New Emotional Support Animal (ESA) Law Florida: Complete Condo Guide

New Emotional Support Animal (ESA) Law Florida: Complete Condo Guide

Finding and moving to a new home can be a strenuous experience, even when you like the change you’re making. This is more so when you have an emotional condition or disability and part of your treatment involves having an Emotional Support Animal (ESA). In this case, finding a new home comes with a whole new set of challenges only you and your furry friend can know. And no one needs the added fear and stress of possibly being denied housing or being discriminated against for owning an ESA.

Thankfully, a new Florida law on emotional support animals that went into effect July 1, 2020, explicitly states what you and your current/prospective landlord or HOA can and cannot do regarding Emotional Service Animals. The law applies to all condos, apartments, and rental homes.

Last updated on March 27, 2024.

Woman and her Cat - Ph: Oleg Ivanov

Photo courtesy of Oleg Ivanov

Here’s how the 2020 Florida ESA law empowers both sides: 

— ESA Rules: What a Florida Landlord Can & Cannot Do

A Florida landlord cannot deny housing for a disability or disability-related need. 

Amending the Florida Fair Housing Act, the 2020 ESA law strictly prohibits landlords from denying housing to any person with a disability or disability-related need who owns an Emotional Support Animal or acquires one in the future. This means that it is illegal to deny an emotional support dog in Florida, cat, or other ESA provided you have the proper documentation (see below). 

A Florida landlord cannot ask you to disclose your diagnosis or severity of disability. 

The new Florida ESA law prohibits landlords from requesting any kind of specific information related to the diagnosis, its degree of severity, or even medical records relating to the disability. This further applies to any special forms or routine processes the housing provider may have in place. In case the tenant with an ESA fails to comply with the landlord’s “routine processes,” they still cannot be denied housing. 

A landlord or Florida HOA cannot deny an ESA.

When can a landlord or HOA legally reject an ESA in Florida? If you have a properly documented ESA letter from a licensed health professional, a landlord or Florida HOA cannot deny an ESA. Per Florida law, a landlord or HOA can only deny an ESA, or “deny a reasonable accommodation request for an emotional support animal if such animal poses a direct threat to the safety or health of others, or poses a direct threat of physical damage to the property of others, which threat cannot be reduced or eliminated by another reasonable accommodation.” 

Landlords and HOAs can ask for proof of vaccination per state and local requirements for each emotional support animal, however.

Man playing with two dogs at the beach - Ian Badenhorst

Photo courtesy of Ian Badenhorst

— Most Common Questions About ESA in Florida

Now that we covered the basics of the newest ESA law in Florida, here are some of the most common dilemmas for ESA owners to face.

Does My ESA Need to Be Trained? 

No special ESA training is required. 

Unlike service animals, since the very presence of an Emotional Support Animal helps alleviate symptoms in the affected person, this law does not require ESAs to undergo specific training. So this means that your landlord or condo board cannot require that your emotional support dog have any special training or skills. However, it is highly recommended for owners to train their ESAs on safety and good behavior, especially if it is a dog.  

Can I Be Charged Pet Deposits or Monthly Fees for my ESA?

No additional pet deposit or monthly fees can be charged for an ESA dog or cat. 

The Florida ESA law explicitly prohibits housing providers from charging any additional fees for having an ESA, regardless of their existing pet policies. So, if you have an ESA in a Florida condo, your landlord or HOA cannot charge you pet fees. The exact Florida statute explains more.

 Woman hugging her cat

What Kind of Documentation or ESA Letter Do I need? 

An online ID card, patch, certificate, or other registration is not enough. 

In the past, ESA documentation was not uniform. The Florida ESA law was created, in part, to address a growing concern among landlords and condo boards, whereby tenants had been wrongfully passing off their pets as Emotional Support Animals by obtaining illegitimate ESA letters and certificates online. Or simply having incomplete information. 

Here is the documentation required by law to have an ESA. 

Owners of Emotional Support Animals need to:

  1. Provide written documentation from any federal, state, local government agency, or specified mental health or health care practitioners, telehealth providers, or even out-of-state healthcare practitioners who have provided care/services to the person on at least one occasion, establishing that the person has an emotional disability for which the ESA has been prescribed. 
  2. Provide written documentation to establish the need for an ESA, identifying the particular assistance or emotional support provided by the animal from any of the bodies or practitioners mentioned above.

Who Can Write an ESA Letter? 

As mentioned above, an ESA letter must be written by any licensed federal, state, or local government agency, or specified healthcare practitioners, telehealth providers, or even out-of-state healthcare practitioners who have provided care/services to the person on at least one occasion, establishing that the person has an emotional disability for which the ESA has been prescribed. 

What Are the Requirements for the ESA letter? 

Usually, the ESA letter must be written by a licensed health practitioner or mental health professional who has determined that you have an emotional condition that qualifies as a disability. 

Furthermore, while the ESA letter does not state your diagnosis, your mental or emotional condition should be listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 

Additionally, your healthcare professional will typically need to provide/state the following: 

  • The identified condition substantially limits your ability to participate in at least one major life activity.
  • The professional has determined that an emotional support animal would help treat the condition or ease your symptoms, and this is your prescription for an ESA. 
  • Your ESA letter must be on your therapist’s or licensed health professional’s official letterhead.
  • The ESA letter should include your therapist’s or health professional’s license details, issue date, and state.

Warning: there is disciplinary action against healthcare practitioners providing fraudulent ESA documentation. The new law creates a clause, wherein disciplinary action will be taken against a healthcare practitioner’s license for providing support information or documentation for an ESA without having any personal knowledge of the person’s disability or disability-related need. Explicitly defined as a misdemeanor crime, the convicted person will need to perform 30 hours of community service as per the court’s orders.

I Have More Than One ESA. What Do I Do? 

When it comes to the rules for having multiple ESAs, you are allowed to have more than one ESA. 

However, the housing provider has the right to request information on the specific need being met by each animal, or how each emotional support animal is helping with the owner’s specific emotional needs, along with proof of licensing and vaccination requirements for each of the animals.

Similar to having one ESA, you will need to have a letter for each ESA from your licensed mental health professional. And you may also be wondering how many emotional support animals can you have in Florida? Well, as many as can be justified by a licensed healthcare provider to help you with a specific disability.

While the information mentioned above has been simplified, making it easier to understand, you will find the exact details in the copy of the complete Emotional Support Animal SB1084 document.

At Blackbook Properties, we truly understand the support and love that comes with having an ESA companion. If you have any questions regarding Florida’s ESA law, most pet-friendly Miami neighborhoods, or condo living in Miami, you can call or email us here and we will be happy to help you.

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Cover photo: Roberto Nickson
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