Renting An Apartment With An Emotional Support Or Service Animal
Are you attempting to rent an apartment with an emotional support or service animal? There are things that you're going to have to know before you begin sending applications to apartment rental companies. Renting an apartment with an ESA (emotional support animal) or SA (service animal) is more than possible, but there are some complications.
Emotional Support and Service Animals Are Different
In the eyes of the law, an ESA is generally considered to be a pet. A service animal is not. ESAs are animals that may be suggested by a therapist and may produce a better outcome for the psychological health of a individual. SAs are animals that are trained to perform specific tasks for the health of a patient. An SA will be protected by law: landlords need to make reasonable accommodations for those with a service animal. Landlords can use their own discretion when allowing an ESA.
Landlords Need to be Notified of ADA Accommodations
A service animal is essentially considered to be an ADA accommodation -- an accommodation for an individual who is disabled. Landlords have to be notified regarding an accommodation. If a tenant moves a service animal to a pet-free dwelling without telling the landlord there is a service animal, the landlord could potentially evict the tenant. But the landlord would not be able to evict the tenant if they notified the landlord earlier.
Accommodations Must Only Be Reasonable
Service animals must be allowed into apartments if reasonable. This can be a gray area within the law. A landlord may be able to deem a service dog unreasonable if it is unfairly disruptive to other tenants. An aggressive service dog, for instance, may lead to a request for removal even if it's a legitimate service dog. A court may be required to determine whether or not an animal is "reasonable" for its environment.
There is no official or universal certification process for an ESA or an SA. For a service animal, landlords are not allowed to ask about the actual medical condition of a tenant -- they are only allowed to ask about what the service animal is trained to do. If an animal is trained to do something specific in a medical capacity (such as detect seizures), it's a service animal rather than an ESA. ESAs have fairly limited protections, but some states do have provisions for them -- if you have an ESA, you should check with your local housing authority laws.