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How to get a legitimate ESA Letter for Housing
If you’re living with a mental or emotional disability, you may qualify for an emotional support animal (ESA). To prove that your animal is an ESA and not a pet, your landlord can require an emotional support animal letter, or an ESA Letter for Housing. Here’s how to obtain a legitimate ESA Letter in three steps, along with a quick review of the best online providers.
1. Match with an LMHP
If you aren’t already seeing one, the first step to securing a valid ESA Letter is to match with a licensed mental health professional (LMHP), which includes therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, or counselors. Even if you’re seeing a therapist or psychiatrist already, it’s important to check in with them, and make sure that they know how to write a valid ESA Letter.
Just because someone is a licensed medical professional doesn’t necessarily mean that they know the ins and outs of providing this documentation. However, even if your licensed healthcare professional does not know how to write an ESA Letter, they will most likely be able to recommend someone who can.
Online ESA letter providers
You can also obtain an ESA Letter through an online professional (more on this below), which is approved under the guidelines of the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). While it’s important to watch out for fake businesses and scammers, many reliable online ESA services can quickly and easily match you with a licensed mental health professional.
Once you have matched with an LMHP, they’ll determine whether or not an ESA is the best course of treatment for your specific situation. If your therapist believes that the answer is yes, and you do qualify for an ESA, they’ll provide you with an ESA Letter for Housing.
2. Find an Emotional Support Animal (ESA)
If you haven’t already identified an animal that you are looking to certify as an ESA, then the next step will be either adopting or purchasing your assistance animal. While your ESA can be any breed or weight, there are a few things that you may want to keep in mind during your search.
After receiving a valid ESA Letter for housing, by federal law, your landlord must allow you and your ESA reasonable accommodations for housing. However, there are some exceptions to this rule that allow your landlord to legally reject your ESA. Here’s what to keep in mind:
- If your ESA is dangerous or disruptive to the other tenants in the building, then housing providers can reject your ESA.
- While your ESA does not need any special training to perform tasks, it is in your best interest to have your ESA generally disciplined and well-behaved. This means if you have an emotional support dog, it’s important to keep biting and barking to a minimum.
- A landlord may disallow an ESA if it’s too large. For example, if your ESA is a miniature horse and you are attempting to rent a studio apartment, your landlord has probable cause to reject your companion animal.
3. Provide your ESA letter to your landlord
The last step in the process will be receiving your ESA Letter for Housing. Depending on who is prescribing your ESA Letter, you can receive your letter as soon as 24 hours within your LMHP consultation.
Once you have received the document, you can then either provide your landlord with a hard copy or a digital version of the letter. It can also be a good idea to let your landlord know in advance that you’re working on securing an ESA letter and animal—everyone appreciates a heads up.
Best online ESA letter providers for housing
If you aren’t already seeing a licensed mental health professional (LMHP) and need to get an ESA Letter through an online service, here are a few of the top-rated, legitimate providers.
Founded by mental health and animal experts, Pettable has helped more than 10,000 customers in the last year alone. The company has built up a pretty solid reputation in a short amount of time thanks to its strong customer service team and money-back guarantee.
Pettable guides renters through the entire ESA Letter process, and sticks around to provide help and support even after you’ve received your letter (and particularly if any issues occur with your landlord). If you end up not qualifying for an assistance animal, Pettable gives you a full refund, even if you’ve already done a consultation with one of their LMHPs. We like this low-risk approach.
The process of obtaining an ESA Letter through Pettable is also pretty simple:
- Take a short, 5-minute quiz.
- Pettable matches you with a licensed mental health professional in your state.
- Complete your LMHP consultation by phone. This allows your therapist to determine whether or not an ESA is necessary for your mental or emotional disability.
- If your therapist decides to prescribe you an ESA Letter, you receive the document within 24 hours of your consultation.
Pettable offers a free pre-screening with a 100% Money back guarantee. It’s worth checking out.
ESA Doctors is another top-notch emotional support animal letter provider. Not only is this company reliable, but it’s also socially conscious and will donate a percentage of its profits to animal welfare causes. Ample amounts of information regarding service animals, companion animals, and emotional support animals are also available on their site.
Like Pettable, the customer service team at ESA Doctors helps you navigate the ESA letter process, even after you have received your legal documentation. However, it’s important to take note that these services are not complimentary. These extra services fall under “priority support” and cost extra.
With ESA Doctors, the process of obtaining your ESA Letter begins with a pre-screening quiz. Depending on your responses, you will either move forward with a mental health professional evaluation or be deemed ineligible for an ESA. One of the perks to using this service is all of the pricing information will be provided to you upfront. This service will also provide you with a full refund after your evaluation if you do not end up receiving an ESA Letter from ESA Doctors.
CertaPet offers legitimate emotional support animal letters that are fully compliant with federal and state laws. CertaPet’s ESA Letter process begins with a pre-screening and then proceeds to an LMHP consultation. Your therapist will then determine whether or not you are eligible for an ESA.
If you do not qualify for an ESA, your therapist will recommend an alternative approach. If you are eligible for an ESA Letter, they’ll send you the letter via email. You can also opt to get it mailed to you if you prefer a hard copy. One heads up: If you use CertaPet’s services, and you do not qualify for an ESA Letter, you will only receive a partial refund. CertaPet requires that you pay a $35 consultation fee regardless of whether or not you end up receiving a letter from them.
US Service Animals
US Service Animals is another easy-to-use, reliable online service. This company was founded in 2015, and its mission is to educate and assist people with disabilities, as well as provide them with the information they need on service animals, ESAs, and psychiatric service dogs. US Service Animals consult with licensed mental health professionals in every state across the country and are easily available via phone.
To begin the ESA Letter process with US Service Animals, you can complete a free pre-screening quiz or call US Service Animals to see if you qualify for a free consultation. If you do not end up qualifying for an ESA, US Service Animals you’ll get a full refund, however, they must complete a legal interview first.
Important ESA laws that renters should know
As an ESA owner, it’s important to be aware of emotional support animal laws. This way, you can take control of navigating the ESA process with your landlord, as well as stand up to your housing provider if they are crossing any lines.
The Fair Housing Act
The Fair Housing Act (FHA) is a federal law that prevents housing discrimination and protects the rights of all tenants in their homes. Nationality, sexuality, race, gender, family status, and religion are all protected under this law, and so are those with disabilities. Under the FHA, a disability is defined as an individual with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, as noted by The United States Department of Justice. ESA owners are specifically included in the FHA’s definition of individuals with disabilities.
To protect individuals with disabilities, the FHA requires that landlords make “reasonable accommodation” to tenants who own service and assistance animals. In most cases, reasonable accommodation usually refers to landlords allowing ESA in buildings, even if there is a “no pet policy.” (An example of an unreasonable accommodation would be expecting a landlord to build a stable for your ESA because it is a miniature horse.) Landlords also cannot charge you typical pet rent, pet deposit or pet fees.
FAQ on emotional support animals
Who can prescribe an ESA letter?
ESA letters are prescribed by a licensed mental health professional (LMHP). If an LMHP deems an emotional support animal vital to your general wellbeing and as a support system in helping aid your mental or emotional disability, they will prescribe you an ESA in the form of an emotional support animal letter.
Do ESA letters expire?
If you get an ESA letter and provide it to your landlord, it’s usually good for the entire term of your lease. However, there’s actually very little guidance about this in the Fair Housing Act. If you renew your lease or go month-to-month, and it’s been over a year since you provided an ESA letter to your landlord, it’s not a bad idea to get it updated and resubmitted.
What if I’m no longer seeing the therapist who provided my ESA letter?
If your ESA letter expired and you’re no longer seeing the LMHP who prescribed it, you’ll need to find another source. Take a look at the online providers we reviewed above to help you find one.
How quickly can I get an ESA letter?
It depends on the service or your therapist. It typically takes online providers 1-3 days to issue a letter after they’ve determined that you qualify. If you are seeing a therapist in person, it can sometimes happen the same day. (Depending on their schedule, of course.)
What needs to be included in an ESA letter?
Your letter must be on LMHP’s official letterhead and include their license number and contact info. It must include specific language when stating your qualifying mental health condition and say that the symptoms of your condition benefit from having an emotional support animal. The letter also has to include the LMHP’s request for reasonable accommodation on your behalf.
Should I get pet insurance for my ESA?
Because your animal is not a pet, your landlord or property manager can not charge pet rent, a pet fee or pet deposit. However, this doesn’t mean you won’t still have some extra costs that come with caring for animal. And even though your ESA is not technically a pet, you may want to explore and compare pet insurance options to protect you from unexpected costs or expenses.
You can get a legitimate ESA letter for housing in 3 steps
If you have a mental or emotional disability that an emotional support animal can help with, you’ll probably qualify for an ESA and need an ESA letter for housing. Getting an ESA Letter for Housing can be done in three simple steps but must be provided by a licensed mental health professional, whether that’s provided by a therapist you are currently seeing or through an online provider.
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