Can a Landlord Deny an Emotional Support Animal?

Can a Landlord Deny an Emotional Support Animal?

Emotional support animals (ESAs) are everywhere, but where is the line when it comes to pets vs. ESAs?

Most people choose to have a dog as their support animal, but others have ducks, alligators, insects, and more. Not all of those animals make great house guests. 

But can a landlord deny an ESA? 

We go over what the Fair Housing Act says, how to determine need, and why it's such a tricky area. 

What Is an ESA? 

An emotional support animal is supposed to help and provide comfort to individuals with mental health concerns or some form of disability. 

The most common choice for an ESA is a dog. However, people may choose cats, miniature horses, and other types of animals. Rarer and more unusual choices for an ESA include ducks, pigs, monkeys, turkeys, and peacocks. 

An emotional support animal may help someone with anxiety, forms of trauma, depression, and more. 

That said, it isn't always perfectly clear if there's a distinct difference between an ESA and a pet and whether one provides more benefit than the other. Research on the subject is still inconclusive. 

What the Fair Housing Act Says

According to the Federal Fair Housing Act, individuals with disabilities that require an emotional support animal to function cannot be discriminated against. Landlords can't deny prospective tenants based solely on a disability. They must make reasonable accommodations for such individuals. 

This is where it gets tricky. Allowing an ESA in your rental would be a reasonable accommodation, but you may ask the prospective tenant for proof that will verify the need for the animal. 

For instance, an ESA letter verifies they have a disability and that the service animal alleviates some symptoms or assists somehow. 

Having a No-Pet Policy

For applicants and renters living in a no-pet policy rental, they must prove that their ESA is not just a pet. An ESA letter serves as legal proof. 

ESA letters come from licensed mental health professionals. An individual must undergo an evaluation to receive one. For instance, someone diagnosed with PTSD may rely on an emotional support animal to calm their anxiety. 

You can ask to see an ESA letter to verify the applicant requires the companionship of their animal. 

SA vs. ESA

There's an important difference to note between service animals (SAs) and emotional support animals. Service animals are trained to perform specific tasks to assist someone with a disability. The ADA doesn't require documentation to prove an animal is a service dog. 

Some service animals wear collars or vests that mark them as such, but it isn't required. Papers can't be a condition for allowing a service animal in a rental. 

ESA laws are different from SA ones. Laws can vary by state and local governments. In Maryland, landlords must provide reasonable accommodation for applicants with a valid ESA letter, even on no-pet properties. 

To ensure you're staying compliant, it's best to leave tenant screening to a professional property management group that knows all the local laws. 

Can a Landlord Deny an ESA? 

Emotional support animals provide companionship and support, but can a landlord deny an ESA?

To recap, a landlord can't deny an ESA if the potential applicant has a valid ESA letter, as they must provide reasonable accommodation according to the Fair Housing Act. 

Investing in property management services can help you find the best tenants and comply with all laws required of a landlord. Schedule a consultation to find solutions for all your Baltimore property management needs. 

Blog Home