The Fair Housing Act and Emotional Support Animals

Equal Housing Opportunity

What is the Fair Housing Act?

The Fair Housing Act is a Federal Act which protects people from discrimination in housing due to their race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status and disability.

Who is considered a person with a disability under the Fair Housing Act?

Generally, a person is protected by the Fair Housing Act if they have a physical or mental disability that substantially limits one or more major life activities.

What housing is covered under the Fair Housing Act?

The Fair Housing Act covers most housing. In limited circumstances, the Act exempts owner-occupied buildings with no more than four units, single-family houses sold or rented by the owner without the use of an agent, and housing operated by religious organizations and private clubs that limit occupancy to members.

What is an emotional support animal?

An emotional support animal provides emotional support to a person with a disability to help alleviate the symptoms of their disability. An emotional support animal is not a pet.

How are people with disabilities protected by the Fair Housing Act with respect to emotional support animals?

Under the Fair Housing Act a landlord must make necessary reasonable accommodations to allow persons with disabilities to enjoy their housing. Reasonable accommodations generally require that a landlord provide an exception to a rule or policy if doing so would allow a person with a disability to use and enjoy their dwelling.

Since emotional support animals are not "pets," the Fair Housing Act will usually require the landlord to make an exception to its "no pet" policy, as a reasonable accommodation to enable a person with a disability to keep their emotional support animal so that they can fully use and enjoy the dwelling.

Are there exceptions to the reasonable accommodation provision of the Fair Housing Act as it relates to emotional support animals?

As long as the requested accommodation does not constitute an undue financial or administrative burden for the landlord, or fundamentally alter the nature of the housing, the landlord must provide the accommodation.

The tenant is responsible for making sure that the emotional support animal does not bark excessively, or otherwise disturb other tenants.  Further, the tenant's is responsible for the care of the emotional support animal, including the proper disposal of animal waste.



How do I request an accommodation to keep my emotional support animal?

You should contact your landlord, in writing, to request a reasonable accommodation to keep your emotional support animal. You will need to specify that you have a disability and include how your emotional support animal will help ameliorate the symptoms of your disability and permit you to use and enjoy your home. Your request should include a letter from your doctor or therapist verifying your disability and supporting your need for an emotional support animal.

BE AWARE  - There are numerous online companies willing, for a fee, to diagnosis you with a disability and to register or certify your animal to be an emotional support animal. Generally letters from these online companies will not hold up in court.  

For additional information, please contact University of Michigan Student Legal Services at 734-763-9920

-Contributed by Gayle Rosen, Student Legal Services