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6 Situations Where a Landlord Can Legally Reject an ESA (Emotional Support Animal)

Keri-Beth Clur

By Keri-Beth Clur

a man hugging his cat

Emotional Support Animals (ESA) are a vital part of our world and offer incredible support to people with emotional or mental health disabilities, such as PTSD, depression, or autism. They are not recognized as service animals, as they have not been trained for specific tasks. Therefore, they have a few public limitations where service animals do not.

Thankfully, ESAs are recognized under federal law. The Fair Housing Act (FHA) doesn’t legally allow landlords to refuse a person with an ESA to rent from them even if their housing isn’t pet-friendly. However, there are a few situations where a landlord can legally reject an ESA.


The 6 Situations Where a Landlord Can Legally Reject an ESA (Emotional Support Animal)

1. An Illegitimate ESA Letter

Your landlord cannot legally reject an ESA if you have provided them with an ESA letter. If you have an emotional or mental health disability and experience your signs less when your animal is present, you will likely qualify for one of these letters.

You can get an ESA letter from a mental health professional. Most people with mental or emotional health disabilities frequent a licensed mental health professional and can ask them to write and sign an ESA letter to give to their landlord. Otherwise, they can apply for one online.

Your landlord can refuse to accept your letter if it is illegitimate. To avoid ending up with a fake ESA letter, make sure that your healthcare provider is licensed to practice in the country. Also, ensure their license is up to date as well as avoid any counterfeit websites.

an elderly woman sitting while reading a letter
Image Credit: Kindel Media, Pexels

2. Health Reasons

You may have a legitimate ESA letter and a well-behaved ESA, but your landlord can still legally reject it. If your landlord or anyone else who lives on the same property is allergic to your ESA, your landlord can ask you to leave to protect the other residents.

Allergies to fur can vary in severity. Some people may get red, itchy eyes, some may break out in a rash, while others may experience swelling and difficulty breathing. If someone has a severe allergic reaction, they’ll experience all the signs of a mild reaction, but much worse. It is life-threatening, and the person would need to get medical attention immediately.

3. Your ESA Poses a Threat

Animals aren’t exempt from anxiety and fear, not even ESAs. When animals act aggressively towards children, it usually comes from a place of fear. Unfortunately, if your ESA is aggressive toward children and your landlord feels as though the animal is a threat to them, they can reject your ESA from their property.

If you have a big and strong dog that may jump on elderly people on the property, your ESA may also be rejected. If your ESA bumps or knocks an elderly resident over, they can end up severely injured, which is something your landlord would want to avoid.

The same is true if your ESA is poorly behaved, barks constantly, scratches, or bites. Any ESA that poses a threat or disrupts other residents can legally be rejected. To avoid situations, make sure that your animal is well-behaved and has received the necessary obedience and behavioral training.

angry dog
Image Credit: Piotr Wawrzyniuk, Shutterstock

4. Trespassing

A landlord’s responsibility is to make sure their tenants are living in a quiet, safe, and habitable environment. As much as they may love your ESA, they must keep all of their tenant’s best interests in mind.

If your ESA is slipping through fences, jumping over walls, or sneaking into your neighbor’s house, your landlord has the legal ground to reject them. Residents may not appreciate finding your ESA in their home or yard, and they have the right to feel that way.

If your emotional support cat trespasses into your neighbor’s yard, it may be injured by the neighbor’s dog, or a fight may break out.

5. Damage or Financial Strain

Your landlord may reject your ESA if they’ve caused any damage that results in an unnecessary financial loss on their part. Most landlords must maintain their properties and don’t want to experience financial strain because of your ESA.

Dogs chewing on cabinets, cats scratching the door, and birds pecking at the paint on walls all add up for your landlord financially. Whether your ESA caused the damage by accident or from boredom, it will still end up being your landlord’s financial problem, and that’s something that they’re going to want to avoid.

If your ESA has damaged something that you’re able to fix, go ahead and do it. Otherwise, make sure your ESA receives the necessary behavioral training. If your landlord rejects your animal for damage or financial strain, your next landlord may do the same unless you get your it trained.

male domestic cat scratching furniture with front claws
Image Credit: Melissa Sue, Shutterstock

6. Size

The size of your ESA has a huge role to play when it comes to your living arrangements and this ties in with the financial strain that your landlord may experience due to damage.

Miniature horses have become popular ESAs, thanks to their calming natures. As wonderful and emotionally or mentally supportive as they are, it is not fair on your landlord, nor your miniature horse, to house it in your rented apartment.

If an ESA is too large for the residence, your landlord can reject them. A large animal in a small space is going to cause damage to the building. They will also experience distress and anxiety.

Cats, birds, dogs, hamsters, or rabbits are far more suited for apartment buildings or small homes. Of course, if you have an acre of land and a barn on the property you’re renting, housing a miniature horse shouldn’t be much of a problem.



If you’re someone who uses an ESA, make sure to avoid all the above instances so that your landlord has no grounds to reject it. The most important step to take is getting an ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional.

After that, make sure your animal receives the necessary behavioral training to make them the ideal pet to have. If your ESA doesn’t affect the people around you negatively, you should have no issues when it comes to renting.

See also:

Featured Image Credit: Veera, Shutterstock

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