Most people consider pets to be part of the family, which is why it can be so heartbreaking when numerous accommodations maintain strict no-pet policies. Luckily, in some instances, your animal companion can be exempt from pet-related housing restrictions. If your animal companion provides comfort, relief from loneliness, or helps you feel less anxious or stressed, then it may qualify as an emotional support animal (ESA).
The Fair Housing Act (FHA) provides legal protection and certain rights for ESAs, which, in most cases, guarantees your animal companion a place in your home, even if your housing providers do not usually allow regular pets on the premises. The one document you need to make this all possible? An ESA letter.
Keep reading to learn more about emotional support animal letters and how you can secure one in the most convenient and affordable way possible.
What is an ESA letter for housing?
An ESA letter serves as legal proof that your pet is an assistance animal. This document gives you the legal right to keep your animal in your home, even if your building has a no-pet policy.
How to get an ESA letter
Your current mental health professional can provide an ESA letter or through an online service such as Pettable, which has a built-in network of mental health professionals who are licensed to write ESA letters.
How do you qualify for an ESA?
If your ESA helps lessen one or more of your medical or emotional disability symptoms, you will most likely qualify for an ESA.
How to get started?
See if you qualify for an ESA by taking Pettable’s 3-minute quiz.
What is an ESA letter for housing?
An Emotional Support Animal letter, or ESA letter, is an official document written and signed by a Licensed Mental Health Professional (LMHP).
The general purpose behind ESA letters is to help your landlord understand why you have an emotional support animal, why your ESA must live with you in your accommodation, and why your ESA is no ordinary pet. By providing your landlord with this information, this letter will ultimately allow you to live in a reasonable accommodation with your animal companion, regardless of no-pet policies, under the Fair Housing Act.
In this letter, your LMHP will explain why an emotional support animal is essential for your well being, which will include outlining which mental health symptoms your emotional support animal helps to alleviate, what mental health issues you are currently living with, and an overall recommendation as to why an ESA is an essential part of your “treatment.”
Your letter will also include your LMHP’s license number, type, and the date that the letter was issued. Licensed mental health professionals will also sometimes mention what animal species your ESA is. While this is not required, they also may discuss the breed of your emotional support dog.
If there is a specific reason why you decided to choose a particular animal species as your ESA, licensed mental health professionals may outline this reasoning in your letter.
How to get an ESA letter in four easy steps
It is becoming increasingly common for online mental health professionals to write ESA letters. Online professionals are allowed and approved under the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) guidelines. The process to obtain an ESA letter for housing will differ from person to person and will largely depend on whether you choose to use an online emotional support animal service or not. However, this article will outline what this process will most likely look like for you.
Connect with a licensed mental health professional
Unless you are planning on certifying a current pet or therapy animal as an emotional support animal, it might be best to hold off on adopting an ESA before you have connected with a licensed mental health professional and received your ESA letter for housing.
If you are not currently seeing an LMHP, then the first step in the process will be matching you with a licensed mental health professional, whether that be through an online service or not. Suppose you already have an LMHP, such as a therapist or psychiatrist. In that case, this individual will either provide you with an ESA letter themselves or refer you to another mental health professional who can provide you with this document.
Under HUD’s guidelines, LMHPs include primary care physicians, counselors, psychiatrists, social workers, nurse practitioners, nurses, and physician’s assistants. If you aren’t already seeing an LMHP, don’t panic! As previously mentioned, it is prevalent for pet owners to utilize online resources to obtain this documentation.
For most of these services, potential emotional support animal owners will fill out a short questionnaire, including answering basic questions and providing logistical information. You will then go through a consultation process to see if your designated LMHP believes you are qualified for an ESA.
Receiving your letter
Once your consultation is complete, your LMHP will determine whether or not they believe you would benefit from an ESA. If you have been approved and certified for an ESA, you should receive your official letter by email within one to three business days. Depending on the service you use, you could receive your letter within 24 hours of your consultation. Upon receiving your letter, your emotional support animal will be guaranteed housing rights.
Adopt an ESA
After receiving your ESA letter, you can then move forward with adopting an emotional support animal with peace of mind. While your ESA can certainly be a pre-existing pet or therapy animal, you might be interested in adopting an emotional support animal.
If that is the case, you should first consider adopting an ESA from your local animal shelter or rescue organization. If, however, you are set on a specific breed or animal and have difficulty finding that animal at a shelter, consider reaching out to a responsible breeder.
Take note: if you have never had a pet before, owning an ESA is a long-term commitment and not taken lightly.
For reference, if you choose to adopt an emotional support dog, that dog will most likely live for longer than 10 years. According to the PDSA, the cost of owning a dog falls in the range of $27,074 to $42,545.
Therefore, not only is it essential that you be up for that responsibility, but it is also vital for you to choose an animal or breed with the right temperament for you.
Your ESA should be able to bring you a sense of wellbeing and comfort in times of stress and provide you with emotional support for when you are feeling lonely, anxious, or depressed.
Even though emotional support dogs are the most common type of ESA, keep in mind, your emotional support animal does not need to be a dog. Other common types of emotional support animals include cats, reptiles, birds, and rodents.
Inform your landlord
After you have received your ESA letter and have adopted your ESA, the last step in the process is informing your landlord. If you are moving into a new apartment, you must request reasonable accommodations from your landlord, ideally through email. In your email, you will explain that you have a mental or emotional disability and that your ESA has been prescribed as a part of your treatment to help lessen the symptoms of your disability.
After notifying your landlord, you will want to provide them with your ESA letter, which can be either a digital or hard copy. This email can be sent before or after you sign the lease for your apartment. You are not required to let a landlord know about your ESA before signing your lease.
After receiving your ESA letter for housing, you cannot be evicted from your apartment under the Fair Housing Act, regardless of whether or not your building has a “no pet” policy.
Who can write an ESA letter for housing
An ESA letter for housing must be written by a licensed mental health professional, including primary care physicians, counselors, psychiatrists, social workers, nurse practitioners, nurses, and physician’s assistants.
Even if you see an LMHP, and they are qualified to write an ESA letter, they may not know how to write a valid ESA letter.
Rest assured, if your LMHP doesn’t know how to write the letter themselves, they will be able to help connect you with someone who can, whether that be a person or a reliable online service.
If you decide to opt for an online service to secure an ESA letter, there are a few things you will want to keep in mind.
First, it’s essential to remember that the amount of fake ESA letter services online is increasingly growing. Double-check to ensure that a business is legitimate to see if your LMHP is accredited by the Better Business Bureau (BBB). BBB was created to identify legitimate companies amongst the many fraudulent ones out there.
How do you qualify for an emotional support animal?
If you are suffering from a mental health condition, and your ESA helps alleviate at least one of your symptoms, then you should be qualified to own an ESA.
For example, suppose your emotional support animal can improve your sleep quality, lessen panic attacks or anxiety-related symptoms, lower stress and blood pressure levels, or increase your ability to spend time around other people. In that case, you will most likely be certified as an ESA owner.
What it comes down to is an LMHP must professionally recommend an ESA as a treatment for your mental illness for you to secure an emotional support animal.
While there is no set list of mental health conditions to qualify for an emotional support animal, some of the most common disorders include depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), particular phobias or bipolar disorder.
Best online ESA letter for housing companies
While many online services can provide you with an ESA letter, some are certainly better than others. Below are three top-rated services that will help you get the legitimate certification that you need for a valid ESA letter.
Founded by mental health and animal experts and fully compliant with federal law and state laws, Pettable has built an extraordinary reputation for itself in a short amount of time as a legitimate ESA service.
Accredited by the BBB since May 2021, Pettable has changed the lives of 10,000 loyal customers by providing them with valid ESA letters and consistent support throughout the entirety of their ESA journey. Additionally, Pettable understands the urgency and significance surrounding ESA Letters; therefore, by opting for their services, you will be able to receive your ESA letter within 24 hours of your consultation.
Through Pettable, the process of certifying your pet as an emotional support animal only involves three easy steps.
First, you will complete a 3-minute, free pre-screening, which will allow Pettable to match you with an LMHP that best suits your needs. These questions will primarily relate to why you want to own an ESA and your mental health conditions.
Next, you will have a phone consultation with an LMHP in your state. This therapist will then make a judgment call on whether or not they believe you are qualified for an emotional support animal.
If the answer is yes, you should receive an ESA letter from this therapist within 24 hours of your consultation. This ESA letter will then be ready to either print, download, or share with your landlord.
Two of the main benefits that set Pettable apart from other top-rated services include its excellent customer service and full money-back guarantee.
Pettable’s customer service team is easy to contact. Its official website offers a live chat window, which allows you to contact Pettable regarding any issues with your ESA letter immediately.
Pettable’s customer service team will also provide you with ongoing support, even after you have received your ESA letter from them. This means, if you run into any issues with your landlord, Pettable’s customer service time will be available to speak directly to them about any questions that they might have.
Additionally, if you do not end up qualifying for an ESA after the quiz or consultation, Pettable will offer you a full refund on any paid fees.
- The online process is easy
- Clients will receive a free pre-screening
- 24-hour turnaround for ESA Letter
- Has access to a vast network of LMHPs
- Full money-back guarantee
- Premier customer service team
- May receive marketing emails after use of service — but users can always unsubscribe.
CertaPet is another legitimate online ESA service that you can trust. The CertaPet team has helped over 65,000 people by providing them with valid ESA letters through their dedicated service.
Similar to Pettable, the online process is easy to use. One of the benefits of using CertaPet is that it provides its clients with a pre-screening evaluation at no cost.
Once a customer has completed the screening, they will then consult with an LMHP to determine if you are eligible for an ESA.
If you are deemed eligible, you will then access your ESA letter through the online, secure CertaPet portal.
While CertaPet does provide its clients with a complimentary screening, it does not issue a full refund if you do not end up qualifying for an ESA after your consultation. Therefore, no matter what, customers will be required to pay a $35 consultation fee for the service of the licensed medical professional.
CertaPet also has a loyal and devoted customer service team who is committed to helping CertaPet customers even after they have received their ESA letters.
Take note: CertaPet does include some misleading information on its site. CertaPet’s official site indicates that ESA owners can bring their animal onto an aircraft with no additional fees. While this used to be the case, the Air Carrier Access Act (ACT) protection was altered in 2021 and no longer applies to ESAs.
- Provides a partial refund for ineligible ESA owners
- Fast turnaround for ESA letters
- Fully compliant on federal and state levels
- Offers consultations for both ESAs and PSDs
- Money-back guarantee doesn’t cover consultation fee
US Service Animals
Fully compliant with federal law and state laws, US Service Animals is another reliable, easy-to-use online ESA service.
An interested customer’s registration begins with a quick survey that asks you to provide personal information and logistics. US Service Animals also encourages customers to call and ask if they are qualified for a free consultation.
Like Pettable, US Service Animals provides customers with a full refund if they are determined ineligible for an ESA, with one catch. If ineligible customers would like a full refund, they must go through a legal interview first.
If a customer is deemed eligible for an ESA, they should receive their valid ESA letter within 24 hours of their consultation. Registration is valid for the lifetime of your animal when you utilize USSA’s services.
Founded in 2015, US Service Animals’ mission is to educate and assist people with disabilities through animals. Not only are they one of the leading online destinations for information on Emotional Support Animals, but they also provide detailed information on their site about service animals and the laws surrounding both ESAs and service animals.
US Service Animals consults with mental health professionals in every state and prides itself on being ethical pioneers in the space. The USSA’s customers service team offers ongoing support throughout its customers’ ESA letter process and provides customers with a phone number they can call at all times.
- The online process is easy
- 24-hour turnaround for a legitimate ESA letter
- Has access to a vast network of LMHPs
- Full money-back guarantee
- Registration is valid for the entirety of your animal’s lifetime
- Legal interview required to receive a full refund
- The customer service team will not speak directly with the landlord
Commonly asked questions about an ESA letter for housing
Can a landlord deny an emotional support animal?
No. If you provide your landlord with a legitimate ESA letter, then your landlord cannot deny you and your ESA reasonable accommodation. However, landlords will sometimes make exceptions to that rule if your ESA poses a threat to any other residents in the building.
When to tell a landlord about your emotional support animal?
You can tell your landlord about your emotional support animal before or after you move into the building. You are not required to disclose your landlord about your ESA before moving into your accommodation. The best way to inform your landlord of your ESA is through email while also providing them with your ESA letter.
Can apartments charge for emotional support animals?
No. Even if your apartment building requires a pet deposit or monthly pet fees, ESA owners are exempt from those requirements. No pet fees apply to ESAs or ESA owners because emotional support animals are not considered pets under the Fair Housing Act.
Do emotional support animals count towards the pet limit?
No. ESAs are exempt from all pet-related housing restrictions, which include rules regarding pet breed, size, weight, as well as the number of pets you are allowed to have inside your accommodation.
Do landlords verify ESA letters?
Yes, landlords do occasionally verify ESA letters, especially if there’s a chance that the ESA letter may not be legitimate. Landlords are allowed to verify the license number of your LMHP on relevant websites. However, your landlord cannot request any other documentation or information from you other than an ESA housing letter.
What does an ESA letter for housing look like?
ESA letters vary in format, and there is no strict format that these documents need to abide by.
For the most part, ESA letters will look like doctor’s notes. While there is no specific format for ESA letters, there is detailed information that these documents need to contain, including your LMHP’s license type, signature, and the date of issue.
How long is an ESA letter good for?
While the guidelines vary from state to state, it is best to use an ESA letter within one year of its issue. Some landlords may require you to renew your ESA letter after it passes the one-year mark.