The Fair Housing Act (FHA) is a federal law prohibiting discrimination against qualified tenants. A disability is identified under the FHA as a physical or psychological condition that greatly restricts one or more major life activities.
Under the FHA, a landlord has the right to demand legal documentation for your animal. This certificate comes from a licensed mental health provider in the form of an ESA Letter.
The FHA guarantees that landlords cannot discriminate against residents with an Emotional Support Animal to help them cope with their mental illness. Even if a person stays in a building that has a "no pets policy” the landlord has to provide an ESA letter for housing under which it offers a reasonable accommodation.
Apart from that, there are very clear rules and regulations in the FHA that protect your rights and confidentiality when it comes to having an ESA. Landlords:
- Cannot ask you to pay any extra fee for having an ESA
- Cannot ask for the details of your illness
- Cannot make a registration for your ESA
- Cannot ask for a special animal training to deal with the disability
These clauses have cleared a point that landlords can require a disability-related ESA letter but cannot ask for a personal medical history of a physically or mentally disabled person. Moreover, it also cannot deny a certain animal breed because there are no breed restrictions in ESA.
Cases where landlords can deny an ESA
While individuals with ESAs are usually secured under the Fair Housing Act, there are certain specific cases where the laws do not extend or where a landlord can refuse an ESA. The Fair Housing Act is not applied to:
- Owner-occupied houses with not more than four apartments
- Houses leased or licensed by the resident without an agent
- ESA poses a threat or disturbance to the patient or damages the property
Cases where landlords refuse to comply
On the other hand, there are cases where some landlords are against ESAs. The Department for Housing often brings charges against such landlords because it is considered as a discrimination and a violation of the FHA laws to keep a resident away from staying with their ESA letter for housing without valid justification. Therefore, an individual can exercise below mentioned legal proceedings against the landlords.
- It can report and lodge an official complaint
- It can sue the owner for discrimination
Nevertheless, it is important to remember and understand your legal rights under the FHA against a discriminatory landlord.