Emotional Support Animals and Massachusetts Housing Laws

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In recent years I’ve gotten several inquires from landlords and condominium associations regarding emotional support animals (ESA).

Although state and federal laws clearly prohibit discrimination against people with “service dogs”, the laws are less clear with emotional support animals. 

The Massachusetts’ discrimination law (M.G.L. c. 151B) states:

It shall be an unlawful practice…for…any organization of unit owners in a condominium or housing cooperative to refuse to rent or lease or sell or negotiate for sale or otherwise to deny to or withhold from any person or group of persons such accommodations because…such person is blind, or hearing impaired or has any other handicap.

The same the law requires condominiums and landlords to provide “reasonable accommodations” for such persons.

The mass.gov website quotes the Attorney General as saying,

M.G.L. c.151B may require that an owner modify his/her ‘no pets’ policy as a reasonable accommodation for a person with a disability who requires the use of a service or emotional support animal because of the person’s disability.[1]

I searched for the original source of the quote, but I could not find it.

Based on the foregoing, it seems that a credible claim of discrimination could be made against a landlord and condominium association that prohibited the ownership of emotional support animals at their property.

Anyone seeking permission to own such an animal should provide the property owner with an ESA Letter from a Licensed Mental Health Therapist.


[1] https://www.mass.gov/info-details/massachusetts-law-about-service-animals

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