Tenants who thinks that a landlord has violated federal fair housing law with regards to their emotional support animal should contact the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the agency that enforces the Fair Housing Act.
If the discrimination is a violation of a state fair housing law, the tenant may file a complaint with the state agency in charge of enforcing the law. In California, for example, the Department of Fair Employment and Housing enforces the state’s two fair housing laws.
For those who are interested in more of a do-it-yourself approach, we’ve written the following helpful guide.
You’ll find detailed information on filing a fair housing complaint.
Emotional support animal laws.
Ask anyone who owns a pet, and they’ll likely talk about the benefits from companionship and mutual affection. Dogs, cats, and birds are often considered part of the family – ask their owners who will include their furry friend in their family portrait or even their phone’s screen saver.
Heck, I have several rescue dogs, and I love them to pieces.
Emotional support animals and rental housing discrimination.
Many people, however, firmly believe the emotional bond shared with their animal is necessary to their health. Research has proven this bond can successfully ameliorate many psychological, mental, and emotional disabilities. In this way, the animal serves the same purpose as prescribed medication, and going without can substantially limit one’s ability to function on a daily basis.
Animals which address at least one symptom or effect of an emotional disability are commonly known as emotional support animals. Under the federal Fair Housing Act, these animals enjoy special protection and exemptions from a landlord’s pet-related rules. Thus, any qualified disabled person requiring an emotional support animal is eligible to live in communities that have rules limiting or prohibiting pets.
Under federal law, all physically and emotionally disabled persons are entitled to live with their assistance animal.
Providing an emotional support animal letter to your landlord.
Landlords face the challenge of discerning the genuinely disabled from individuals intending to skirt pets rules, such as fees and deposits.
Unlike a service animal (i.e., seeing eye dog), emotional disabilities, by definition, are usually not visually identifiable, which raises the landlord’s need to question the benefit of an emotional support animal.
For example, our clients often suffer from PTSD, which manifests itself into significant issues with sleeping. The bond of an emotional support animal helps address these symptoms, making for a good night’s sleep.
Contrast that to a client who lost their leg. One’s easy to spot, and the other, well, not so much. Rarely will a blind person be denied housing. Sadly, it’s much more common for an individual who has PTSD to be denied their reasonable accommodation request due to the fact their emotional support animal happens to be a German Shepherd Dog.
Apartment denies an emotional support animal.
So, how do you go about protecting your rights for an emotional support animal?
Just present a correctly written emotional support animal letter that:
- is authored by a reliable mental health professional
- verifies your disability
- and your disability-related need for your assistance animal.
Additionally, it’s critical an ESA letter contain every single element required under the Fair Housing Act. With that letter in hand, present that document to your landlord, with the hopes he or she knows and respects fair housing law.
Talking to your landlord about emotional support animal.
For those running into headwinds (aka, your landlord refused to follow the law), the next step is to write, file, and negotiate a perfectly evidenced fair housing complaint with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, with the hopes that agency will quickly secure your rights, thus ensuring you are granted the reasonable accommodation.
It’s that easy. Right?
Phew. Not so much.
Wait, one more thing — to make matters worse, there’s very little available help online for people looking for education, advice on how to take action, or locating advocates who will help protect their housing rights.
Recognizing this need, ESAD has been hard at work developing an online portal featuring fair housing educational, self-help, and advocacy resources.
Emotional support animals and The Fair Housing Act.
To move forward with a reasonable housing accommodation, one must first verify the “disability and disability-related need for the assistance animal.”
Commonly referred to as the “ESA letter” or “doctor’s letter,” these verification statements should be captured in written form by a mental health professional or another “reliable source.”
Overseen and mandated by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, these ESA documents contain a loose, but powerful list of “must have” elements. Unfortunately, neither this list nor an accompanying explanation formally exists.
Complying with HUD’s stealth requirements can get quite maddening at times for the uninitiated.
The fact remains: without a properly written emotional support animal letter issued from a reliable source and which lays out those elements, there’s a good chance your accommodation request could be denied or worse, your discrimination complaint deemed to have no legitimacy.
ESAD has perfected the ESA letter writing formula.
Our team of fair housing experts have filed hundreds of fair housing complaints filed for disabled persons alleging ESA housing discrimination. We’ve identified ten critical base elements required to properly verify one’s disability and disability-related need for an assistance animal.
In our expert opinion, proceeding without these base elements greatly increases the chance of being denied an accommodation. Alternatively, worse, you risk losing the support of a civil rights agency, should the need arise to investigate your claims of ESA discrimination.
For those needing a correctly written emotional support animal letter, click here to learn more.
Can a landlord refuse an emotional support animal based on breed?
Are you at the point where you’re wondering if should file a Fair Housing emotional support animal discrimination complaint?
Well, if that’s where you’re at in life, we strongly suggest completing our no-cost discrimination complaint questionnaire. Packed full of invaluable information, our self-help guide provides an excellent roadmap for those thinking of filing of a complaint.
With regards to the actual filing of a complaint, HUD designed the fair housing complaint process to work entirely outside of the court system. Administratively-based and without the need of an attorney, any person, regardless of household income, can submit a discrimination complaint for review and investigation.
However, please don’t let the simplicity mislead you.
Sure, the submission process is simple, it’s designed to be that way.
The hidden costs of a housing discrimination case.
That’s the upside. The downside? Hundreds of thousands of complaints are filed each year, with less than 10% being investigated.
Filing a complaint and getting HUD to investigate and possibly rule in your favor requires some expertise.
Complaints are investigated based upon ‘prima facie elements of discrimination,’ meaning the complaint is sufficient enough to establish a fact or raise a presumption unless disproved or rebutted. Also, what makes a complaint insufficient? Simply put, if any of their necessary elements are missing, your complaint could be dismissed immediately.
Moreover, that’s the rub for those unfamiliar with this process. Just what needs to go inside a complaint?
What if you don’t know what HUD wants to read in your complaint?
Having examined hundreds of housing discrimination complaints over the years, our fair housing experts know what it takes to avoid an immediate case dismissal.
We make all this knowledge available to our clients, allowing them to identify their necessary elements. With our free, fair housing questionnaire, we’ll help expose the strengths and weaknesses of your discrimination case.
What do you do when you landlord denies your emotional support animal?
To file or not to file – that is the question – aka the landlord denial response.
In our opinion, we believe filing is always the answer, as complaints can be withdrawn at no cost.
Additionally, for those in a time crunch, would filing a complaint today help you tomorrow? Most likely not, as we’re talking moving at the speed of federal red tape.
The fair housing complaint process can take weeks or sometimes months to investigate, and are impacted by factors like:
- geographical location
- case complexity
- the number of complaints in line ahead of you
Emotional support animals and the Fair Housing Act.
Let’s return to those in a time crunch. If you’re in that tight spot, perhaps you’re wondering what you can do right now to win your landlord’s approval for an accommodation?
The apparent low-hanging fruit, as is often the case, is the bottom line.
No landlord wants to be investigated for a federal civil rights violation. Investigations are costly (attorney’s fees quickly running into thousands of dollars). Landlords found guilty could be looking at 6-figures in costs/settlements.
We’ve found most landlords are willing to grant an accommodation and wave pets fees or deposits to those genuinely in need of an emotional support animal, provided the request:
- employs fair housing logic
- Is accompanied by a professionally written ESA letter
Those wrongly denied an ESA accommodation should consider requesting the accommodation using ESAD’s Landlord Denial Letter service.
Before you file a fair housing complaint or claim.
Based upon self-reported answers, our exclusive service produces customized letters tailored to your situation. These letters are intended to educate landlords to applicable and specific fair housing laws while demonstrating the costs of denying a legitimate accommodation request.
In our experience, a correctly phrased letter accompanied by a fair housing compliant ESA Letter often results in landlords granting the accommodation request.
If you are hoping to change the mind of your landlord who unfairly denied your ESA accommodation request, and would like to generate a letter you can use immediately, please click here.
Filing a Fair Housing complaint.
The Fair Housing Act offers protection to anyone who believes they have been subjected to housing discrimination on the basis of their protected class.
To protect your civil rights, the US government moved this entire complaint process outside the court system.
There’s no need to hire a lawyer, filing a complaint is done online, the review process is internal to HUD, and your interaction with that agency is via a telephone call.
However, there’s a yin and yang.
Submitting a complaint is easy (yin). However, convincing HUD to investigate, with the hopes of winning a settlement? Not easy at all. The odds are strongly against you (yang).
The Fair Housing complaint process.
It’s what we term the “secret sauce” … the formula for writing, filing, and negotiating a fair housing complaint.
That formula, like the Coca-Cola formula, is a secret of sorts, and by design, you’re very much on your own What makes it even worse, in our opinion, is when folks hire an attorney, pay the big bucks, and get the same results.
Essentially, within a complaint are mandatory and preferred elements – individual data points that every fair housing complaint should contain. Unfortunately, googling high and low won’t reveal these elements for your perusal and consumption.
Moreover, we believe that is by design, as it’s the chief reason why only a few complaints submitted are ever accepted for investigation, let alone result in a settlement favorable to the consumer.
Can I sue my landlord for housing discrimination?
We, however, know the complaint writing formula.
Through the filing of hundreds of fair housing complaints., our experts have long mastered all the necessary writing elements.
Our proprietary tool helps clients identify these mandatory elements within their own story. With step-by-step instructions and helpful examples, this too will help develop your complaint which contains all the aspects HUD needs for investigation, all without compromising your story.
When completed, our clients can adapt our language for use in their discrimination complaint. Along with a perfected emotional support animal letter, our clients can then submit both to HUD.
Remember – if you do not have an emotional support animal letter built to survive HUD’s scrutiny, your complaint may not withstand the investigation process.
It’s important to keep in mind that an experienced lawyer’s help can be crucial to successfully preparing for, filing, and winning a housing discrimination lawsuit against your landlord (as well as filing a complaint with an administrative agency, such as HUD, or negotiating a settlement outside of court).