Can a Landlord Deny an Emotional Support Animal? When & Why?

Getting a service dog can be extremely beneficial for you. But at the same time, you are responsible for several legal requirements. As such, if you have an emotional, mental, or physical disability and become eligible for a service dog, you become entitled to housing in `no pets` policy buildings. Also, the law states that you shouldn’t pay additional taxes for your emotional support animal (ESA) or face a breed restriction. 

Do you have a specific question about the subject? Then use the table of contents below to jump to the most relevant section. And you can always go back by clicking on the black arrow in the right bottom corner of the page. Also, please note that some of the links in this article may be affiliate links. For more details, check the Disclosure section at the bottom of the page. 

Do I have to tell my landlord I have a service dog?

To receive all the benefits you are entitled to as a service dog owner, you will have to inform your landlord about your pet. Indeed, you are not obliged by law to do so, but you can avoid a lot of hassle. You can submit a copy of your ESA letter to your landlord so that he gets proof of your unique requirements. 

When to tell the landlord about an emotional support animal?

Overall, if you don’t live in a building that forbids pet ownership, you are not required to inform your landlord. Imagine there is a `no pets` policy, and you fail to mention your support animal before signing the lease.

In that case, you might get evicted under the Fair Housing Act. As such, it is best to be open about your service dog and inform your landlord about your emotional support animal before you sign an agreement. Also, it is helpful to present the ESA letter, so that any further misunderstandings are avoided. 

Do landlords have to allow service dogs?

The answer to this question might be no if there is no specific regulation in your building that prevents pet ownerships. Still, a landlord cannot refuse access to a service dog as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects them.

This means that a service dog is perceived as a therapeutic tool and not as a pet. An emotional support or service dog can be any breed. Also, keep in mind that a landlord isn’t allowed to charge a pet deposit for an emotional support animal.

If you face such demand, you should make an official complaint with the authorities. There are several laws in place that prevent discrimination of individuals with disabilities that might help you manage such a situation. 

When can a landlord legally reject an ESA?

A landlord can legally reject an ESA if the tenant doesn’t have proof of a disability. As there were plenty of cases in which people presented their landlords’ pets under the presumption that they are emotional support animals.

Keep in mind that proof of your disability doesn’t mean that you will have to present your exact diagnosis. A simple notice from your medical practitioner that underlines that you have a disability that requires a service dog is sufficient (check more details in my previous guide “How to ask a doctor for emotional support animal?“) 

Other instances in which you might get rejected include:

  • You have a service dog of a large breed that doesn’t benefit from a small accommodation setup.
  • You have a service dog that ends up causing a lot of distress and damage to other tenants in the building. 
  • The landlord rents a place in a building with four or fewer units, and he lives in one of those units. The Fair Housing Act states that in this situation, the landlord is not obliged by law to allow you to live in with an emotional support animal. 

Emotional support animal and renting

If you’re looking to get an ESA into a new rented place, here’s what you need to do:

  • Get an ESA letter from your therapist
  • Inform your landlord about your ESA and request additional information concerning pets in the building
  • Make sure your support dog is well-trained and behaves at all times
  • Get additional information about your rights under the Federal Housing Act. Make sure you have the required documentation for managing a `no pets` policy. This might require proof of your disability or of the fact that your animal is an emotional support companion.

Service dogs in apartments that don’t allow pets

The first thing you need to know is that the ADA allows any disabled person who relies on a service animal to access accommodation of any type. This includes living environments in which a `no pet` policy is in place.

This happens because service dogs and emotional support animals are not perceived as pets. These animals are viewed as a way to ease your disability’s burden and allow you to perform daily tasks with more independence.

Still, you should make sure that you have the necessary proof to overrule this `no pets` policy. And, of course, if your landlord refuses your request, you should get informed about your legal rights. As such, you can get a letter from a lawyer to clearly explain the case to your landlord.

This is meant to reveal the fact that a service dog is not a pet, and denial of such amenity is subject to legal action. At the same time, you can contact the Department of Housing and Urban Development and submit a complaint. Still, this is not a rapid measure, and it might take some time before you reach a resolution. 


The bottom line is that there are little to no situations in which a landlord can deny and emotional support animal. Still, from a legal point of view, the Fair Housing Act might enable a landlord to reject your request.

That’s because the building has four or fewer units where the landlord lives in one of those. Anyhow, for most of the circumstances, having an emotional support animal represents your legal right.

As such, if you have proof of disability and a certificate for your animal’s service, there is no reason why you should be denied the right to such companionship. 

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