As a landlord or any other housing provider, you may have received a request from a tenant asking to house an emotional support animal (ESA).
To accommodate tenants with ESAs, housing providers must ensure the request is legitimate and adhere to their Fair Housing applicable laws.
Housing providers must take care to uphold the HUD’s (U.S. Department of Housing) privacy regulations at the same time.
We will look at how housing companies might validate a tenant’s ESA request while abiding by HUD guidelines.
Tenants who are curious about the limitations on what their landlord can ask of them about their emotional support animal will also find this article useful.
What can I ask a tenant to prove that they need an ESA?
According to the Federal Laws of Fair Housing laws, an emotional support animal falls under the category of a service animal.
Landlords are required to permit assistance animals in buildings that do not allow pets, with some restrictions.
Also, housing providers cannot charge assistance animal fees or deposits.
Assistance animals can be of two different types: service dogs and emotional support animals.
If it is obvious from the beginning that the dog has trained to carry out work or activities for a tenant with a disability, the landlord is not permitted to raise any concerns in the case of service animals.
For example, when a dog is seen leading a blind person or pushing a wheelchair, the animal is a service dog, and the landlord must let the dog inside the house.
However, the function of the service animal is only sometimes apparent. In these circumstances, the landlord may pose the following two queries:
- Is disability a reason for an animal?
- What job or job functions has the animal been taught or trained to carry out?
What type of documentation is valid for an emotional support animal?
According to the Fair Housing Act, landlords are entitled to request an emotional support animal letter of reference from a qualified healthcare provider to prove the tenant’s need for an emotional support animal.
Any trained expert familiar with the tenant’s mental health may submit a letter requesting an ESA.
HUD lists the following examples as specific ones:
- Physician’s assistants
- Nurse practitioners
- Social workers
- Licensed counselors and therapists
How can I further verify that a tenant’s ESA letter is genuine?
When a tenant hands over an ESA letter to a housing provider, the provider might ask what kind of verification they can carry out to make sure the letter is authentic.
Only the therapist’s name, phone number, and license number are typically provided in the majority of ESA letters.
You can look up a licensed professional’s license number on the website for that state’s registered professionals to discover if the therapist is currently licensed.
You can use this website to determine whether the therapist is currently registered.
Documents not provided by a registered professional should raise red flags for housing providers.
What can’t I ask regarding a tenant’s emotional support animal?
When dealing with tenants who want accommodations for their ESAs, landlords must take caution so as not to violate their right to privacy.
HUD guidelines state that landlords are not allowed to demand that tenants reveal details about their diagnosis or the severity of their disability.
Some landlords, however, make a mistake by refusing an ESA letter because they think the tenant’s justification for needing an emotional support animal is insufficient.
The use of excessive disclosure of a client’s disease by therapists is banned by ethical standards of confidentiality and the Fair Housing regulations.
It may cause someone to intentionally omit something.
If the landlord is still unsure, he or she may ask for the tenant’s consent before speaking with the therapist.
If the landlord contacts the therapist, they must avoid asking any questions regarding the tenant’s health or history that are against HUD’s rules.
Usually, this means limiting the dialogue to straightforward positive inquiries, such as if the therapist wrote the letter on the tenant’s behalf.
A duty of confidentiality also binds the medical professional; therefore, they are already prohibited from disclosing any more information than what is contained in the letter.
Can I ask for additional proof that the tenant has presented an ESA letter?
Housing providers must not ask for additional proof; They can’t request records like certifications, registrations, or ID cards because they do not have any legal weight and cannot be used to certify an emotional support animal, as mentioned above, officially.
In the past, many landlords have attempted to verify an ESA request by requesting additional papers and attestations from tenants. In order to stop these practices, recent HUD guidelines forbid housing providers from requiring a health care provider to use a specific form, provide notarized statements, make statements under oath, or provide an individual’s diagnosis or other specific information about their physical or mental impairments.
To confirm a tenant’s request for an emotional support animal, the landlord’s primary method is to acquire an ESA letter from a licensed mental health practitioner.
A landlord does not have to rely on the tenant’s word or a questionable registration number or ID card when it comes to an ESA.
Under fair housing laws, a landlord may confirm a tenant’s ESA letter for housing request in writing by providing an ESA letter validated by the tenant’s certified healthcare provider.
However, landlords should proceed cautiously and make sure their actions adhere to their Fair Housing standards when making further questions and demands.