Author Topic: Emotional Support Animals  (Read 3060 times)

Cwadda

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2179
  • Age: 26
Emotional Support Animals
« on: October 12, 2018, 09:59:25 AM »
I'm curious to know landlord (or tenants) opinions on this. I've been approached by prospective tenants coming at me full force saying I had to rent to them and allow their pets (both cats and dogs), as they were emotional support animals. The proof was a letter from a psychologist, who recommended an animal companion for therapeutic treatment.

Is there any case law on this?

Part of me is sympathetic to the argument for emotional support animal accommodations, since they can really be helpful. But the other part of me wonders at which point does allowing animals become unreasonable? If an entire building is no pets, can one person justify bringing them in as accommodation for emotional support?

Disabilities are different. If a person is disabled, IMO dogs are certainly a reasonable accommodation. But does an ESA fall under a disability?

I have a multi family living situation for example. I also don't think it's all that fair to allow one tenant in the building to have pets, but let no one else have them.

What do you think?

Greyweld

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 665
  • Get healthy, save money, kick ass
Re: Emotional Support Animals
« Reply #1 on: October 12, 2018, 10:14:57 AM »
I'm not a lawyer, but just based on a quick google search, a valid ESA approved by a psychologist is protected by the Fair Housing Act and qualifies as a disability.

You might be exempt if it is a multi-unit with 4 or fewer units and you live in one of them, according to this site: https://www.certapet.com/landlords-rights-esa/

One thing I would be curious about was whether all of the animals qualify as ESAs, if the psychologist recommended one, but I could not find any information on this.

FIFoFum

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1928
    • Captain's Log - Mission to Puppy Waystation on Puppy Island
Re: Emotional Support Animals
« Reply #2 on: October 12, 2018, 10:16:04 AM »
Does the Fair Housing Act (FHA) apply to you? If so, the law probably requires you to rent to people with a documented emotional support animal, whether you like it or not.* [Disclaimer that I am not providing legal advice to you - just pointing you to look into it.]

This overrides a "no pet" policy and has nothing to do with whether you have to allow other tenants to have pets.

Note that the FHA is much broader than the definition of a service animal under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA requires that the animal perform tasks that mitigate a specific disability; it excludes animals other than dogs or miniature horses; and it excludes animals whose sole purpose is to provide comfort or emotional support.

People have very strong feelings about these topics: ESAs and access, service animals, whether landlords should rent to pet owners.

My experience (as an assistance dog trainer, pet owner, tenant & former landlord) is that overly restrictive policies on pets are a big part of the problem here. Because the rules are too strict on pets, people lean hard on calling animals an ESA to get access to things like housing and plane travel (the two areas that are legally allowing ESAs). It's hard to draw a line on "legitimate" need or use of a support animal, and the level of training or animal's behavior is unrelated to being labeled as an ESA.

There is a push to get rid of ESA categories, because these dogs (and their people) are increasingly causing harm to other people and other dogs - especially ADA defined service dogs!

FIFoFum

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1928
    • Captain's Log - Mission to Puppy Waystation on Puppy Island
Re: Emotional Support Animals
« Reply #3 on: October 12, 2018, 10:19:36 AM »
I'm not a lawyer, but just based on a quick google search, a valid ESA approved by a psychologist is protected by the Fair Housing Act and qualifies as a disability.

You might be exempt if it is a multi-unit with 4 or fewer units and you live in one of them, according to this site: https://www.certapet.com/landlords-rights-esa/

One thing I would be curious about was whether all of the animals qualify as ESAs, if the psychologist recommended one, but I could not find any information on this.

Almost any animal could be an ESA. That's why a lot of people have pets in the first place! There is some recent pushback in the literature for clinicians indicating that ESAs haven't been studied or researched well as a therapeutic treatment, so it cautions against writing letters/prescribing ESA "treatment" solely because a client asks for it. As far as I know, that's a minority view.

GuitarStv

  • Senior Mustachian
  • ********
  • Posts: 17664
  • Age: 39
  • Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Re: Emotional Support Animals
« Reply #4 on: October 12, 2018, 10:35:06 AM »
Surely there must be guidelines to limit animals for this, right?  Like if I want a two ton non-housebroken hippopotamus as an ESA this would not be acceptable, right?

Johnny Aloha

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 315
Re: Emotional Support Animals
« Reply #5 on: October 12, 2018, 10:42:16 AM »
Surely there must be guidelines to limit animals for this, right?

Don't think so.  I was in an RE conference last week with a lawyer & insurance agent that talked about this.  Anything can be an ESA.

For landlords, it's important to comply with the law.  There are plenty of scammers who will call you, say they have an emotional support donkey, and get your reaction.

If you say "nope, not welcome here" - you are vulnerable for a lawsuit.  If you say "we'd love to have you, please fill out the application and bring proof of the emotional support animal from a licensed medical professional" - you are in compliance with the law.

However, if the emotional support animal ever displays aggression, it's important to document it if you are moving to non-renew or evict.  Specifically applies to dangerous breed dogs, but I guess it could apply to any other animal.

Jon Bon

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1271
  • Location: Midwest
Re: Emotional Support Animals
« Reply #6 on: October 12, 2018, 10:43:17 AM »
Surely there must be guidelines to limit animals for this, right?  Like if I want a two ton non-housebroken hippopotamus as an ESA this would not be acceptable, right?

WRONG! They can have dang near anything. ESA Dog, Cat, Peacock, or Hippo

*Not a lawyer*

But the whole thing is horseshit. This is becoming more common every day. People can have a pack of high energy huskies as their ESA and your apartment is going to be toast.  Nothing you can do about it but go after their security deposit. There is no pet deposit and no pet rent. Because they are not pets, they are considered medical equipment.

No training, no certification necessary. All you need to do is tell your doc you are stressed and get  a note.  And what is also terrible is they are going to change this law at some point and make it harder for people with real issues to have support animals.


GuitarStv

  • Senior Mustachian
  • ********
  • Posts: 17664
  • Age: 39
  • Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Re: Emotional Support Animals
« Reply #7 on: October 12, 2018, 10:48:21 AM »
That seems pretty bizarre to me.

If an animal is going to be medical equipment, it should be subject to guidelines (like all medical equipment).  That would mean that the animal is safe to be around, has evidence proving that it does the job it's tasked to do, etc.

Proud Foot

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1131
Re: Emotional Support Animals
« Reply #8 on: October 12, 2018, 10:52:27 AM »
Coincidence that I am listening to the Bigger Pockets Podcast and they are actually talking about this right now! It's in the portion they call the "Fire Round". My interpretation is that you cannot say no because of the ESA but certainly can still rule them out based upon other criteria.

Cwadda

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2179
  • Age: 26
Re: Emotional Support Animals
« Reply #9 on: October 12, 2018, 10:52:40 AM »
Surely there must be guidelines to limit animals for this, right?  Like if I want a two ton non-housebroken hippopotamus as an ESA this would not be acceptable, right?

My interpretation is that one must think within reason.

I.e. When someone cannot walk, is the landlord expected to install a ramp for wheelchair access? Yes, definitely. Are they expected to install an elevator? Sure as hell not. It's far beyond reasonable accommodation.

Quote
But the whole thing is horseshit.
I lol'd

Quote
This is becoming more common every day. People can have a pack of high energy huskies as their ESA and your apartment is going to be toast.  Nothing you can do about it but go after their security deposit. There is no pet deposit and no pet rent. Because they are not pets, they are considered medical equipment.

No training, no certification necessary. All you need to do is tell your doc you are stressed and get  a note.  And what is also terrible is they are going to change this law at some point and make it harder for people with real issues to have support animals.
Do you have any proof on this? Can someone really acquire a full pack of dogs as ESAs? I believe having one animal per person is reasonable accommodation. A pack of dogs for one person? I don't think so.

Cwadda

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2179
  • Age: 26
Re: Emotional Support Animals
« Reply #10 on: October 12, 2018, 10:54:58 AM »
Coincidence that I am listening to the Bigger Pockets Podcast and they are actually talking about this right now! It's in the portion they call the "Fire Round". My interpretation is that you cannot say no because of the ESA but certainly can still rule them out based upon other criteria.

Well, yeah. That applies to pretty much anything. You can't discriminate based on someone's race or sexual orientation, but you can screen someone out due to income requirements. So even if you did want to discriminate on the former, you could use the latter as a workaround.

Not that much different here.

I'm just wondering - if they do hit all the checkboxes, meet all the requirements, and would actually be quite good tenants, yet have that ESA, what are you supposed to do?

onlykelsey

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2168
Re: Emotional Support Animals
« Reply #11 on: October 12, 2018, 10:57:29 AM »
I would be inclined to look at your state licensing board/body's website and check that psychologist's license status.  ESAs are definitely a real thing for some people, but I wonder who is writing these letters for multiple untrained animals.

Cwadda

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2179
  • Age: 26
Re: Emotional Support Animals
« Reply #12 on: October 12, 2018, 11:04:15 AM »
I would be inclined to look at your state licensing board/body's website and check that psychologist's license status.  ESAs are definitely a real thing for some people, but I wonder who is writing these letters for multiple untrained animals.

Agreed. There is a difference between a licensed psychologist writing a recommendation vs. some of these other shady folks churning letters out and profiting from it.

ESAs are definitely a real treatment.

Jon Bon

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1271
  • Location: Midwest
Re: Emotional Support Animals
« Reply #13 on: October 12, 2018, 11:05:59 AM »

Do you have any proof on this? Can someone really acquire a full pack of dogs as ESAs? I believe having one animal per person is reasonable accommodation. A pack of dogs for one person? I don't think so.

Half was written in jest, but do you want to find out?

Do you want to deny some jerk who requires 6 dogs and an aquarium full of mice, then have it come back on you? I sure dont.  Then you get to go to court and pay lawyers.

The current legal environment that I feel about ESA is  "Shut up and take it"




Jon Bon

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1271
  • Location: Midwest
Re: Emotional Support Animals
« Reply #14 on: October 12, 2018, 11:08:16 AM »

ESAs are definitely a real treatment.

Sure are, and unfortunately completely rife with abuses.


Greyweld

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 665
  • Get healthy, save money, kick ass
Re: Emotional Support Animals
« Reply #15 on: October 12, 2018, 11:11:22 AM »
In the event of multiple ESAs, it looks like you can request that the prospective tenant fill out a form specifically stating the number of ESAs required. If the number is 1, you may be able to deny tenancy of those animals not meant for emotional support, but I'm not certain.

GuitarStv

  • Senior Mustachian
  • ********
  • Posts: 17664
  • Age: 39
  • Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Re: Emotional Support Animals
« Reply #16 on: October 12, 2018, 11:24:35 AM »
So, you can register any animal as an emotional support animal (of any type ) here:
https://www.esaregistration.org/

130$ to get your animal evaluated for travel, 140$ for housing here:
https://www.esaregistration.org/product/esa-evaluation-letter/


This seems super bullshitty.
« Last Edit: October 12, 2018, 11:48:16 AM by GuitarStv »

Jon Bon

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1271
  • Location: Midwest
Re: Emotional Support Animals
« Reply #17 on: October 12, 2018, 11:31:12 AM »
So, you can register any animal as an emotional support animal here:
https://www.esaregistration.org/

130$ to get your animal evaluated for travel, 140$ for housing here:
https://www.esaregistration.org/product/esa-evaluation-letter/


This seems super bullshitty.

At least I'm not the only one that feels that way!

Cezil

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 222
  • Age: 34
  • Location: Great Lakes region
Re: Emotional Support Animals
« Reply #18 on: October 12, 2018, 12:31:39 PM »
I have absolutely no experience in any of this.  However, one thought came to me while reading through the comments: What if one of your other tenants is allergic to cats/dogs/other and lives there because there will be none of that in the building/property?  Then what do you do?  I assume it's typically not your business, as landlord, if someone is allergic or not, so how would you even know if that could be an issue for one of your tenants?  Are they required to tell you their medical issue of "allergy" for just-in-cases like this? 

Cwadda

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2179
  • Age: 26
Re: Emotional Support Animals
« Reply #19 on: October 12, 2018, 12:46:21 PM »
I have absolutely no experience in any of this.  However, one thought came to me while reading through the comments: What if one of your other tenants is allergic to cats/dogs/other and lives there because there will be none of that in the building/property?  Then what do you do?  I assume it's typically not your business, as landlord, if someone is allergic or not, so how would you even know if that could be an issue for one of your tenants?  Are they required to tell you their medical issue of "allergy" for just-in-cases like this?

Yep, and what if one tenant has a dog and the rest don't? Dogs are commonly noisy. It's not just one tenant that is affected by animals, in a lot of cases it's the whole building

Jon Bon

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1271
  • Location: Midwest
Re: Emotional Support Animals
« Reply #20 on: October 12, 2018, 01:17:10 PM »
I have absolutely no experience in any of this.  However, one thought came to me while reading through the comments: What if one of your other tenants is allergic to cats/dogs/other and lives there because there will be none of that in the building/property?  Then what do you do?  I assume it's typically not your business, as landlord, if someone is allergic or not, so how would you even know if that could be an issue for one of your tenants?  Are they required to tell you their medical issue of "allergy" for just-in-cases like this?

Yep, and what if one tenant has a dog and the rest don't? Dogs are commonly noisy. It's not just one tenant that is affected by animals, in a lot of cases it's the whole building

Its almost like this law does not make sense, and they passed it with zero thought given to the unintended consequences.......

This creates problems for many people but I feel is most fundamentally unfair to landlords. I would love to have you and your trained service animal at my house. I'd bend over backwards to make it easy for someone with a legitimate working animal.

But ESA  are in fact pets.
But pets  are in fact ESA's.
The logic is the same.

Pets provide companionship, reduce stress, can help with anxiety and increase happiness.

ESA's provide companionship, reduce stress, can help with anxiety and increase happiness.

Animals have been providing help to humans for thousands of years. The benefits are well documented. But what has happened is we have just re-branded pets ESA's and then wrapped them in ADA protections.  So now there is no difference between the legitimate need and those gaming the system. I have have had experiences with ESAs good and bad.

IMO we need substantial reform and perhaps different classes of animals getting different levels of treatment. I completely follow the law here, I always allow ESA's and never discriminate, but I disagree with how broadly the rule has been implemented.

Psychstache

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1156
Re: Emotional Support Animals
« Reply #21 on: October 12, 2018, 01:58:04 PM »
I have absolutely no experience in any of this.  However, one thought came to me while reading through the comments: What if one of your other tenants is allergic to cats/dogs/other and lives there because there will be none of that in the building/property?  Then what do you do?  I assume it's typically not your business, as landlord, if someone is allergic or not, so how would you even know if that could be an issue for one of your tenants?  Are they required to tell you their medical issue of "allergy" for just-in-cases like this?

Oddly enough, we just had this come up at our office. Person A got a service dog (NOTE: legit service animal via ADA, not an ESA), person B is allergic to dogs. Not sure how things went down officially, but luckily we have 2 floors and person B's office is on the 1st floor, so person A just stays out of person B's office suite and the dog stays on the 2nd floor (you can get to the 2nd floor without going through the office suite on 1).

diapasoun

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4295
  • Location: California
Re: Emotional Support Animals
« Reply #22 on: October 12, 2018, 03:10:41 PM »
Y'all should read the Human Society link on this, or even this very pro-ESA link that still shows limitations on the use of ESAs. There's a lot of hyperbole in this thread.

Their rundown:

*The FHA requires landlords to permit an assistance animal, including ESAs, if it is a reasonable accommodation (hippos are not reasonable for load-bearing weight reasons alone) AND it doesn't create a hardship on the landlord or other tenants (so if you have another tenant who's super allergic to dogs, I assume that qualifies as a hardship).
*The disability claim must be true, which means that if someone has gotten their "letter" from some online "certification" mill as opposed to their actual doctor, you likely have grounds right there to contest the claim.
*You can charge a tenant for repairs when they move out if the animal has damaged the unit.
*A tenant can be evicted if their ESA is vicious, loud, or threatening. 

Indexer

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1463
Re: Emotional Support Animals
« Reply #23 on: October 13, 2018, 08:24:10 AM »
While we are accommodating ESAs, what happens when someone moves into a no-pet multi unit apartment building because they have a phobia of cats or dogs?

Now someone new moves in with an ESA?

Who's psychological concern is more important?

diapasoun

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4295
  • Location: California
Re: Emotional Support Animals
« Reply #24 on: October 13, 2018, 10:25:54 AM »
While we are accommodating ESAs, what happens when someone moves into a no-pet multi unit apartment building because they have a phobia of cats or dogs?

Now someone new moves in with an ESA?

Who's psychological concern is more important?

ESAs cannot be moved in if it causes a hardship for another, current tenant.

FINate

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2083
Re: Emotional Support Animals
« Reply #25 on: October 13, 2018, 11:04:29 AM »
Most rentals in my area have a "no pets" policy. Starting to hear of tenants try to get around this with ESAs. This is similar to people trying to bring their pets into public places as ESAs. Stores and restaurants are now posting that certified service animals with papers are allowed, whereas ESAs are not - this is the law in California for public places.

The laws for rentals are different. Reasonable accommodation must be made for a genuine ESA, which different than someone going online and purchasing an ESA certificate. Instead, this requires clinical diagnosis of a mental disability that's aided by an ESA. As a landlord I have no problem accommodating such cases, but if the disability is non-obvious then I would require supporting documentation.

Cwadda

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2179
  • Age: 26
Re: Emotional Support Animals
« Reply #26 on: October 13, 2018, 11:18:41 AM »
Most rentals in my area have a "no pets" policy. Starting to hear of tenants try to get around this with ESAs. This is similar to people trying to bring their pets into public places as ESAs. Stores and restaurants are now posting that certified service animals with papers are allowed, whereas ESAs are not - this is the law in California for public places.

The laws for rentals are different. Reasonable accommodation must be made for a genuine ESA, which different than someone going online and purchasing an ESA certificate. Instead, this requires clinical diagnosis of a mental disability that's aided by an ESA. As a landlord I have no problem accommodating such cases, but if the disability is non-obvious then I would require supporting documentation.

Always best to think about reasonable accommodation. Itís very situational.

Iíve had applicants come on full force basically demanding that they bring their pets. Itís that attitude that I donít get. Why are you getting the ass on without us having even met? Really think thatís going to help your chances getting the apartment?

FINate

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2083
Re: Emotional Support Animals
« Reply #27 on: October 13, 2018, 11:47:22 AM »
Most rentals in my area have a "no pets" policy. Starting to hear of tenants try to get around this with ESAs. This is similar to people trying to bring their pets into public places as ESAs. Stores and restaurants are now posting that certified service animals with papers are allowed, whereas ESAs are not - this is the law in California for public places.

The laws for rentals are different. Reasonable accommodation must be made for a genuine ESA, which different than someone going online and purchasing an ESA certificate. Instead, this requires clinical diagnosis of a mental disability that's aided by an ESA. As a landlord I have no problem accommodating such cases, but if the disability is non-obvious then I would require supporting documentation.

Always best to think about reasonable accommodation. Itís very situational.

Iíve had applicants come on full force basically demanding that they bring their pets. Itís that attitude that I donít get. Why are you getting the ass on without us having even met? Really think thatís going to help your chances getting the apartment?

Yes, seems like a poor strategy. Though I suppose the upside is that you'll avoid having problem tenants.

rothwem

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 775
  • Location: WNC
Re: Emotional Support Animals
« Reply #28 on: October 14, 2018, 04:20:36 AM »
As a landlord, the practical way around this is to just find another reason not to rent to them, like that you found a better tenant. Don’t outright deny the app, but just don’t accept them.  You can literally do with with ANY tenant, which is unfortunately why minorities and single women have trouble getting apartments. But in this case it’s helpful if you really don’t want an animal in your house.

Out of curiosity though, why the “no animals” restriction? I love it. I get a $250 pet fee per pet and I’ve seen where some places charge “pet rent” even though I don’t. I ask to meet the pet before renting to make sure it isn’t aggressive.  If the animal messes up your place, you get to charge the owner for the damage! I don’t really see a downside. I tend to agree with the other poster that mentioned that overly restrictive pet rules are the cause of the ESA rule abuse.

electriceagle

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 507
Re: Emotional Support Animals
« Reply #29 on: October 14, 2018, 04:22:48 AM »
Surely there must be guidelines to limit animals for this, right?  Like if I want a two ton non-housebroken hippopotamus as an ESA this would not be acceptable, right?

I have had no problem with my emotional support giraffe. I am very small. It gets leaves from tall trees for me.

*munch*munch*munch*

But really, the cost of potential litigation is likely to exceed the value of keeping the animal out. Unless it actually is a giraffe and keeps sticking its head through your roof. Remember that you are stuck with your legal costs even if you win.
« Last Edit: October 14, 2018, 04:26:30 AM by electriceagle »

Sugaree

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1047
Re: Emotional Support Animals
« Reply #30 on: October 14, 2018, 05:07:35 AM »

Out of curiosity though, why the ďno animalsĒ restriction? I love it. I get a $250 pet fee per pet and Iíve seen where some places charge ďpet rentĒ even though I donít. I ask to meet the pet before renting to make sure it isnít aggressive.  If the animal messes up your place, you get to charge the owner for the damage! I donít really see a downside. I tend to agree with the other poster that mentioned that overly restrictive pet rules are the cause of the ESA rule abuse.

Have you every had to deal with fleas?  My FIL''s last tenants left an infestation.  It took a couple of weeks to insure that all the little bastards were gone.  The pet deposit didn't cover the cost of clearing up the problem or lost rent.  But he was advised that would be a tough case to prove in small claims court.

rothwem

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 775
  • Location: WNC
Re: Emotional Support Animals
« Reply #31 on: October 14, 2018, 07:04:02 AM »

Out of curiosity though, why the “no animals” restriction? I love it. I get a $250 pet fee per pet and I’ve seen where some places charge “pet rent” even though I don’t. I ask to meet the pet before renting to make sure it isn’t aggressive.  If the animal messes up your place, you get to charge the owner for the damage! I don’t really see a downside. I tend to agree with the other poster that mentioned that overly restrictive pet rules are the cause of the ESA rule abuse.

Have you every had to deal with fleas?  My FIL''s last tenants left an infestation.  It took a couple of weeks to insure that all the little bastards were gone.  The pet deposit didn't cover the cost of clearing up the problem or lost rent.  But he was advised that would be a tough case to prove in small claims court.

I haven’t had to deal with fleas, and I’ve owned my unit for 5 years now with every tenant having at least one animal. However, my unit is in a pretty great neighborhood and my rent is high enough that flea and tick medication is an extremely small percent of the tenant’s income.  Hell, it’s only like $50 for a 6 month supply, I’m not sure why anyone would have trouble paying for their dog or cats treatment.

Even if we did get fleas though, we have all hardwoods and tile, so I don’t think it’d be a big deal to clean up once all of the tenant’s things are out.

former player

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 6312
  • Location: Avalon
Re: Emotional Support Animals
« Reply #32 on: October 14, 2018, 08:27:30 AM »

Out of curiosity though, why the ďno animalsĒ restriction? I love it. I get a $250 pet fee per pet and Iíve seen where some places charge ďpet rentĒ even though I donít. I ask to meet the pet before renting to make sure it isnít aggressive.  If the animal messes up your place, you get to charge the owner for the damage! I donít really see a downside. I tend to agree with the other poster that mentioned that overly restrictive pet rules are the cause of the ESA rule abuse.

Have you every had to deal with fleas?  My FIL''s last tenants left an infestation.  It took a couple of weeks to insure that all the little bastards were gone.  The pet deposit didn't cover the cost of clearing up the problem or lost rent.  But he was advised that would be a tough case to prove in small claims court.

I havenít had to deal with fleas, and Iíve owned my unit for 5 years now with every tenant having at least one animal. However, my unit is in a pretty great neighborhood and my rent is high enough that flea and tick medication is an extremely small percent of the tenantís income.  Hell, itís only like $50 for a 6 month supply, Iím not sure why anyone would have trouble paying for their dog or cats treatment.

Even if we did get fleas though, we have all hardwoods and tile, so I donít think itíd be a big deal to clean up once all of the tenantís things are out.

This.  My current two rentals are in a rural area, and I advertise them as "pets by arrangement".  So far no problems: good tenants tend to be good pet owners, in my experience, and allowing pets gives one a bigger choice of tenant - so far in 5 years with these two rentals I've not had any problems with vacancies, damage or unpaid rent.   The tenancy agreements limit the pets to those already pre-screened and there is a bigger deposit and an extra cleaning fee tacked on at the start which is used at the end.

I haven't come across the emotional support animal issue yet - having high end rentals with lots of demand means I could probably screen out anyone problematic on other grounds.  Someone with too many ESAs, or unsuitable ESAs, could perhaps be put off by high deposits and cleaning fees ($$$ per pet or ESA)?
« Last Edit: October 14, 2018, 08:34:03 AM by former player »

Sugaree

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1047
Re: Emotional Support Animals
« Reply #33 on: October 14, 2018, 10:51:48 AM »
I didn't think you could charge a deposit for an ESA.

tralfamadorian

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1221
Re: Emotional Support Animals
« Reply #34 on: October 14, 2018, 03:42:00 PM »
I didn't think you could charge a deposit for an ESA.

+1. ESAs are not animals or pets, legally, so you cannot charge them pet deposits or rent. You can attempt to charge them cleaning or damage fees when they leave but the kind of people who buy a $25 ESA certification off the internet are not the type to give a damn when they leave.

Fortunately OP is living in his 4-unit and doesn't have to abide by HUD laws and so may restrict because of animals (support or otherwise), age, sex, household size, etc.

Luckily, I've only had two ESA applicants. Both had other issues that disqualified them (credit, income, prior rental history, criminal history) and this seems to be the safest way to disqualify someone without risking a HUD complaint.

Other avenues to decline an applicant with a ESA(s) are 1) insurance and 2) doctor verification.

1) If your insurance does not cover the animal in question (dog breed restriction, exotic animals, etc), it is an "unreasonable accommodation" for the property owner to have to change insurance providers or pay for a significantly more expensive policy to accommodate the ESA. Source.

2) You cannot ask the applicant about their condition or disability but you can ask for verification of the disability if it's not obvious (ie: a blind person's disability would be obvious; a veteran's PTSD would not be). The verification would be a letter from a mental health professional. You then contact to the professional to verify that they did write the letter (outright falsification is common).

This is third hand knowledge but supposedly a very effective way of dealing with fraudulent online certifications is to contact the website/doctor on the letter, let them know that if the ESA damages property or injures a person, they would be legal and financial responsible for the damages if it is found that the certification/verification was issued fraudulently. Again, this is third hand knowledge, but supposedly the online cert factory people rescinded their certifications every time when told this.   

SnackDog

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1276
  • Location: Latin America
Re: Emotional Support Animals
« Reply #35 on: October 14, 2018, 05:41:51 PM »
As far as I know people with ESAs have legal protection under the Fair Housing Act (in the US) and the Air Carrier Access Act (US based airlines).  Since those acts do not apply except some fairly narrow definitions (e.g. living spaces and air travel), people with ESAs don't enjoy federal protection in other circumstances.

Cwadda

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2179
  • Age: 26
Re: Emotional Support Animals
« Reply #36 on: October 14, 2018, 08:49:17 PM »
I didn't think you could charge a deposit for an ESA.

+1. ESAs are not animals or pets, legally, so you cannot charge them pet deposits or rent. You can attempt to charge them cleaning or damage fees when they leave but the kind of people who buy a $25 ESA certification off the internet are not the type to give a damn when they leave.

Fortunately OP is living in his 4-unit and doesn't have to abide by HUD laws and so may restrict because of animals (support or otherwise), age, sex, household size, etc.

Luckily, I've only had two ESA applicants. Both had other issues that disqualified them (credit, income, prior rental history, criminal history) and this seems to be the safest way to disqualify someone without risking a HUD complaint.

Other avenues to decline an applicant with a ESA(s) are 1) insurance and 2) doctor verification.

1) If your insurance does not cover the animal in question (dog breed restriction, exotic animals, etc), it is an "unreasonable accommodation" for the property owner to have to change insurance providers or pay for a significantly more expensive policy to accommodate the ESA. Source.

2) You cannot ask the applicant about their condition or disability but you can ask for verification of the disability if it's not obvious (ie: a blind person's disability would be obvious; a veteran's PTSD would not be). The verification would be a letter from a mental health professional. You then contact to the professional to verify that they did write the letter (outright falsification is common).

This is third hand knowledge but supposedly a very effective way of dealing with fraudulent online certifications is to contact the website/doctor on the letter, let them know that if the ESA damages property or injures a person, they would be legal and financial responsible for the damages if it is found that the certification/verification was issued fraudulently. Again, this is third hand knowledge, but supposedly the online cert factory people rescinded their certifications every time when told this.

Good information, thanks.

Unfortunately, even though Fair Housing laws don't apply for a 4-family on a federal level, for my particular state only 2-units or fewer homes are exempt from Fair Housing laws.
« Last Edit: October 15, 2018, 11:48:27 AM by Cwadda »

tralfamadorian

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1221
Re: Emotional Support Animals
« Reply #37 on: October 14, 2018, 09:05:16 PM »
Unfortunately, even though Fair Housing laws don't apply for a 4-family on a federal level, for my particular state only 2-unit or fewer houses are exempt from Fair Housing laws.

Ouch. I'm sorry. I didn't realize how many states restrict the federal exemptions on this (I'm never lived in a place that doesn't). For anyone who's curious-
http://www.mondaq.com/unitedstates/x/235406/real+estate/The+FHAs+Mrs+Murphy+Exemption+A+50+State+Guide