Q: My landlord says that my emotional support dog cannot be approved, even with my doctor’s letter, because an emotional support dog needs to be at least 1 year old. Everything I’ve read online says otherwise. Do you know where I can find laws stating that my emotional support dog doesn’t have to be 1 year old, so that I can send the information to my landlord?
A: The Fair Housing Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Minnesota Human Rights Act are federal and state laws that protect people with a mental or physical disability against being excluded from housing because they have an emotional support animal. These laws also apply to buildings and apartments that already have a policy in place that does not allow pets. Apartment managers, owners and landlords are required to make a reasonable accommodation for emotional support animals, such as your dog, regardless of the dog’s age; none of these laws mention an animal age requirement.
However, there are some exceptions to this law: Your landlord doesn’t have to allow an emotional support animal if the animal is too large for the rental unit (such as a horse or llama); if the building has only four units or fewer, and the landlord lives in one of them; or if the place is a single-family house that is rented without a real estate agent.
Under the Fair Housing Act, a landlord can request proper documentation for your emotional support animal to prove that you are in need of its service. The document may consist of a letter from a mental health professional, such as a licensed therapist, a psychologist or psychiatrist. Your family doctor cannot prescribe you an emotional support animal, since he or she is not considered a licensed mental health professional. In addition, the letter must be signed and printed on the mental health professional’s official letterhead. Some landlords or apartment managers require an additional form, which they provide, that must be filled out by your therapist. The therapists who work with emotional support animal doctors can assist you if your landlord requires any additional document.
Under the Fair Housing Act, your landlord cannot require you to pay extra rent or make a special deposit for your emotional support dog, cannot ask you about your disability, cannot make you register your emotional support dog, cannot require the animal to have any specific training, and cannot refuse to rent to you because the landlord’s insurance doesn’t cover emotional support animals. There is nothing in the law setting a minimum age for an emotional support animal, so the landlord’s requirement that your emotional support dog be at least 1 year old is not supported by the law. Remember that landlords and managers can require their tenants to pay for any damages caused by the emotional support animal. Also, if the animal is disruptive and threatens other tenants, then a landlord may be justified in denying the accommodation.
Kelly Klein is a Minneapolis attorney. Participation in this column does not create an attorney/client relationship with Klein. Do not rely on advice in this column for legal opinions. Consult an attorney regarding your particular issues. E-mail renting questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to Kelly Klein c/o Star Tribune, 650 3rd Av. S., Minneapolis, MN 55488. Information provided by readers is not confidential.