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Home > General > When Can a Landlord Deny an Emotional Support Animal?

When Can a Landlord Deny an Emotional Support Animal?

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Emotional Support Animals (ESA) provide valuable help and companionship to many people living with debilitating mental and emotional conditions. Although they don’t have as much access to public spaces as service animals, they are still allowed to live in most housing buildings and properties.

The reason ESAs can live in no-pet buildings is due to the Fair Housing Act (FHA). The FHA has several safeguards set in place to protect ESAs. However, there are still some cases where landlords can legally reject an ESA. So, it is important to know your rights to determine if your ESA has been rightfully or wrongfully rejected.

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What Is the Fair Housing Act?

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Image By:Jose Luis Stephens, Shutterstock

According to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), “The Fair Housing Act protects people from discrimination when they are renting or a buying a home.”

Renters and buyers are protected from discrimination against race, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and disability. Therefore, if someone has been prescribed an ESA by a licensed mental health professional, landlords cannot deny a tenant application due to an ESA.

Under the FHA, landlords must make reasonable accommodations for the ESA, such as waiving pet fees. These accommodations also apply to no-pet buildings.


3 Reasons a Landlord Can Legally Reject an ESA

The FHA protects most ESAs, but it also lists exemptions based on special circumstances. Here are the most common ways landlords can legally deny an ESA from living on their properties.

1. The Building is Exempt from the FHA

Some buildings and properties don’t fall under the rules laid out under the FHA. The following living situations are exempt from the FHA:

  • Owner-occupied buildings with four units or less
  • Single-family homes sold or rented by the owner without an agent involved
  • Housing operated by a religious organization or private club

Therefore, if you try to apply for housing in any of these buildings, the landlord can legally reject your application.

2.  The ESA is a Danger or Significant Nuisance to Neighbors

The FHA also keeps the safety of other tenants in mind. So, any ESAs that show aggression or excessive barking may be denied by landlords. If your ESA starts to rack up a history of serious complaints from your neighbors, your ESA may no longer be able to live in the building.

3. The ESA Causes Significant Financial Hardship on the Landlord

Landlords may also deny an ESA if they can prove that the ESA is causing financial hardship on them.

For example, if an ESA causes significant property damage, the landlord may use this as a legal reason to remove the ESA from the property.


Illegitimate Reasons for Rejecting an ESA

Some landlords may provide other reasons for rejecting an ESA. The following are common objections landlords might raise:

  • Dog breed
  • Dog size is too big or weight is too heavy
  • Dog is too young
  • Dog isn’t professionally trained or certified
  • The building has a no-pet policy

For the most part, you can contest these reasons to protect your ESA and let it continue to live with you in your home.

What To Do If a Landlord Rejects My ESA

If you believe that a landlord has rejected your ESA without a legitimate reason, there are several actions that you can take.

File a Complaint with HUD

HUD accepts complaints from tenants who may have had their rights violated. You can file a complaint in several ways:

  • Online
  • Email
  • Phone
  • Postal mail

Because there are time limits and deadlines for when you can file a complaint, make sure to submit one right away.

Once you file a complaint, the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO) will follow up with an investigation to determine if your rights have been violated.

Work With a Lawyer to Write a Letter to Your Landlord

You can also enlist the services of a real estate attorney specializing in housing law. The lawyer will be able to help you clearly understand your rights for living with an ESA and help you craft a letter to the landlord, if applicable.



Overall, the FHA protects the rights of people living with ESAs. However, there are still some cases where a landlord can legally reject an ESA.

If you ever feel unsure or believe that your rights as a tenant have been violated, you can either contact HUD or work with a lawyer to sort out your situation.

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Featured Image Credit: Anagarcia, Shutterstock

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