Tenants and landlords can often find themselves in disputes when it comes to animals. Some landlords have strict “no pet” policies, however, what is the rule pertaining to emotional support animals? What are your rights as a landlord?

The Fair Housing Act

If you have tenants that are interested in bringing an emotional support animal into their unit, what are the rules and requirements that need to be followed? The Fair Housing Act is a federal law that have certain parameters pertaining to emotional support animals. A housing provider cannot lawfully impose a different application to people with mental health or physical disabilities. Rental fees and terms cannot be different for people with disabilities than it can be for other people.

Pets and Renters

Pets do provide comfort for many people, and they do have unique housing rights. An emotional support animal (ESA) is defined as one that does aid in assisting individuals with a mental or emotional disability. An ESA does allow a tenant to have an animal that meets certain housing laws. Even apartments with a no-pet policy are required to allow ESAs, and they cannot charge additional fees for the animal.

Emotional Support Animals Letter

An emotional support animal letter is a written request from a tenant to have an animal in their unit. According to Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the “breed, size, and weight limitations may not be applied to an assistance animal.” While there is no official certification pertaining to breed and weight restrictions of service animals it is important to have an ESA document. An ESA must be written by a licensed mental health professional.

Service animals are typically trained to do a specific task for their owner. Most people think about guide dogs when it comes to support animals, however, ESAs can be a cat, dog, or another companion animal. As long as a physician certifies the animal and signs the document, the animal must be permitted.

Verification of ESA letters

How do landlords verify an ESA letter? As a landlord, you can verify a letter, but you cannot have direct contact with the patient’s doctor or mental health provider. Here are the best ways to go about verifying an ESA:

  • Discuss the letter with the tenant. The main goal is to communicate with the tenant and address some of the concerns you may have with the animal. Coming to a mutual understanding is the best way to come to a mutual understanding. Never accuse someone of falsifying a document, or lying about their condition.
  • Verify the license number. Landlords should verify the therapist’s license number by visiting the New Hampshire state website.


Emotional Support Animals and Liability 

Insurance companies do have certain animals labeled as “dangerous.” A reasonable accommodation request and insurance requirements can make it confusing for landlords. A reasonable request is then determined on a case-by-case basis. If the insurance company is increasing the costs due to the service animal breed, it can pose undue financial burden on the housing provider.

Landlords can find themselves dealing with the cancellation of their policy, or can have a significant increase in the policy. HUD does support the landlord as it clearly demonstrates undue financial and administrative burden on housing providers. Due to the difficult understanding of the law, many landlords choose to hire a property management company. The insurance company dispute and HUD can lead to a lawsuit related to discriminatory housing practice.

It is important to be careful when it comes to anything related to the Fair Housing Act. Keyrenter Property Management in New England focuses on ensuring our property owners are meeting the correct HUD parameters.