Service & Emotional Support Animals

In this guide, you'll learn how to avoid fair housing violations for service and emotional support animals.

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Service Animals
Emotional Support Animals
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Pet Fees Don't Apply
Damage Caused By Animals


Service and emotional support animals are not considered 'pets' for housing purposes.  Landlords must allow a Tenant to have these animals; provided, however, that the animal qualifies (not always an easy answer).  The rules are different for service animals and emotional support animals.

Service Animals

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines a service animal as any dog* individually trained to provide assistance to a person with a disability. An animal fitting this description is considered a service animal under the ADA regardless of whether the animal is certified by a particular entity or wearing identifying markers.

“No pet” policies cannot be used to deny or limit housing to people with disabilities who require the use of an assistance animal or a service animal because of the disability. The request for a reasonable accommodation may not be unreasonably denied, conditioned on payment of a fee or deposit or other terms and conditions applied to applicants or residents with pets, and a response to an accommodation request may not be unreasonably delayed.

A request for accommodation may be denied if allowing the animal access to the property would impose an undue financial and administrative burden on, or fundamentally would alter the nature of, the housing provider’s services. The request also may be denied if the specific assistance animal poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others that cannot be reduced by another reasonable accommodation, or the animal would cause substantial physical damage to the property of others that cannot be reduced or eliminated by another reasonable accommodation.

Emotional Support Animals (ESA)

Emotional supports animals (ESA) have similar protections to service animals.  Landlords can't deny Tenant applicants that have ESAs.  A Tenant may have an ESA even if a 'no-pet' policy exists.  

Unlike service animals, however, Landlords can require proof of the need for an emotional support animal.  Tenants may be required to produce reliable documentation of the disability and disability-related need for the animal only if the disability or disability-related need is not readily apparent or known to the housing provider.

The Illinois Assistance Animal Integrity Act details the steps a Landlord must take to 'challenge' a Tenant's need for an ESA.

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Pet fees and deposits don't apply

A 'no pets' policy does not apply to service or emotional support animals.  Landlords must make reasonable accommodations for Tenants with disabilities that require the use of an assistance animal or service animal because of the disability.  Landlords may not increase security deposits or otherwise charge pet fees for service or emotional support animals.

Damage caused by the animal

Tenants are responsible for damage caused by service and emotional support animals.  Damage claims are handled similar to other pets.


Reasonable Accommodations and Modifications: A Guide for Housing Professionals (Illinois Department of Human Rights)
HUD Reasonable Accommodations Booklet

* Requires Legal Plan Membership


Assistance Animal Integrity Act - 310 ILCS 120/
White Cane Law - 775 ILCS 30/
Fair Housing Act - Fair Housing Act

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This article is for general information purposes only and should not be considered legal advice or legal opinion on any specific case and/or circumstance.  This article does not create an attorney/client relationship.  No guarantee for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.  The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should be based solely on advertisements.

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