When Can A Landlord Legally Reject An ESA? 5 Reasons

Reviewed by Jocelyn Chen, BME

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when can a landlord legally reject an esa
ESAs help treat mental health conditions. But landlords can reject them. Photo: Shutterstock

Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) can provide a source of comfort and assistance for individuals that face emotional or mental health challenges on a daily basis. They provide companionship and play an important role in improving the well-being and quality of life for those dealing with a variety of mental health conditions.

Emotional support animals primarily provide companionship, love, and emotional stability. Although they are allowed in most public places and housing, ESAs can be rejected for various reasons by employers, business owners and even landlords.

When Can A Landlord Legally Reject An ESA?

Emotional support animals are very crucial to the owners[1] for emotional and mental stability. In the housing world, landlords are expected to make a “reasonable accommodation”.  However, there are instances when a landlord can legally reject an ESA. Some reasons can include:

  • Insufficient documentation or an illegitimate ESA letter. 
  • Certain property exemptions where the property does not fall under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) guidelines. 
  • Undue financial hardship on the landlord that comes with accommodating an ESA. 
  • ESA is too large or poses a threat or health risk to the landlord or other health risks.

5 Reasons Why A Landlord Legally Reject An ESA

Although a landlord must try to make reasonable accommodations for those with disabilities, if you have an ESA landlords can still legally reject you as a tenant for a variety of reasons. These are some of the instances as to when a landlord can legally reject an ESA in popular states such as Florida, Texas, California, Ohio and other states throughout the country. 

Danger That May Occur 

There can be instances where other tenants or even the landlord themselves may have pet allergies or other conditions that can make it difficult to be around animals. The ESA can also demonstrate disruptive behavior which can make it hard to live around. 

ESA Letter Is Invalid

An ESA letter stating why the animal is needed and how it alleviates a mental health condition is required in order for the owner to use it for housing, travel and employment purposes. However, if the ESA letter is out of date or not from a licensed mental health professional, then a landlord can legally reject the ESA from living on the property. 

The Type Of Property

There are certain housing restrictions that do not need to follow FHA guidelines. Properties exempt from FHA guidelines are: 

  • housing operated by organizations and private clubs that limit occupancy to only members
  • buildings with four or less units where an owner occupies one of the units 
  • single-family homes that are rented without using a realtor

Potential Financial Hardships On the Landlord 

If accommodating an ESA imposes an undue financial burden on the landlord, they may reject them from living on the property, especially if there is risk of property damage or disruptions from the animal. 

The Size Of The ESA

ESAs can be any animal. However, if moving into a smaller home, a large ESA may not be accommodating and can be rejected by the landlord. In addition, if the size and type of ESA can lead to higher maintenance costs for the landlord, the ESA may also be denied.

Emotional Support Animal: What To Know

An ESA is a companion animal that provides comfort, companionship, and emotional support to individuals with diagnosed mental health or emotional disabilities. ESAs can offer various therapeutic benefits to individuals with mental health conditions, including reducing anxiety and alleviating symptoms of depression. 

They differ from service animals, as they are not trained to perform specific tasks or work but are also protected under the Fair Housing Act and Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA).[2] Furthermore, there are no laws stating how many emotional support animals one can own as long as they are on the ESA letter required to have them. 

Fair Housing Act: What Is It? 

The Fair Housing Act (FHA)[3] is a federal law in the United States that prohibits discrimination in housing based on certain protected characteristics. It was enacted in 1968 as part of the Civil Rights Act and is enforced by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). 

The purpose of the FHA is to ensure equal access to housing opportunities for all individuals, regardless of their race, color, religion, sex, national origin, familial status, or disability and prohibits discrimination against them.

These protected classes apply to rental housing, sales, lending, and other housing-related activities. It also states that reasonable accommodations must be made for individuals with disabilities including allowing a person with a disability to have an ESA in a property with a no-pet policy or pet fees.

What To Do If Your ESA Is Denied

It might be tough to hear of an ESA being rejected by a landlord. However, there are steps that can be taken to rectify the situation. 

  • Reviewing and understanding the specific reason provided by the landlord for the denial. Assess whether the denial is valid based on applicable laws, such as the Fair Housing Act (FHA) or local fair housing regulations.
  • Consulting and seeking legal advice from professionals experienced in housing and disability laws. 
  • Providing any additional documentation if the denial is due to insufficient documentation. 
  • Communicate with the landlord and engage in open and respectful communication with them. 
  • File a complaint if you believe the denial violates fair housing laws, with the appropriate housing authority or agency. In the United States, you can file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). 
  • Seek mediation to resolve the dispute. 
  • Consider legal action if all other attempts fail by consulting with an attorney.

4 Steps To Follow To Get A Legit ESA Letter

when can a landlord legally reject an esa
Identifying a mental health problem is critical for overall health. Photo: Shutterstock

Getting an ESA letter is needed for housing and transportation with an ESA. 

Check To See If You Have A Mental Health Problem

A licensed mental health professional can consult with you regarding your mental health and make a professional diagnosis. They are also able to provide an emotional support animal letter if warranted.

Find A Reliable ESA Letter Provider

A licensed mental health provider can legally assess your need for an ESA. If there are no local providers, you can find some of the best legitimate ESA letter providers online.

Ensure Compliance

Make sure the ESA letter meets the specific requirements outlined by housing regulations in your area. It should include all necessary information, such as the professional’s license details and the specific need for an ESA.

Obtain An Emotional Support Animal

If you do not already have a pet to claim as an ESA, you can go to a local shelter or adoption center and find an animal that you bond with and can help you with your mental health and emotional condition.[4] Ensure the animal is properly trained as to not cause disruptions when in public places and in any potential housing.

What Places Help You Get An Emotional Support Animal?

There are several resources that can assist you in the process of obtaining an ESA. 

  • Licensed Mental Health Professional: They not only diagnose and provide an ESA letter but can also direct you where to get an ESA. 
  • Online ESA Services: Online platforms such as CertaPet can assist in helping you not only obtain an ESA letter but suggest places in your area where you can get an ESA. 
  • Support Animal Organizations: Certain organizations specialize in providing support and guidance for obtaining ESAs and may offer resources, educational materials, and connections. 
  • Local animal and adoption centers: These places have resources and connections to finding an ESA and can also provide guidance if a specific animal would aid in your condition. 


While the Fair Housing Act (FHA) generally requires landlords to accommodate Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) in rental properties, there are instances where landlords may legally reject an ESA request.

Valid reasons for rejection include lack of proper documentation, property exemptions, undue financial hardship, and property damage or disruption. However, it is essential for landlords to be knowledgeable about the applicable laws and regulations surrounding ESAs and to approach ESA requests in a fair and reasonable manner. 

Tenants who believe their ESA request has been wrongfully denied should consult legal resources, provide additional documentation if necessary, and, if appropriate, file complaints with the relevant housing authorities. Understanding the rights and responsibilities of both tenants and landlords can help foster a better understanding and adherence to the laws governing ESA accommodations.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can a landlord deny an ESA based on a “no-pet” policy?

No, landlords must make reasonable accommodations for ESAs, even in properties with no-pet policies, under the Fair Housing Act.

Can a landlord charge a pet deposit or additional fees for an ESA?

No, landlords cannot charge extra fees or deposits for ESAs as they are not considered pets but rather assistive aids under the FHA.

Can a landlord reject an ESA due to fear or allergies of other tenants?

No, fear or allergies of other tenants do not qualify as valid reasons to reject an ESA under the FHA unless they pose a direct threat or substantial damage.

Can a landlord require specific breeds or sizes for ESAs?

No, landlords cannot impose breed or size restrictions on ESAs as they are not considered pets and are protected under the FHA.

Can a landlord ask for access to medical records or detailed information about the tenant’s disability?

No, landlords are not entitled to access a tenant’s medical records or detailed information about their disability when considering an ESA request. They can only request a valid ESA letter.

When can a landlord legally reject an ESA in California?

In California,[5] a landlord can legally reject an ESA when knowing the ESA would cause an undue financial burden onto them. They can also reject based on if the animal is a direct threat to others or if they would cause physical damage.

When can a landlord legally reject an ESA in Florida?

In Florida,[6] an ESA can be legally rejected by a landlord if they pose a threat to the safety and health of others or can cause severe physical damage to the property.

When can a landlord legally reject an ESA in Texas?

In Texas, a landlord can legally reject an ESA if there is too much financial and administrative burden, there will be an extreme change in order to allow the animal or if it poses a threat to both safety and health.

When can a landlord legally reject an ESA in Ohio?

In Ohio, an ESA can be legally rejected by the landlord if they are destructive, noisy or out of control. They may also ask for a deposit for any damages that might occur with the animal.

+ 5 sources

MIDSS adheres to strict procurement guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutes, and medical associations. We work mainly with peer-reviewed studies to ensure the accuracy of the information. We avoid the use of tertiary references. You can read about how we ensure the accuracy and timeliness of our content in our editorial process.

  1. O’Haire, M.E. (2017). Research on animal-assisted intervention and autism spectrum disorder, 2012–2015. Applied Developmental Science, [online] 21(3), pp.200–216. doi:https://doi.org/10.1080/10888691.2016.1243988.
  2. Transportation.gov. (2022). Traveling with a Disability | US Department of Transportation. [online] Available at: https://www.transportation.gov/individuals/aviation-consumer-protection/traveling-disability#:~:text=The%20Air%20Carrier%20Access%20Act%20(ACAA)%20is%20a%20law%20that,or%20within%20the%20United%20States.
  3. HUD.gov / U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). (2021). Housing Discrimination Under the Fair Housing Act. [online] Available at: https://www.hud.gov/program_offices/fair_housing_equal_opp/fair_housing_act_overview.
  4. Lloyd, J., Johnston, L. and Lewis, J.B. (2019). Psychiatric Assistance Dog Use for People Living With Mental Health Disorders. Frontiers in Veterinary Science, [online] 6. doi:https://doi.org/10.3389/fvets.2019.00166.
  5. Emotional Support Animals and Fair Housing Law The Civil Rights Department (CRD) is California’s civil rights agency. Among the laws enforced by CRD are the Fair Employment and Housing Act and its implementing regulations. (n.d.). Available at: https://calcivilrights.ca.gov/wp-content/uploads/sites/32/2022/12/Emotional-Support-Animals-and-Fair-Housing-Law-FAQ_ENG.pdf.


Dr. Celeste Small, PharmD
Pharmacist and Medical Writer
Dr. Small grew up in Melbourne, FL and currently practices pharmacy at the Patrick Space Force Base in Cocoa Beach, FL as a contractor pharmacist. In June 2021, she became the CEO of PharmacistConsult.com a medical content website where she writes about both medication and overall healthcare topics. Besides working as a pharmacist full time, she also is a freelance medical writer on the side and has written content for blogs, presentations, and for educational material for various websites and companies. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, going to theme parks, listening to music and enjoying the Florida sun. She is a proud graduate of the University of South Florida in Tampa, FL where she obtained both her Bachelor’s of Science and Doctorate of Pharmacy in 2018. She is currently a licensed pharmacist in Florida.


Jocelyn is a biomedical engineer with extensive experience in stem cell and tissue engineering, computational biology, neurology, psychology, and fertility medicine. She also served as the Editor-In-Chief and other academic editorial roles in the Consilience Journal of Sustainable Development.

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