General Information on Obtaining an ADA Letter

The Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and Title II of the ADA all protect the rights of people with disabilities (mental and physical) to keep animals that provide emotional support, even if pets are prohibited by the landlord. Under these laws, a landlord also cannot require the tenant to pay an additional deposit in order to have the animal. This is true even if other tenants with pets are required to pay a deposit. Diagnoses do not have to be visible; some mental disorders do not manifest in a visible, obvious manner. (i.e., depression). There are no restrictions of species that are allowed to be emotional support animals.

Requirements

  • A tenant must meet the statutory definition of having a “disability”
  • A tenant must have a letter from the appropriate professional, such as a therapist or physician, stating that the individual meets the definition of a person with a disability and that the animal alleviates the symptoms of that disability
  • A tenant must submit a written request to the landlord or manager to waive the “no pets” policy
  • The housing authority or program must receive federal financial assistance
  • The tenant must be able to meet the other rules of tenancy that the building or complex requires
  • The tenant must be able to care appropriately for the animal. He or she must be able to clean up after the animal and walk it in designated areas

Procedures

For a potential or current tenant, a written request must be provided to the landlord or manager asking for a “reasonable accommodation.”

The request should state the diagnosed disability and should explain that the requested accommodation will alleviate the symptoms. It should also include a note from a doctor or therapist that verifies the diagnosis and the need for the animal as a support animal. It is important to note that the details of the disability are not required and no one is required to disclose details of medical history. Further, the landlord or manager can request evidence of a need for a support animal—such as the doctor or therapist’s letter—but it is not necessary to give proof of an animal’s training or certification.

Exceptions

  • If an animal caused or causes damage, the tenant might be held responsible for the cost and the landlord might be able to refuse to allow the pet to remain on the property.
  • If an animal is disruptive to or bothers other tenants, the landlord may be justified in evicting the animal and, perhaps, the person as well.
  • The accommodation must not pose an undue burden to the landlord or manager. A burden can be in the form of costs imposed on the landlord or manager or fundamental changes to the dwelling. Allowing the animal itself does not qualify as an undue burden.
  • If the tenant poses a significant risk to the safety or property of other tenants, he or she can be removed from the protection of the statutes. Evidence must be provided to this point.
  • If there are other reasonable alternatives to lessen the effects of the disability, they can be considered. However, both parties must agree with the alternative(s).