After struggling for years with mental illness or emotional issues, you probably thought you were destined to live the rest of your life alone and suffering. As difficult as it may be to explain your circumstances, you know that others struggle to understand what you are going through. You may have a psychiatrist or counselor to talk to, but sometimes what you really need is someone to support and comfort you when your condition becomes overwhelming.
This is where your emotional support animal comes in. If you have found a dog to provide that consistent consolation that keeps your depression, anxiety or other emotional issues from making your life unbearable, you certainly want to have that support with you as much as possible. However, if your New York apartment or condo has a no-pet policy, you may wonder if there is a way around it.
Your disability and your rights
You are not alone if you rely on an emotional support animal. Simply by their presence, an ESA can bring relief to someone who is emotionally disabled, and many are taking advantage of the process of having their dogs certified as ESA. However, while the Americans with Disabilities Act does not recognize an ESA as a service animal, the Fair Housing Act prevents your landlord from discriminating against you based on your condition.
You and your dog at home
According to FHA, if you have medical or legal proof of a physical or mental impairment that significantly hinders you from performing at least one activity in your life, you meet the definition of a disabled person. As such, no landlord can refuse to rent to you or to allow your ESA to stay in the building under the following conditions:
- You inform your landlord that you require the services of your dog for emotional support.
- You provide a letter from your mental health care provider explaining your need for the dog.
- You discuss the situation with your landlord, maintaining your right to privacy about your medical condition, and sign a newly amended lease.
- You keep your dog under control, including cleaning up after him or her and ensuring the dog does not bark or otherwise disturb the neighbors.
Your landlord may not charge you a pet fee for an ESA, but any landlord may evict a tenant whose dog — even an ESA — misbehaves, damages property or creates a risk to other tenants.
While the ADA limits the places where an ESA may be admitted compared to those of highly trained service animals, the law is on your side when it comes to housing. If your landlord refuses to rent to you, charges you a pet fee or threatens eviction because of your emotional support animal, you may wish to obtain legal advice to protect your rights.