Do ESA letters expire?

Your guide to ESA letter expiration and renewal

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For those who rely on emotional support animals (ESAs) for their well-being and mental health, maintaining an up-to-date ESA letter is essential.

These letters are not just formalities — they are the bridge between necessity and accessibility, ensuring that your companion, who plays a crucial role in your emotional stability, can remain by your side.


Key insights

ESA letters typically expire within a year but can be renewed.

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To renew your ESA letter, you will need a licensed mental health professional to confirm that you are still in need of an ESA.

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Without a valid letter, you could face challenges in securing housing or traveling with your ESA.

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What is an ESA letter?

“Having an ESA has a proven ability to reduce the signs and symptoms of anxiety, depression, PTSD and other emotional disorders,” said Sarah Jeffries, a mental health first aid trainer at Mental Health First Aid Course in London, England.

“Interacting with an ESA can help bring down stress, lower blood pressure and increase feelings of happiness and relaxation. ESAs are important allies in the fight against treating debilitating mental health disorders.”

An ESA letter, written by a licensed mental health professional (LMHP), grants you certain privileges under the law.

With it, you can live in housing with "no pets" policies without facing discrimination or additional charges, and, in some cases, it may allow you to travel with your ESA on commercial airlines without extra fees.

» MORE: What is equal-opportunity housing?

Can ESA letters expire?

While the Fair Housing Act does not specifically require ESA letters to be renewed, these letters should be treated like prescriptions — they need to come from a medical professional and should be renewed if they expire. Many legitimate ESA letters do expire and need to be renewed.

Watch out for ESA certificates from scam sites that do not require a licensed mental health professional to approve the letter.

» COMPARE: Best ESA letter websites

How to renew your ESA letter

Renewing your ESA letter is essential to maintaining your rights as an ESA handler. Keeping your ESA letter current allows you to demonstrate your need for an ESA, protecting against eviction, pet fees and related housing issues.

The easiest way to renew your ESA letter is to return to the LMHP or ESA letter company that originally provided your prescription. Many ESA letter companies provide a patient portal or renewal link that guides you through the process.

In general, you will log in, fill out a short form and pay the fee. Then you’ll await assessment and approval. If you cannot use the same company, you’ll have to go through the new patient process again.

Renewal letters typically have the same turnaround time as initial letters because they still require review and approval by an LMHP.

Cost to renew an ESA letter

While some ESA letter companies offer discounts for yearly renewals, others don’t. Renewal letters may cost anywhere from $59 to $250, depending on your needs and the company.

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    FAQ

    Can an ESA letter be given to more than one pet?

    Yes. If the LMHP determines more than one ESA benefits the patient, they may include multiple pets in their prescription.

    Can I use an expired ESA letter for housing or travel?

    While some housing and travel authorities may accept an expired or undated letter, many will not. Keep your ESA letter up to date to avoid any problems.

    How many times can I renew my ESA letter?

    There are no laws regarding how many renewals a patient can obtain. Only your LMHP determines your qualifications and ongoing needs.

    What are the potential issues if I don't renew my ESA letter?

    Failure to renew your ESA could result in legal action, such as eviction, by your housing authority. It could also prevent you from traveling with your ESA. It’s best to keep your letter up to date to prevent these complications.

    Bottom line

    Keeping your ESA letter up to date ensures that your emotional support animal remains by your side, providing comfort and stability wherever life takes you. Yes, you will have to pay additional fees to renew your ESA letter, but it can prevent you from running into issues further down the road.


    Article sources

    ConsumerAffairs writers primarily rely on government data, industry experts and original research from other reputable publications to inform their work. Specific sources for this article include:

    1. American Academy of Family Physicians, “Navigating requests for emotional support animal letters.” Accessed March 27, 2024.
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