ESA on property before I received letter.

27 Replies

Can you evict a tenant in a lease if they bring in a valid ESA animal after a lease is signed? The dog has been there for a few weeks and I just received the recommendation letter and also the letter from a licensed mental health professional in the area that has been seeing my tenant for over a year in a half.Papers stated my tenant has 3 mental Illnesses in the DSM. So it is valid. But do I have grounds to evict for this animal being there before I received the proper paperwork? They are great tenants. Been living there for 3 years, no damage, never a day late on rent or utilities . The only issue is them bringing in a puppy before giving me the paperwork. Is this grounds to evict? Everything I am reading seems to point to me being stuck because there’s no laws regarding when the animal can appear. It’s a 12lb Dog
so it’s not a huge breed or an “aggressive” breed. This is new territory for me. So I apologize in advance I know this has been asked over and over. Just wanting to see if there’s any updated laws out there regarding having the animal on property before I opened mail with paperwork. Thanks! 

Just incase anyone asks :


ESA letter came from a licensed psychiatrist that has been treating tenant for 1.5 years, so it’s legit. I just don’t know if I have any legal grounds when it comes to her getting dog before I got the recommendation letter and ESA letter. 

She is threatening to sue me because I am giving her a hard time about when the dog arrived on the property. She said she didn’t tell me when she picked up dog because she didn’t want to give me a chance to discriminate against her and not sign a lease so she waited some weeks to send me her paperwork until she felt like she was safe in a lease . 🤦‍♀️ 

Originally posted by @Account Closed :

She is threatening to sue me because I am giving her a hard time about when the dog arrived on the property. She said she didn’t tell me when she picked up dog because she didn’t want to give me a chance to discriminate against her and not sign a lease so she waited some weeks to send me her paperwork until she felt like she was safe in a lease . 🤦‍♀️ 

 Sounds like she read you and the situation correctly. 

They are great tenants, never a problem, the dog is small.... the paperwork was late.

It sounds like perhaps you feel taken advantage of because of their process? ...which is understandable. I have no comment to make concerning the "illegality" of their paperwork timing.... or the legality of a possible eviction. But if it were me... I would do  my best to keep a great tenant. Maybe communicate clearly with them both my disappointment with the lack of clear communication and timing... as well as a reasonable way to move forward?

I already allow animals, especially a 12lb dog so I’d be ok with it. It was misleading but that’s why you’ll feel better about the higher rent at renewal time. 

She brought an unauthorized pet into the property. Up until she provides documentation and you accept the documentation, it is a pet. She decided to get the animal, then provide the paperwork, which is backwards from the process. Her justification for lying to you is nonsense and threatening you is unacceptable. 

I would explain to her that you have no problem with an ESA. Your problem is with her lying and brining a pet into the property before providing ESA paperwork. Tell her it is not discriminating to expect honesty from your tenants and your concern is going forward that she does this again. Maybe not an ESA but some other lease violation. 

There is nothing you can do to get rid of the animal. You may want to consider doing regular inspections to ensure no damage. Other than that, not much can be done until lease renewal. At that point you decide what rent increase is necessary or if you even want to renew. Of course your renewal decision will have no basis in the ESA. 

She had the paperwork the day she got the dog but didn’t give it to me right away.it’s not like she had the dog then decided to get paperwork after the fact. I’m just annoyed she didn’t ask me first.but the. Again, I would have said no and she would of had an ESA regardless.   I guess after reading what I wrote here I am starting to feel like her reaction to threatening to sue me had to do with how I communicated with her at first. She has been very quiet, minded her business, kept place super nice and the previous Owner I bought this place from had nothing but great things to say. I’m just annoyed she didn’t come to me first and ask. I don’t want to bash any tenants because I think I could have handled this differently and should have known these ESA laws before I responded to her. Definitely a HUGE learning experience for me. I just do not know how to approach her now because her guard is up big time and I am now understanding why after reading up on this crap! Thank you everyone. 

Just set a time for a friendly talk.....clear the air, apologize and make it clear that this is new for you and you didn't understand.....but you would have really appreciated a heads-up in advance. See how that goes. If she's still a PITA, just raise her rent next time you can.... 

Thank you so much everyone! I sent her a message to see if we could talk sometime next week and apologized for how I may have came across. She said she understood and was expecting me to be upset and that it was eating her up waiting for me to get the paperwork. She said she’s a single mom and was afraid of losing her children’s home of the past 3 years and should have went about it a different way. Rentals are extremely hard to find in our area and she said she was scared to be out of a home in the winter with kids if I found way to deny her . She went on to say she understood why I was upset and would be totally open to paying extra rent and giving me a deposit. I of course told her that was not allowed and she went on to say she would feel better about the situation if she was able to do that for me. She said well why don’t I just shred the ESA and we sign a new lease so you feel covered too? I told her there’s probably no way to do that now but we could possibly discuss that next year. She did purchase renters insurance and pet liability the day she brought the dog home which will cover some damage , which makes me feel a little better. We are going to talk more in depth next weekend. Thanks again everyone! 

Originally posted by @Account Closed :

Thank you so much everyone! I sent her a message to see if we could talk sometime next week and apologized for how I may have came across. She said she understood and was expecting me to be upset and that it was eating her up waiting for me to get the paperwork. She said she’s a single mom and was afraid of losing her children’s home of the past 3 years and should have went about it a different way. Rentals are extremely hard to find in our area and she said she was scared to be out of a home in the winter with kids if I found way to deny her . She went on to say she understood why I was upset and would be totally open to paying extra rent and giving me a deposit. I of course told her that was not allowed and she went on to say she would feel better about the situation if she was able to do that for me. She said well why don’t I just shred the ESA and we sign a new lease so you feel covered too? I told her there’s probably no way to do that now but we could possibly discuss that next year. She did purchase renters insurance and pet liability the day she brought the dog home which will cover some damage , which makes me feel a little better. We are going to talk more in depth next weekend. Thanks again everyone! 

 Once she declared it an ESA, do not accept extra rent or deposit. That only boxes you in legally. Just explain to her that you need honesty and you need to her to communicate before doing things.

Great tenants are not deceiving. Great tenants are transparent. Great tenants are honest. Great tenants are trustworthy. Great tenants have integrity. Great tenants do not threaten to sue due to their own mishap. You do not have a great tenant. You have a deceptive person who planned this whole thing and is now causing you stress. She knew exactly what she was doing. That would leave a bad taste in my mouth. I would probably want her gone when lease is up.

She was dishonest because I came across as hard to communicate with. I made her feel uncomfortable by making fun of a neighbor down the road who used a service anima when she asked me about my pet policy.  I was not perfect in this situation and I am going to own that. I made mistakes too and my mistakes made her uncomfortable to approach me. But I’m not going to sit her and bash her. When I came on her I should have been a little more forth coming with what her side was. And honestly, my gut tells me she won’t renew anyway. I need to learn to be a bit more professional or might very well get sued. Just because I own a property it doesn’t give me the right to look down on someone who has a story I wouldn’t wish on anyone. I spoke with my husband and my a few colleagues and they said I overstepped my boundaries a bit in the way I communicated with her when she asked me about my pet policy. I don’t want to continue to run my properties this way or I will most definitely be sued.  I also spoke with the previous owner this evening and he said before he sold the place to me  she let him know she was in therapy and considering an ESA and he informed her to ask me about my policies bc I was in process of buying. The second she asked me...I jumped the gun and made fun the whole ESA thing and said I was hoping to be strictly no pets. Then this happened. 🤦‍♀️  so yes, I’m a newbie and made some mistakes. 

@Tessa M, I would just let sleeping dogs lie. You said they have been good tenant for 3 years. What could you gain by losing them?

Besides, the dog has probably already been there three years. If, In the end you have collected 2000 per month for 4 plus years, that’s over $100,000, enough to buy your forgiveness?

@Account Closed Agreed with what @Joe Splitrock stated. To add to that, read the fine print in the lease. If the lease states No Pets, then the Tenant is in default. Any animal is deemed a Pet until proven otherwise. Typically, the Lease language also requires proper notification to the Landlord, and in this case, it does not sound like proper notification was given - which triggers another potential Default. In my experience, where it happens once, it’s highly possible something will happen again elsewhere, whether with a pet/ESA, late rent, etc. Set the tone early or be prepared to sit back and deal with the issues as they come. If you don’t mind dealing with the current situation, move forward with upfront expectations.

Originally posted by @Chris Gossett :

@Tessa M. Agreed with what @Joe Splitrock stated. To add to that, read the fine print in the lease. If the lease states No Pets, then the Tenant is in default. Any animal is deemed a Pet until proven otherwise. Typically, the Lease language also requires proper notification to the Landlord, and in this case, it does not sound like proper notification was given - which triggers another potential Default. In my experience, where it happens once, it’s highly possible something will happen again elsewhere, whether with a pet/ESA, late rent, etc. Set the tone early or be prepared to sit back and deal with the issues as they come. If you don’t mind dealing with the current situation, move forward with upfront expectations.

 I agree, technically the tenant had a lease violation during the time it was a "pet" up until it was remedied by showing proof of "ESA". Theoretically you could issue a lease violation, but arguably the letter showing it was an ESA cured the situation. No way you could evict, so best case you can give them written notice. It seems that may just agitate the situation for little value. I agree the concern is going forward that the behavior doesn't continue or show up as other violations.

Definitely a tough situation. more so that she was upfront with her lying. She was concerned with discrimination but how are you supposed feel about her dishonesty? So what's the next lie that she will tell and what other systematic play will she invoke when its time to pay rent or property repairs that should be the tenant but some how you get stuck with it? 

I think a heart to heart with some cookies and milk (excuse the pun) is warranted. No one wants a bad tenant-owner relationship, so I would try to get on the same page, with intent that honesty will be displayed moving forward. 

Originally posted by @Account Closed :

She was dishonest because I came across as hard to communicate with. I made her feel uncomfortable by making fun of a neighbor down the road who used a service anima when she asked me about my pet policy.  I was not perfect in this situation and I am going to own that. I made mistakes too and my mistakes made her uncomfortable to approach me. But I’m not going to sit her and bash her. When I came on her I should have been a little more forth coming with what her side was. And honestly, my gut tells me she won’t renew anyway. I need to learn to be a bit more professional or might very well get sued. Just because I own a property it doesn’t give me the right to look down on someone who has a story I wouldn’t wish on anyone. I spoke with my husband and my a few colleagues and they said I overstepped my boundaries a bit in the way I communicated with her when she asked me about my pet policy. I don’t want to continue to run my properties this way or I will most definitely be sued.  I also spoke with the previous owner this evening and he said before he sold the place to me  she let him know she was in therapy and considering an ESA and he informed her to ask me about my policies bc I was in process of buying. The second she asked me...I jumped the gun and made fun the whole ESA thing and said I was hoping to be strictly no pets. Then this happened. 🤦‍♀️  so yes, I’m a newbie and made some mistakes. 

 You should never make fun of anybody or anything in front of your tenant. Your communication should be brief and only answer questions that she asks. "Pet policy is no pets." If she says "what about ESA" then you state "you submit a request using our process X and do not get an animal until approved". Have a process ready for situations like this. 

The seller also could have informed you, but they followed my advice of "only answer questions you are asked". Most people get themselves in trouble when they run their mouths. Just keep that in mind. 

Don't feel bad about making mistakes. We have all done it. You are just smart enough to admit it and learn from it.

She lied and played you. 

You said a puppy. A puppy is not usually an Emotional Support animal, feels like gaming you and planned it. Don't say or write a word about her "certificate."  Allow her to email you her stories and fabrications, have a little disclosure on your amended contract that you record discussions, emails, conversations and so forth.

Monthly inspections. Take photos of doors, floors, yard, excrement, stains on grass, noise complaints. New addendum to lease gets emailed about damages not mentioning pet or animal. 

Tenant is responsible to maintain: xyz in set up condition. 

I would not take a pet deposit or note the support puppy in the contract.