How to Get an ESA Letter for Housing

Can I Bring My Emotional Support Animal to My New Home?

Moving with a pet can be challenging, but what about moving with an emotional support animal? It's hard to imagine living without your ESA. They are part of the family and provide invaluable emotional support and assistance for people coping with mental health issues.

Bear in mind that there are different rules for emotional support animals than for service animals. You will need a signed ESA letter if you want to move into rented housing with your emotional support animal. An ESA letter is an official document written by a licensed mental health professional that verifies your need for an emotional support animal. Luckily, obtaining legitimate ESA letters online is straightforward, as long as you use a well-respected telehealth platform.

If you are moving with an ESA, you may want to refer to the latest guidance on assistance animals from the U.S. Department of Housing (HUD).

Do I Qualify for An ESA Letter?

Anyone can own an emotional support animal, but to secure the appropriate documentation, you will need an appointment with a licensed mental health professional, such as a licensed therapist, psychiatrist, psychologist, or clinical social worker. Your primary care physician can refer you to a mental health professional in your area for an in-person visit, or you can use a reputable online service for your ESA letter needs.

If you choose the latter, your appointment will take place virtually, from the comfort of home. Many people rely on ESAs for support with mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, mood disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or post-traumatic stress disorder. The medical professional will assess your mental health needs during your appointment and determine whether your symptoms qualify for an emotional support animal. If they decide you are eligible, they will write you an emotional support animal letter (also known as an ESA prescription letter) that you can show your housing provider.

cat and dog on a hammock

What Do I Need to Know About Emotional Support Animals and Housing?

After obtaining your ESA letter, you may have questions about emotional support animals and housing. Although certain regulations vary between states and localities, the Fair Housing Act applies throughout the United States. Under federal law, ESA owners have the right to live with their emotional support animal, even in rented housing that usually has a "no pets policy." Landlords must also waive pet deposits and pet fees for ESA owners. However, an ESA owner must have a legitimate ESA letter from a licensed therapist.

Dogs and cats are the most common ESAs. However, any creature can be an emotional support animal as long as it helps you copes with the challenges of daily life with a mental illness or emotional disability. The Fair Housing Act specifies that housing providers must make reasonable accommodations for ESA owners. Expecting to live with a large, dangerous, or exotic animal would not be considered a reasonable accommodation.

Useful Facts About ESAs and Housing

If you are considering moving with your emotional support animal, here are some helpful facts you may want to keep in mind.

  • Landlords cannot discriminate against the breed or weight of your emotional support animal and cannot charge you pet fees.
  • Landlords must respond to ESA requests within ten days of receiving them.
  • Landlords cannot require healthcare professionals to use a specific form for ESA letters.
  • Landlords cannot ask for your medical records or sensitive details about your mental health condition.
  • Tenants can make ESA requests orally or in writing.
  • Tenants can make an ESA request before acquiring an ESA.
  • Dogs, cats, small birds, hamsters, gerbils, rats, mice, fish, and turtles can be ESAs.
  • Landlords must engage with tenants about ESA requests.
  • Homeowner associations and co-ops have to follow ESA rules.
  • Tenants can have help caring for their ESAs.
  • You can obtain a valid ESA letter online from a licensed medical professional.

Do I Need to Train My ESA to Get an ESA Letter for Housing?

If you have a support animal that provides emotional assistance for a mental health disability such as anxiety or depression, you will usually be able to obtain an ESA letter. To start the process, arrange an appointment with a licensed mental health professional, either online or in person. Your therapist will evaluate you to ensure you qualify for an emotional support animal.

Getting an ESA letter for housing depends on your mental health symptoms, not the level of training that the animal has completed. Unlike service dogs, which must behave impeccably in public and complete extensive training to help their owners with practical tasks, ESAs are not subject to specific training expectations.

The Fair Housing Act prevents landlords and housing providers from discriminating against ESA owners. However, if you want to live with your emotional support animal, you will be expected to ensure that your ESA can abide by certain expectations. These include being housetrained, behaving well around people and other animals, and not damaging property. 

A certain level of training may also be expected if you want to bring your ESA in public. Although the Americans with Disabilities Act only covers service animals, not emotional support animals, if you speak to the owner of a public establishment or venue and present a valid ESA letter, they may accommodate you. Ensuring that your ESA is well-behaved may help your case.

FAQs About Getting an Emotional Support Letter Online

Is It Difficult to Get an Emotional Support Animal Letter?

Obtaining an emotional support animal letter is relatively straightforward, especially if you choose a legitimate ESA letter provider. They will connect you with a licensed mental health professional who can verify your symptoms and write you a legitimate ESA letter for housing.

Can I Use My ESA Letter When I Move Into My Apartment?

Once you have obtained a valid ESA letter, speak with your new landlord or housing provider about bringing your emotional support animal with you to your next apartment. As long as you have a legitimate ESA letter, you should be able to bring your emotional support animal to live with you.

Can I Get an ESA in Any State?

The Fair Housing Act, which prevents discrimination against the owners of assistance animals, is a federal law in force throughout the United States. You should be able to live with your ESA in any state – just make sure that the mental health professional who signed your ESA letter is licensed to practice in your state.