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Landlord’s Rights Regarding Emotional Support Animals and Service Dogs

Landlord’s Rights Regarding Emotional Support Animals and Service Dogs

Scott 30 March 29, 2023
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USA Service Dog Registration is committed to helping educate landlords about their rights as well as potential tenants or current tenants prescribed Emotional Support Animals and Service Animals. We want to help you to understand how you can verify a letter without violating the Fair Housing Act (a federal law that protects people from discrimination when they are renting, buying, or securing financing for any housing).

The FHA Prohibits Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities

It is unlawful for a housing provider to refuse to rent or sell to a person simply because of a disability.

A housing provider may not impose a different application or qualification criteria for those with mental or physical disabilities.

The rental fees, sales price, or rental terms or conditions cannot differ from those required by non-disabled persons.

What could happen if Landlord or Management Company violates the Fair Housing Act (FHA)?

When a person with a disability believes that they have been subjected to a discriminatory housing practice, including a provider’s wrongful denial of a request for reasonable accommodation, they may file a complaint with HUD within one year after the alleged denial or may file a lawsuit in a federal district court within two years of the alleged denial. If a complaint is filed with HUD, HUD will investigate the complaint at no cost to the person with a disability.

If their case goes to an administrative hearing, HUD attorneys will litigate the case on their behalf. An Administrative Law Judge (ALA) will consider evidence from them and the respondent. If the ALA decides that discrimination occurred, the respondent can be ordered:

  • To compensate for damages, including humiliation, pain and suffering.
  • To provide injunctive or other equitable relief.
  • To pay the Federal Government a civil penalty to vindicate the public interest. The maximum penalties are $16,000 for a first violation and $70,000 for a third violation within seven years.
  • To pay reasonable attorney’s fees and costs.

What if the ESA is a “restricted breed animal.” Is it still considered and an ESA or Service Dog?

According to the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), “breed, size, and weight limitations may not be applied to an assistance animal.”

Instead, a housing provider may only determine if the specific assistance animal in question poses a direct threat to the health and safety of others.

This determination of a “direct threat” must be based on “individualized assessment that relies on objective evidence about the specific animal’s actual conduct.” It may not be based on fears about a certain type of animal or evidence from damage done by previous animals of the same type.

For example, if a dog has been previously declared a dangerous dog, this may indicate that the dog poses a direct threat in an individualized assessment. However, breed alone will not result in this determination.

Landlord is concerned “restricted breed” emotional support dog or service dog might make cause for insurance to increase or canceled.

Could the owner’s emotional support dog breed be a liability?

An insurance company may label certain breeds of dogs as “dangerous” in its policy. Each reasonable accommodation determination must be made on a case-by-case basis. An accommodation is considered unreasonable if it imposes an undue financial and administrative burden on a housing provider’s operations.

If a housing provider’s insurance carrier would cancel, substantially increase the costs of the insurance policy, or adversely change the policy terms because of the presence of a certain breed of dog or a certain animal, HUD will find that this imposes an undue financial and administrative burden on the housing provider.

This claim must then be substantiated with the insurance company directly and comparable insurance coverage must be considered. If the insurance company has a policy that does not have an exception for an assistance animal, an investigation may be launched against the insurance company for potential disability discrimination.

30 Replies to “Landlord’s Rights Regarding Emotional Support Animals and Service Dogs”

  1. Who can I contact about a motel that wanted to charge me $250 deposit for my emotional support dog that is registered through your website? It’s not the letter but I have a certificate from your website

    1. Hi Candy,
      ESA’s don’t have full access rights like a service animal. Only trained service animals have full access rights at hotels and motels. And in order for your ESA to be legit you are going to need a medical recommendation letter from Dr or Therapist.

      1. So an ESA dog being in a hotel with me doesn’t allow the hotel to charge me an additional rate if I have a therapist or dr note?

        1. Hi Cheryl, only service dogs have full access at a hotel ESA’s are only protected under Fair Housing Act which would be a long term rental.

    2. I have emotional support registered with Id card and medical documents and I was denied a room at the beach they took service animals but not emotional support

      1. Hi Candy,
        ESA’s don’t have access rights under the ADA for short term rentals or hotels, only trained service animals have access to hotels and motels.

  2. Can a management company tell me that I’m not allowed to bring my service dog with me to visit a relative of mine that is renting a house from them? I miss visiting my daughter and grandchildren.

    1. Hi Jray, if you have a fully trained service dog assisting with you with a disabilty he can’t deny you access.

  3. I was looking for a section 8 house and had a meeting with the owner of the house. Introduce my dog and myself he said he would get back with me. I finally called back two days later. He told me he was not going to rent to me because of my dog.

    1. Hi Stanley call our customer service line at 760-283-7783 and a representative will call you back with any information you need.

    2. I had the same issue with my landlord, they told me to get a doctor’s note and they would provide the proper form the Dr has to complete and fax back. My Dr did this and now my ESA is registered as full on Service Animal. Per HUD/Section8, regardless of the reason for the animal, which no one, landlord or hotel has the right to ask why you need the animal or the service that it provides, this is the same as asking you what your disability is, and this is against Fed Law. Keep in Mind, I do live in Michigan, so my states laws may differ from yours. Hopes this helps.

  4. Can a landlord “enforce” a pet addendum? Even if we have registered our pet as well as provided a letter from our doctor stating the need for our ESA?

    1. Hi Alicia, An ESA is not considered a pet as long as you have a valid letter from Dr or Therapist. Make sure your letter is renewed every year as it is only good for one year prescription.

  5. I’m going to be dog sitting for a friend and his dog is an emotional support dog/ or service dog im not sure which. Can they deny me watching his dog for him if he gets me a copy of the letter?

  6. I found an ADU to rent, signed the lease which stated a no pet policy, the landlord signed it as well. On the move-in date, stated on the lease, I sent her a copy of my letter from Psychiatrist regarding my need of service animal that was dated the same day we signed the lease. She didn’t allow me to get the keys because she decided she will not rent to me after I presented her this letter, yet still expects me to pay the rent for the month being that we signed lease agreement. She didn’t even ask for any more information from me or even consider telling me that she changed her mind she flat out ignored my attempts to make contact with her to move in. I even compromised and said I’d make other arrangements for my service animal since at the time he wasn’t officially registered. I’ve had him for a year now, so the process was almost completed, This incident just happened a week ago. He is officially trained and registered now to assist me with my Psychiatric disabilities. Should I file a complaint??

  7. My children & I are a single family, 5 years ago upon moving I was allowed to keep our service puppy with in during COVID-19 shut down, we were given 2 different types of letters for eviction and or get rid of our fur baby, 😭 sorry to say we lost Baby however I kept one of his ID cards, now we have another puppy & under the same realty company, they’re at again & she’s registered also.

    1. Hi Ta,
      You will need to present your landlord with your medical recommendation letter from your Dr or therapist. Without the letter of recommendation they have the right to remove the pet or charge for the pet.

  8. I have been in my apartment complex for almost a year now and my doctor said I needed Service animal. When I asked the rental office last about the policy for service animals, she started I would still need to pay the pet deposit and monthly pet fee. What should I do as far as this? Since I know they can’t do that because it is a service animal

    1. Hi Ashley,
      Do you have a trained service animal or an emotional support animal. In either case it is against the law to charge fees for either. Present your landlord with your written recommendation letter from your Dr and ask them to put in writing why they are charging you fees.

  9. I am looking to move into an apartment and I have a ESA. My question is do I have to provide a letter from the doctor or will the certificate be enough?

    1. Hi Brandy,
      Your letter will need to identify what condition each of your dogs is helping with. Having two is not the norm but it can be done.

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