Today there are many online sites that try to scam people into getting registration numbers or licenses for their emotional support animals (ESAs). You do not need anything of the kind. All you need is a legitimate ESA letter written and signed by a licensed healthcare practitioner.
According to the Fair Housing Act, you can present an ESA letter to your landlord if you live in accommodation with a no-pet policy.
The landlord has to accept it unless there’s a really watertight reason for refusing your request.
Who can write ESA letters?
A letter must be written by a licensed healthcare professional to be legitimate.
This includes a licensed general physician, a primary care physician, a licensed therapist or licensed mental health professional.
If the professional is not licensed, the ESA letter won’t be valid.
- If you are already being treated for a mental health condition, you can ask your therapist to write you an ESA letter. When you call for an appointment, you should mention that you need an ESA letter, so the person is prepared.
- If you are not currently undergoing therapy, you can speak to your primary care physician about writing a letter for you. If a primary care physician is in a position to write you a letter, they may be able to recommend a colleague who will do so.
- You can also arrange for online consultation with a mental health professional. An ESA letter you receive after undergoing an online consultation is just as legitimate as one a licensed healthcare practitioner writes in person as long as it fulfills certain requirements.
An ESA letter has to appear on authentic letterhead with contact details and license information.
It needs to state that you have a mental or emotional disability, and an emotional support animal will help you to deal with the symptoms.
The letter must be signed and dated.
ESAPet works with licensed mental health professionals so you know the letter you get from them will fulfill federal and state laws.
After completion of a short assessment, you will have an online consultation with a mental health professional in your state.
For example, for an ESA letter in California, you will consult with a mental health professional in California.
The responsibilities of the healthcare professional
It is up to the licensed healthcare professional to determine whether you qualify for an ESA letter.
If you already have an established relationship with a therapist, this could be an easy conversation.
Healthcare professionals don’t have to use specific forms or name your disability, but they do have to describe how your ESA helps you to manage your symptoms.
For example, an ESA to help with anxiety has a calming effect. If you experience panic attacks, an ESA could give you something to focus on if you feel one coming on and prevent it from escalating.
Healthcare professionals don’t have to provide details to landlords about your disability or supply them medical records.
What landlords can and can’t do
If you give your landlord an ESA letter, they must grant your request, except in a few limited situations where an ESA could potentially pose a health threat or cause harm to others.
They can’t make any further demands on you besides presenting an ESA letter.
If they make a reasonable request, you could offer more information as long as it is not outside the scope of what’s permitted by law.
The Fair Housing Act is a federal law, and landlords have to make reasonable accommodations for ESAs. People who suffer from mental and emotional disabilities should have the same opportunities as others when it comes to housing and have the right to live with their ESAs.
Just some of the conditions where ESAs can have therapeutic benefits include anxiety, depression, PTSD, panic attacks or agoraphobia.
Landlords can’t force you to pay deposits, fees or extra rent for ESAs. They cannot force you to only have a pet of a certain size or breed if your pet is an ESA.
Many landlords are not aware of the laws surrounding ESAs, and a constructive dialogue may be all that’s required to get their compliance.
You will need to have a consultation with a licensed healthcare professional if you believe an ESA is right for you.
This is the only way to get a legitimate ESA letter.
There are many scams that you will need to avoid if you want a valid letter. Just because you get an ESA letter online doesn’t make it any less legitimate than getting it in person.
You just need to make sure that the person who writes it is a licensed professional who knows what it must include to comply with federal and state laws.