If you've recently been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, or another mental health disorder that makes going through the routines of daily life seem all but impossible some days, you may find that the love and constant companionship of a dog, cat, or other pet can help reduce your symptoms just as much as (if not more than) medication. However, renting an apartment with one or more pets in tow can be difficult in some areas. Is it legal for landlords to deny your apartment application solely on the basis of your pet if this companionship is essential to your mental health? How can you have your pet officially certified as an emotional support pet? Read on to learn more about your rights under federal and state law when renting an apartment with an emotional support pet.
Can you be prevented from renting an apartment with your pet?
Under state and federal law, landlords are permitted to discriminate against potential tenants for nearly any reason imaginable -- as long as this reason isn't based on a protected category like age, sex, race, ethnicity, disability, or the number of children one has. Landlords are free to advertise a "no pets" policy or impose a one-time or monthly surcharge on tenants who have pets.
However, landlords can't discriminate against someone on the basis of disability -- and if your mental health issue impacts your daily life enough to qualify as a disability (and your pet is needed for emotional support), your landlord may not be permitted to deny your rental application on this basis alone. You may still be assessed a surcharge for cleaning purposes at the end of your lease, but you'll be able to enjoy the same residential benefits as those who aren't dealing with a mental health disability.
How can you have your pet certified as an emotional support pet?
Even if you have a note from your psychiatrist or psychologist explaining your mental condition, this may not be enough to persuade a potential landlord to waive a "no pets" rule. You'll need to provide documentation that your pet is necessary for your emotional stability and have your pet certified through the National Service Animal Registry. This is usually a fairly straightforward process, but may require a separate appointment with your mental health professional to go through all the diagnosis criteria. After your animal is certified, you'll be able to take him or her with you on public transportation and even travel by air together.
Speak to your mental health professional to learn more about emotional support animal certification.Share