What are the Laws Around Emotional Support Animals & Rental Housing?

Posted By: Mic Burns Educate, Inform, Legislate,

The laws and policies surrounding emotional support animals (ESAs) and rental housing in Alameda County, California, are governed by federal, state, and local regulations.

Here are some key points to consider:


Fair Housing Act (FHA): Under the FHA, landlords in Alameda County are generally required to make reasonable accommodations for renters with disabilities, including allowing ESAs, even if the property has a "no pets" policy.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): The ADA covers public accommodations but does not apply to most rental housing situations. However, it may apply to common areas of multifamily housing complexes.


California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA): The FEHA mirrors the federal Fair Housing Act and prohibits discrimination against tenants with disabilities, including those who require ESAs.

State and local regulations: Alameda County and its individual cities may have additional regulations related to ESAs, so it's important to check local ordinances.


Renters must have a disability as defined by the applicable laws.

A licensed medical professional (e.g., therapist, psychiatrist, doctor, nurse practitoner) must provide a written letter stating that the renter has a disability and that an ESA is necessary to alleviate symptoms of that disability. 


Rental housing providers must provide reasonable accommodations for renters with ESAs, even if their property has a "no pets" policy.

Owners may request and review the ESA letter from a medical health professional.


While rental housing providers cannot charge pet fees or deposits for ESAs, they can charge for any damage caused by the animal beyond normal wear and tear.


There is generally no limit to the number of ESAs a renter can have.

ESAs are not limited to dogs; they can include other animals, depending on the renter's disability and the therapist's recommendation.


The laws apply to most rental housing, including apartments, houses, and condos, regardless of the size of the property.


The ESA letter should be current and written by a licensed mental health professional who is actively treating the renter.

Rental housing provider can request a renewal of the ESA letter annually if the renter's disability is ongoing, though it is not a legal requirement for the renter to continuously provide letters.

It's crucial for both renters and housing providers in Alameda County to be aware of and adhere to these laws and policies to ensure a fair and lawful housing environment for all residents. Additionally, consulting with legal professionals or housing authorities for specific guidance is advisable in case of disputes or questions about ESA accommodations.

Contribution by Mic Burns, EBRHA Membership Services