unaware of the laws regarding service/support animals or are unaware that your animal is a service or support animal. With a little education and information most accommodations will be made amicably and constructively.

What do I do if Denial of Accommodation has occurred after I have spoken with my landlord?

If a denial of accommodation has occurred after you have spoken with your landlord about your emotional support animal it may be necessary to get some outside help. Contact HUD and file a complaint. If there is some urgency it is probably best to call them directly. Here’s the nearest office in Tennessee:

KNOXVILLE Fair Housing Enforcement FIELD OFFICE 710 Locust Street, Knoxville, TN 37902

(Director - Vacant) (336) 547- 4000 ext. 2038 Alternate Contact Person: Stephen Moore (865) 474-8214

You can also file a complaint online with HUD if you are denied accommodation. Click on the link below to submit a complaint or get more information on who to contact:

https://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/program_offices/fair_housing_equal_opp/online-complaint

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