Emotional Support Animal Laws You Should Know

Jan 19, 2021 | Dogs, Emotional Support Animals

This article provides a brief overview of the Fair Housing Act and the ACAA. In this article itself, we will bring forth different types of protective acts that the owner of an emotional support animal is entitled to, and with these laws, we will also tell you how landlords and airlines must necessarily comply with. We will also be discussing the ESA qualification requirements and how a person can be able to qualify for an ESA.

People owning Emotional Support Animal are protected by two Federal Laws, which are as follows:


What is the Fair Housing Act (FHA)?

The Fair Housing Act states that landlords must allow tenants owning emotional support animals to accommodate their animal companions, even if the residential building that is owned by them has a ‘no pets’ policy. The U.S Department of Housing specifies certain guidelines on how the rules and regulations of the FHA can be implemented to enforce the Fair Housing Rules.


What is the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA)?

The ACAA, on the other hand, states that airlines should allow passengers to fly along with their ESA in the cabin without any extra charges (which are usually applicable to pets). The U.S Department of Transportation imposed some particular guidelines on how an airline must comply with the rules and regulations of the ACAA.


Emotional Support Animal Laws


A brief overview of the two laws that can protect your Emotional Support Animal

Apart from a few exceptions, The Fair Housing Act is applicable to all types of housing in every state, and this comprises rentals, co-ops, and condos. The ACAA is applicable to many U.S. airlines and flights that currently operate within the U.S., as well as carriers that are traveling from and to the U.S. Adding to that, many states have enforced their own specific set of rules that provide various housing rights to people who require the companionship of an emotional support animal. These rules are mostly similar to the rules of the Fair Housing act.

In order to be able to enjoy the privileges and protections offered by these federal laws, you must be legally entitled to have an ESA letter that has been provided by a licensed healthcare professional. Once you get your hands on a valid ESA letter, you will be able to qualify for owning an emotional support animal according to both the laws related to the FHA and the ACAA. If you are having trouble finding a licensed healthcare professional who has a great deal of knowledge and experience about emotional support animals, we at ESA Certificate can get you in touch with such a provider in the state that you are living in. You can start the process of qualifying your present or future pet as an emotional support animal in a legal manner by just clicking on this link.


Click here to start the process of qualifying for an ESA letter


Emotional Support Animal Housing Law

The specific rules and regulations under the Fair Housing Act regarding emotional support animals were formed so that landlords and housing providers will not be able to discriminate against a disabled person’s necessity for having an emotional support animal. The rules related to Fair Housing recognize ESAs to be a kind of assistance animal that is considered as a “sensible accommodation” for any individual having a disability like depression, anxiety, or PTSD. Based on the Fair Housing rules, ESAs unlike normal pets, are exempt from restrictions that a housing provider may put on pets. The government agency known by the name of HUD supervises the Fair Housing Act and looks into discrimination complaints regarding the housing providers. HUD issues guidelines for landlords and tenants to enable them to comply with Fair Housing rules with regard to ESAs. The latest guidance/regulation that has been issued by the HUD was in January 2020.

An ESA is not considered a normal pet under Federal Fair Housing Rules. Therefore, the policies that are in place for pets in a building, will not hold good for an ESA.


Rights of Emotional Support Animal Owners according to the ESA Housing Rules are as follows:

If a tenant has requested to live with his or her ESA, then landlords, apartment owners and managers, HOA’s and co-op boards must follow Fair Housing rules and the guidelines received from HUD. Most housing buildings are covered under the FHA, barring a few exceptions for smaller landlords. If the building has owner-occupied apartments with four or fewer units, and single-family houses sold or rented by the owners without involving an agent, then such buildings are exempt from Fair Housing rules with respect to ESAs.


Under the Fair Housing Act:

  • Homeowners and housing providers are not allowed to restrict with regard to breed, weight, and size of ESAs.
  • Homeowners and housing providers cannot charge fees or deposits with regard to ESAs.
  • Homeowners and housing providers are not permitted to ask about a tenant’s medical situation or history.
  • Homeowners and housing providers can refuse an ESA if they find that by accommodating the ESA they would impose an undue financial burden. Also, the landlord has the right to refuse an ESA if he finds that the ESA could be a threat to others’ health or safety.



Under the Fair Housing Act, one can legally reside in rented apartments, co-ops, condos, homes, etc. with their emotional support animal.

If you look at the HUD guidance, you will find that there is a provision wherein a tenant’s ESA request must be considered and answered by housing providers within 10 days. Homeowners and housing providers have the right to obtain documented proof about ESA from the tenant, and this usually is presented in the form of an ESA recommendation letter issued by a licensed healthcare professional. In the HUD guidance, it says that a good-faith dialogue is required between the homeowner and tenant to try and resolve any issues with respect to an ESA request. While considering ESA requests, if housing providers fail to comply with the obligations under the Fair Housing Act and carry out any unfair discrimination against ESA owners, then they could face serious action by the HUD and civil liability.

In case you are already ESA qualified, have obtained an ESA letter, and ready to find accommodation from your housing provider, then you will find this guide to renting an apartment really helpful.


Emotional Support Animal Travel Law

Under the ACAA, passengers are permitted to fly with their ESA in the airplane cabin without any charge. The Department of Transportation issues guidelines frequently as to how airlines, as well as passengers, must comply with the ACAA requirements. The DOT issued its most recent guidance regarding traveling with emotional support animals in 2019.

The ACAA’s rules with respect to ESAs and air travel do apply to all U.S. airlines, domestic flights, and all flights to or from the United States. Airlines will also generally have their own policy that clearly states requirements for emotional support animals. While planning your travel, we strongly recommend that you check with your airline in advance to be aware of their rules. Do remember to speak with your airline at least 48 hours prior to your departure date and ensure you have submitted all required documentation and met all their requirements for traveling with your ESA.

Airlines are not permitted to charge any passenger a fee to fly with their Emotional Support Animal.


Rules for Emotional Support Animals on Flights

As per the ACAA and DOT guidance, airlines and passengers traveling with emotional support animals must follow these rules:

  • The airline must not charge any fees with regard to your emotional support animal.
  • Airlines should accommodate dogs, cats, and miniature horses that are ESAs.
  • Airlines are allowed to restrict ESAs to one per passenger.
  • Airlines cannot ban an ESA just because it belongs to a certain breed, but they can deny boarding if they have reasons to feel that a particular ESA might be a safety or health risk to others.
  • Airlines cannot put restrictions on ESAs over their weight. However, airlines can determine if the ESA is too large or too heavy to be allowed in the cabin. Always check with your airline to see what their requirements are for accomodating large ESAs.
  • The airline could ask you to contact them at least 48 hours prior to departure to ensure you have submitted all the necessary airline forms.
  • The airline could request that you carry a veterinarian’s letter regarding your ESA’s health or complete a form in this regard.
  • The airline has the right to deny boarding for ESAs that are unusual animals such as snakes, other reptiles, ferrets, rodents, and spiders.



The ACAA permits you to legally fly for free with your emotional support animal.


Emotional Support Animal Qualification Requirements

What differentiates a legally qualified Emotional Support Animal from a pet is a letter from a licensed therapist. It is possible that your current pet is already functioning as your ESA, but to enjoy the rights given to ESA owners, you must make sure your pet is qualified with an ESA letter. With the help of an ESA recommendation from a licensed health care professional, you may qualify for one or more ESAs to support you with your mental disability or emotional well-being.


An ESA recommendation letter:

  • is issued by a licensed health care professional or licensed mental health professional (LMHP);
  • clearly states that you have a mental or emotional disability (such as severe anxiety, depression, or phobia) and that an ESA is required to overcome the symptoms of your disability;
  • must be necessarily written on the therapist’s letterhead and be signed and dated; and
  • must have the LMHP’s license and contact details to enable the housing provider or airline to verify the letter
Get your animal companion legally qualified as an ESA by acquiring an ESA letter.  qualify for an ESA letter.

ESA laws have been written in such a way that they respect the issues of an ESA owner. It is not at all lawful for landlords and airlines to require the specifics of an ESA owner’s health issues or request for medical records of an individual or his/her medical examination. ESA owners have the privilege to keep their personal and other sensitive information confidential, which includes the data related to their disabilities.


ESA Letter Renewal Requirements

When ESA letters are used for air travel, they are valid only for one year from the date of issue. On the other hand, Fair Housing rules do not clearly state the duration when a letter expires. However, most landlords require a newer ESA recommendation if the original letter is more than a year old. Additionally, the therapist may not validate an ESA letter or ask to submit additional housing forms if the ESA letter is very dated without a recent evaluation and letter on file. Therefore, it is advised that ESA letters for the purpose of housing should also be renewed at least once a year.


Qualifying for an ESA Letter

In case you are struggling to find a licensed healthcare professional, ESA Certificate can help you connect with a professional that is licensed for your state. Our network of licensed professionals are aware of federal ESA rules and the benefits of having emotional support animals. These trusted licensed professionals can evaluate if owning an emotional support animal is the right thing for you and, in case you qualify, will write an ESA recommendation letter that you can thereby submit to your landlord or airline.




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