Ithaca, NY asked in Landlord - Tenant for New York

Q: Can my landlord not allow a second esa, when I have an actual prescribing doctor for both the first and second?

I have had PTSD, depression, and anxiety since 13 I am now 20. I was given an ESA by my therapist two years ago now in January. I have brought her back and forth between my moms house and college for the last two years, but she had started getting only cat syndrome and not being emotionally supportive after leaving my mom's cats the last time. She yells at my roommates and I all the time, throws things around, and doesn't like being touched, but when I'm home shes more than emotionally supportive. My therapist decided a second one would be beneficial because this is stressing me out and not helping. I asked my landlord out of respect and their response was "we don't like cats and there's no reason to let you have a second" but my cat is continuously getting worse. Can I just notify them and give them a letter? This is the second time its been brought up and I'm really struggling right now. I can't risk being evicted, but it's causing my symptoms to worsen. Any help would be appreciated

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1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
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  • Landlord Tenant Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA

A: It's important to understand the legal framework surrounding Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) in rental housing, especially as it pertains to your situation in New York. Here are some key points to consider:

Fair Housing Act (FHA): Under the FHA, landlords are required to make reasonable accommodations for tenants with disabilities. This includes allowing ESAs that provide emotional support to people with mental health conditions. The FHA applies to most types of housing, including apartments and college dormitories, with a few exceptions.

Documentation for ESAs: Generally, to qualify for an ESA, a tenant must have a letter from a licensed mental health professional stating that the animal provides support that alleviates one or more identified symptoms or effects of a disability. This appears to be the case with your first ESA.

Request for Multiple ESAs: There is no explicit limit to the number of ESAs a person can have. However, each ESA must be individually justified as necessary for the person’s mental health by a healthcare professional. The landlord can request documentation for each ESA.

Landlord's Obligation to Consider: Your landlord is required to consider requests for reasonable accommodations (such as an ESA) and cannot flatly refuse such a request without a valid reason. However, they can deny the request if it imposes an undue financial or administrative burden, or if the specific animal poses a direct threat to the health and safety of others or would cause substantial physical damage to the property.

Communication and Documentation: It's advisable to communicate your request in writing, providing all necessary documentation from your healthcare provider. This establishes a clear record of your request and your landlord's response.

Legal Risks and Protections: A landlord who unjustly denies a reasonable accommodation for an ESA may be in violation of the FHA. However, you also mentioned concern about the possibility of eviction. It's important to balance your need for the ESA with the potential legal complexities of your housing situation.

Seek Legal Advice: Given the complexities and potential for legal dispute, it may be wise to consult with an attorney or a local tenant's rights organization. They can provide advice specific to your situation, including how best to present your request to your landlord and what steps to take if your request is denied.

Alternative Solutions: If your landlord remains uncooperative, explore alternative solutions such as finding a more accommodating living situation or seeking additional support for managing your mental health conditions.

In summary, while you have a right to request reasonable accommodations for ESAs under the FHA, the specific circumstances of your case, including the nature of your housing and your landlord's response, will significantly impact your legal rights and options. Legal consultation is strongly recommended to navigate this situation effectively.

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