Owner rights regarding Emotional Support Animal

17 Replies

Hi, I'm new to renting. And I've already had a problem.

I have a prospective tenant who has an ESA dog. I was wanting an additional deposit since there was an animal involved, I made it clear it wasn't a "pet" deposit but he is still claiming I can't charge more for the deposit since I had told him it was because of the dog I was going to require more. He did provide me with some literature from the fair housing act.

This is a single family residence located in Idaho. I am wanting thoughts and feedback for any future renters I have this situation with. And how best to proceed with this renter. We were about to sign the lease when he brought me the literature listing his rights ect.

I am no expert but as far as I know charging someone more for a service animal would be like charing someone more because they're handicapped. I would REALLY not recommend it. Anyone can feel free to correct me if I am wrong. Basically those animals are very protected they can go anywhere a person can go no questions asked. If you even ask someone what the service animal is for as far as I know you're breaking the law. Tread lightly. 

The animal poses a higher risk to your property, you should be able to charge a percentage more to cover that risk. But being no expert, the goto answer is ask your attorney. I would just decline this tenant, his attitude is one of somebody who will cause you trouble in the future. 

I don;t think you can charge more because of the service animal. Be very cautious with actions that could be used against you as discrimination. What proof does the applicant provide that the dog is an ESA?

Hi Kyle,

This is one area that you want to tread lightly. My understanding is there is no pet deposit, no additional pet rent, you have a right to ask for proof as in a doctor's note or something, but  you can not decline the tenant because of the dog and you better have a good documented reason if you do decline them for that really good reason (that has nothing to do with the dog) . One thing you can do is inspect but make sure that you inspect all your properties  the same.

If you have any questions, call the Idaho Fair Housing Council. I have been assured that they will try to work with you but they will uphold the law and defend the tenant's rights so look to them for help in navigating these housing laws so you don't find yourself in court sitting across from them.

@Kyle Graves You cannot charge the deposit. If the dog damages the property you can take them to court to get the money back. To quote HUD and the USDOJ ...

"May a housing provider charge an extra fee or require an additional deposit from applicants or residents with disabilities as a condition of granting a reasonable accommodation?
No. Housing providers may not require persons with disabilities to pay extra fees or deposits as a condition of receiving a reasonable accommodation."

Thank you to all who responded.
It's pretty hard to now decline a tenant over this one issue, especially since we had met to sign the lease. Oh, well I've learned a valuable lesson and will proceed more cautiously next time. I thought I had done everything right. Doing back ground checks, verifying employment ect. But I hadn't read or heard a lot about the emotional service animals. And it seems to me everything is in the tenants favor.

Originally posted by @Kyle Graves :

Thank you to all who responded.
It's pretty hard to now decline a tenant over this one issue, especially since we had met to sign the lease. Oh, well I've learned a valuable lesson and will proceed more cautiously next time. I thought I had done everything right. Doing back ground checks, verifying employment ect. But I hadn't read or heard a lot about the emotional service animals. And it seems to me everything is in the tenants favor.

You can't decline the tenant based upon this issue - I think you're missing the point of fair housing law. As others have stated above, basically you're saying "You're disabled, I don't rent to your kind!".  Fair Housing fines are no joke either, fines can be 100k+. Given that your potential tenant provided this information to you, I think you may be in trouble. They actually hire people to 'secret shop' for discriminatory practices.

-Christopher

@Kyle Graves While there are many good folks with legitimate needs, I seem to attract the scammer folks who can't afford their own life let alone an animal! I have an application for service animal accommodation.  It requires a letter from a doctor or other qualified professional, proof of current vaccination from local vet, and current license. That seem to dissuade those without a legit need. 

Originally posted by @Kyle Graves :

Hi, I'm new to renting. And I've already had a problem.

I have a prospective tenant who has an ESA dog. I was wanting an additional deposit since there was an animal involved, I made it clear it wasn't a "pet" deposit but he is still claiming I can't charge more for the deposit since I had told him it was because of the dog I was going to require more. He did provide me with some literature from the fair housing act.

This is a single family residence located in Idaho. I am wanting thoughts and feedback for any future renters I have this situation with. And how best to proceed with this renter. We were about to sign the lease when he brought me the literature listing his rights ect.

Hello Kyle,

Your applicant is correct. This is a though situation, and one that I see a lot. Service animals, or any kind, cannot be treated as a "pet." Even if it is a dog, you cannot treat it like a normal pet and charge more. 

Charging more for a service dog is like charging someone for their wheelchair, it just can't be done.

However, you should ALWAYS ask for proper documentation. For a dog  to be a service/support dog, there will be some documentation of it. Service dogs are licensed, and doctors write letters for support dogs. Sometimes applicants trey to lie to get the dog in the home for free. Always do your research and try to get documentation/letters for the animal. Make sure they are authentic, of course.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

@Christopher Brainard

Thanks for the input. I just want to make sure you didn't misconstrue my earlier comments.  Just to be clear I won't ever discriminate against someone that has the proper paper work including a letter from a Dr that states they need an ESA. They obviously will still need to meet the rest of my requirements as well. 

In fact we have gone ahead and signed a lease with this tenant using the initial deposit amount. I think this situation has come to a good conclusion. The tenants seem like good people and I was just looking for calcification on the laws regarding denying them and or increasing the deposit. It's obvious both are illegal and therefore we signed the lease. 

~Kyle

@Andreas W.

The tenant provided a letter from a local Dr. stating the tenant needed a dog. Looking back next time I will try and verify the info with the Dr but I doubt I will get much because of Hippa laws. I have asked to have a copy of the letter to keep in my records. As far as the dog goes the tenant had a card saying the dog was a certified ESA dog but I could find no accreditation service that certifies these dogs so it could have easily been a card off of the internet. Not really sure on that side of things. From everything I've read the last day you can't discriminant against the breed, size, or training of the animal so we requested to meet the dog and make sure he was at least friendly.

Kyle,

An emotional support animal may not be a service animal under federal law, however you should check out your state law.

From http://www.ada.gov/regs2010/service_animal_qa.html

Q3. Are emotional support, therapy, comfort, or companion animals considered service animals under the ADA?

A. No. These terms are used to describe animals that provide comfort just by being with a person. Because they have not been trained to perform a specific job or task, they do not qualify as service animals under the ADA. However, some State or local governments have laws that allow people to take emotional support animals into public places. You may check with your State and local government agencies to find out about these laws.

I understand that you have already rented the premises, but you may wish to know more about your rights in the future.

Regards.

Originally posted by @Kyle Graves :

Hi, I'm new to renting. And I've already had a problem.

I have a prospective tenant who has an ESA dog. I was wanting an additional deposit since there was an animal involved, I made it clear it wasn't a "pet" deposit but he is still claiming I can't charge more for the deposit since I had told him it was because of the dog I was going to require more. He did provide me with some literature from the fair housing act.

This is a single family residence located in Idaho. I am wanting thoughts and feedback for any future renters I have this situation with. And how best to proceed with this renter. We were about to sign the lease when he brought me the literature listing his rights ect.

 Hey Kyle,

First of all, the absolute best way to handle this situation is to contact an attorney who specializes in ADA issues.

That being said, I think you are on the right side of this one, assuming it is an Emotional support animal and not a ADA recognized "service animal"

The difference is (from Nolo.com)

However, these protections only apply to dogs that satisfy the ADA’s definition of “service animal.” The ADA defines a service animal as a dog that is "individually trained" to "perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability.” The tasks a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability.

So, an emotional support animal is generally not considered a "service animal" as support animals are generally used for conditions such as depression, anxiety, etc. rather than a recognized disability. Yes depression and anxiety are both serious conditions, but neither is recognized as a disability by the ADA.

My best advice is speak to an attorney. My second best advice is to ask the prospective tenant who is giving you problems to provide proof from a medical professional stating his disability as well as proof or documentation that his dog has been appropriately trained to the standards that the ADA requires to be considered a service animal. If he can provide both of those, you may be stuck, but chances are that it is an emotional support animal, which means there is no federal or state protection when it comes to discriminating against those with disabilities.

Adam 

This is very good information. I recently found about this term myself while traveling on the airlines.

Can I ask, did you have in your leasing guidelines that pets were not / were allowed?

@Gregory Hill

I have seen this time and time again.  Greg, great job.  People google something, and assume something is true without going to the source.  I found the same thing when I discussed damage deposits and Minnesota law.  Source after source said you cannot use the damage deposit for short rent.  I read the law in the books, which says, after some specificed easy steps, you can take short rent from a damage deposit.