Emotional Support Animals Aren't Pets

Nancy Valladares has a mental disability – she suffers from depression. She was prescribed an emotional support animal to help alleviate the symptoms of her disability and has had her support animal for 3 years.

 Earlier this year, she applied for an apartment at Avesta Capella Apartments.   When applying, she notified the leasing agent that she had an emotional support animal. In March of 2018, when she got her lease and was about to move in, she noticed that her emotional support animal was not listed on the lease, so she mentioned it to the assistant manager. The assistant manager told her that the property doesn’t allow pets and she could be evicted. Then management started charging her a monthly pet fee. Ms. Valladares called Austin Tenants Council (ATC) for assistance.   

 Fair Housing Specialist Cruz Garcia assisted Ms. Valladares with a reasonable accommodation request that asked management to allow Ms. Valladares to have her emotional support animal and waive all pet fees since an  emotional support animal is not a pet. Ms. Valladares was allowed to keep her emotional support animal and she was reimbursed the pet fees that she had been charged. In addition, the property manager apologized to Ms. Valladares for the confusion.   According to the Federal Fair Housing Act as amended, pet free properties must allow disabled individuals to have support and service animals. Support and service animals are not pets; therefore, landlords cannot charge pet deposits, pet fees, or pet rent for the animals. Ms. Valladares stated, “Thank you so much for your help, I would not have been able to do this without the Austin Tenants Council.”

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If you have an emotional support animal or service animal and are being charged a fee or feel you are not being allowed to keep the animal, please call our telephone counseling line at: 512-474-1961.  A counselor will listen to your story and refer you to our fair housing department where a fair housing specialist will respond to you within 24 - 48 hours to review the facts and determine next steps, if any.