Be wary of websites that offer verification letters for a fee. The certificates, registrations, and licensing documents sold by these websites are not, by themselves, sufficient to reliably establish that an individual has a non-observable disability or disability-related need for an assistance animal.
Service & Emotional Support Animals
Both service animals and emotional support animals are covered by fair housing laws.
Animals that help alleviate symptoms of a disability can be considered emotional support animals or service animals. Under the Fair Housing Act, you have the right to ask your landlord or property manager for a reasonable accommodation for an emotional support animal. Housing providers are required to make reasonable accommodations, meaning changes in “rules, policies, practices and procedures” if the change is necessary to allow a person with a disability full use and enjoyment of their housing.
What is the difference between a service animal and an emotional support animal?
- Service animals are “individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities,” including guiding individuals who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, assisting a handler who has seizures, etc.
- The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) only recognizes specially trained dogs (and in some cases miniature horses) to be service animals.
- The ADA states that “entities must permit service animals to accompany people with disabilities in areas where members of the public are allowed to go.”
Emotional support animals are NOT service animals.
- Emotional support animals do not have to undergo special training. They are prescribed by a reliable third-party individual who can verify your disability. Be wary of websites that offer emotional support animal “certifications.”
- Emotional support animals can be any animal that provides emotional support or relief of symptoms from a diagnosed disability, and is not limited to dogs or cats.
- Emotional support animals must be allowed in all common areas of your community, but may not be allowed in places of business.
How can I assert my fair housing rights?
- If you have a disability related need for a service animal or an emotional support animal, you can request a reasonable accommodation from your landlord. This can be done verbally or in writing, though best practice is to communicate reasonable accommodation requests in writing.
- Both service animals and emotional support animals are NOT considered pets and you should not be charged pet rent, pet deposit, or other pet fees. Even if the apartment complex has a “no pets” policy, you can request a reasonable accommodation for your service animal or emotional support animal under the Fair Housing Act.
- A landlord can request disability-related documentation ONLY if the disability or disability related need for the animal is not obvious. The letter can be written by your doctor, therapist, or other licensed health care professionals that are familiar with your disability. The letter does NOT need to list what your disability is, only that you HAVE a disability and a service animal or an emotional support animal is needed because of your disability.
You should not be denied housing because you have an emotional support animal or service animal.
If you need assistance with or have been denied a reasonable accommodation, please contact us. HOME can help you understand and advocate for your fair housing rights. There is no charge for any of HOME’s services, and all calls are confidential. Interpreter services are offered in many languages.
The work that provided the basis for this publication was supported by funding under a grant with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.