Q. Can my landlord charge me a nonrefundable pet deposit or extra fee to keep my emotional support animal in my apartment?
If you have a medical or mental health professional’s written opinion that your emotional support animal makes it possible for you to perform the functions of daily living, your landlord cannot charge you a pet deposit or a monthly pet fee, according to a 2010 friend-of-the-court briefs filed by the U.S. Justice Department.
Your medical or mental health professional will write you a letter that could make the case that your disability makes it possible for you to participate in the daily activities of life — a reasonable accommodation to make up for your disability. Financial hurdles that could make it harder for you to have this accommodation amounts to discrimination, according to the U.S. Justice Department.
This assertion was made in a case involving a group of tenants in North Dakota who filed a class-action lawsuit against Goldmark Property Management Inc., which manages 10,000 apartment units in that state, Iowa, Minnesota and Nebraska. The company in 2008 started asking cat owners to pay a $200 deposit and an extra $20 in rent; for dog owners, it was a $300 deposit and an extra $30 in rent.
Goldmark officials argued that while tenants with trained, seeing-eye dogs were exempt from the deposit, tenants with companion animals without specialty training were not exempt from the fee, and had to pay. But the U.S. Justice Department disagreed. Goldmark’s motion to have the case against the pet fees dismissed failed.
The need for these emotional support animals as necessary for people with disabilities to fully participate in society has been well-established, according to the brief.
“The FHA (Fair Housing Act) does not require that an animal have training to be accepted as a reasonable accommodation” to compensate for a disability, the brief says.
If the emotional support pet causes damage to the dwelling, however, reasonable accommodation rules do not keep the property management from recouping the cost of repairing the damage.
Need More Information?
An emotional support animal is a type of assistance animal that is recognized as a “reasonable accommodation” for a person with a disability under the federal Fair Housing Act.
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An emotional support animal is a type of assistance animal that is recognized as a “reasonable accommodation” for a person with a disability under the federal Fair Housing Act. An emotional support animal is not a pet. An emotional support animal is a companion animal that provides therapeutic benefit to an individual with a mental or psychiatric disability.
New HUD Guidelines.
HUD's new rules are an update to the Fair Housing Act (FHA) that sought to equalize the ability of people with disabilities to enjoy housing. Under the law, housing providers had to exempt those with disabilities from “no pet” rules and pet fees. But some of the gaps in the rules have been abused by those simply trying to bypass pet rules and fees. Others who are providing the letters have exploited uneducated consumers To comply, Housing Pro 2020 provides multiple clinical sessions between client and an in-state licensed provider.
Therapeutic Relationship Required.
Documentation submitted in support of an assistance animal request must come from a person who has a “therapeutic relationship” with the resident seeking the accommodation. A therapeutic relationship is “the provision of medical care, program care, or personal care services, in good faith, for and with actual knowledge of, an individual’s disability and that individual's disability-related need for an assistance animal by:
- a physician or other medical professional;
- a mental health service provider; or
- a non-medical service agency or reliable third party who is in a position to know about the individual's disability.”
Because a therapeutic relationship requires that care services be provided, in good faith, for an individual’s disability, documentation submitted on the basis of a single visit to a health care provider solely to obtain a “doctor’s note” will generally not be legally sufficient.
Emotional support animal letter for travel.
An emotional support animal provides comfort to support a customer’s diagnosed mental or emotional disorder. Emotional support animals need not have specific training for that function. All must be trained to behave appropriately in a public setting. Acceptable ESAD Int'l emotional support animals are limited to dogs and cats. Your animal must behave appropriately in a public environment. If your 10-pound Chihuahua acts like Cujo, running around the airport on attack mode, the "best ESA letter in the world" won't matter. To qualify, an individual must have a health professional verify:
- A mental health-related disability recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-Fourth Edition (DSM IV).
- A need for the emotional support or psychiatric service animal to remedy the disability’s effects during air travel and activity at your destination
The passenger/client must be currently under the care and treatment of a licensed professional. To comply, Travel Pro 2020 provides a clinical session between client and an in-state licensed provider. Read: ESAD Int'l's service dog fraud policy.
Learn more about qualifying for an assistance animal.
Chaz Stevens is an entrepreneur, former journalist, and well-known activist who has appeared on the front pages of Time, Miami Herald, Guardian, Slate, and the Huffington Post. He’s also appeared on The Daily Show, the Colbert Report, and Fox News.
Chaz lives in South Florida with his two rescue dogs. Before launching ESAD International, he could be found working on IT for IBM, Microsoft, and The Walt Disney World Company. But his favorite job is the one he’s now doing full time — helping people get to a better place.