Navigating rentals is already a challenge, but more so when your landlord questions your need for an emotional support pet in the apartment.
They may even want to talk to your therapist, which gets you thinking, “Can my landlord call my doctor about my Emotional Support Animal?”
In this article, I am going to cover the answer to this question, and also discuss in more general terms, some of your rights as a tenant with an Emotional Support Animal.
The information contained in this post is for informational purposes only. It is not legal advice. You should seek the advice of a qualified legal professional before making any decisions relating to the topics covered by this article.
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Emotional Support Animals (ESA) are companion animals that give emotional comfort to people with mental health disabilities.
These animals, prescribed by psychologists, can help mentally challenged patients cope with anxiety and other emotional breakdowns.
Emotional Support Animals are not to be confused with Service Animals, which are trained to assist people with mental and physical disabilities.
An ESA is also federally acknowledged to have rights under the Fair Housing Act (FHA), which means you’re legally allowed to own one in rental units.
Under Fair Housing rules provided by the HUD (US Department of Housing and Urban Development), an ESA doesn’t count as a regular pet.
They’re prescribed by therapists as part of a patient’s treatment, making them an exception to the No Pet policy that many rental units impose.
For landlords to allow your ESA to your unit, they will require a certification letter from your therapist.
The letter should state how your ESA helps provide relief to one or more symptoms of your disability. The letter should also have your healthcare provider’s name, contact details, and licensure number as proof.
Now, if your landlord may still feel sketchy about your certification letter, it’s okay for them to verify.
But, they’re not allowed to call your therapist directly because of privacy laws. Neither can they ask about your medical records, as this can be grounds for discrimination.
In most cases, letters with complete details, as mentioned above, should be the only proof that they need.
However, if they want to verify further, they can check state websites for the validity of your therapist’s license number.
Another way for them to double-check is to download the Reasonable Accommodation Form for your therapist to fill out for you.
Although in rare cases, landlords are only allowed to call if there’s written consent from you. Still, they can’t ask anything further than verification.
Landlords also have rights as to why they can’t accommodate your ESA. Only with these valid reasons can they reject your ESA application:
- If your certification letter is inauthentic or expired
- If other people living in the same unit have allergies to certain animals
- If it causes repercussions to insurance
- If your ESA is unmanageable and dangerous
- If the size of your ESA can’t be accommodated (ex. livestock)
Emotional Support Animals are essential to the well-being of tenants with mental disabilities. But, landlords sometimes need to double-check your certification letter.
So, the answer to your question, “Can my landlord call my doctor about my emotional support animal?” is no, they can’t.
They can only verify by looking up your therapist’s license number on the state website or having your therapist fill out the Reasonable Accommodation Form.