Multiple ESAs Need Multiple Disability-Related Reasons

Posted By: Angelita Fisher Blog,

Multiple ESAs Need Multiple Disability-Related Reasons

The question of whether a resident can have more than one emotional support animal (ESA) for the same reason was answered in a recent fair housing complaint filed jointly with the Tennessee Human Rights Commission (THRC) and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).  The investigation resulted in a holding by the THRC that a resident with multiple animals needs independent disability-related reasons for each animal.  

In this case, the landlord had an ESA form for healthcare providers to complete.  If there was a request for multiple ESAs, the form specifically asked the healthcare provider how animal #1 ameliorates symptoms of the resident’s disability and how animal #2 ameliorates symptoms of the resident’s disability.  These were two separate questions on the form. 

The healthcare provider in this case gave the same response to both questions.  He wrote, “provides a source of stress relief, reduction in anxiety, decreases propensity for self-isolation, acts as a source of calm, aiding in concentration and focus in his job and personal life, as well as being able to function in daily life skills in a greater capacity.”   

Because both answers were exactly the same, the landlord granted the request for the first animal and denied the request for the second animal.  The property considered the second animal a pet which meant there was a pet fee and pet rent.  The resident filed a fair housing complaint arguing he was unlawfully denied the second ESA, in violation of fair housing laws. 

After an investigation, the THRC determined the landlord had not violated fair housing laws.  Multiple animals need independent disability-related reasons.  Both animals cannot serve the same function. 

While fair housing attorneys have long held this position, there was no case law, HUD guidance, or published HUD decisions to specifically support this argument.  With this case, landlords should feel more secure in insisting the healthcare provider give independent reasons for the multiple ESAs.