Many individuals with mental health-related disabilities, including depression, anxiety, PTSD and phobias, have Emotional Support Animals (ESA) that provide comfort and relief from symptoms of their condition. California and federal laws protect owners of ESA from discrimination in housing. To qualify an animal as an ESA, the owner must obtain a recommendation letter from a licensed health care professional. Here are some facts that every ESA owner should be aware of regarding the latest federal and California rules.
- Landlords must reasonably accommodate emotional support animals, even if the building’s policy completely bans all animals.
- Landlords cannot restrict based on breed or weight.
- Landlords cannot charge fees and deposits.
- Landlords should respond to ESA requests within 10 days.
- Landlords cannot require the health care professional to use a specific form or make unreasonable demands of them.
- Landlords cannot request details about the tenant’s condition.
- Tenants can make a request for accommodation for their ESA orally or in writing.
- Tenants can request an ESA before or after their tenancy.
- Tenants who do not tell their landlord about your ESA can be subject to eviction if the lease does not allow animals.
- Housing providers must engage in dialogue with their tenants about ESA accommodation requests and explore other options if the request for an ESA is initially denied, such as muzzles, or additional training for the ESA.
- Registrations and licenses are NOT legitimate ways to qualify ESA.
- ESA letters can come from online therapists.
- If you are obtaining an ESA letter for the first time, you must have established a relationship with the doctor, therapist, or social worker at least 30 days beforehand.
- Tenants may have more than one ESA. Each ESA must be covered by the ESA letter. Landlords may consider if the cumulative impact of multiple animals constitutes an undue burden or fundamental alteration.
- For more information on Emotional Support Animals in California access the following links:
Please contact Contra Costa Senior Legal Services if you are having difficulty with issues in rental units related to emotional support animals.