I am a California resident. I rented my former townhome through a prop managment company. In late August we notified our tenants who are 1 year through a 2 year lease that we would be moving back to their area from Seattle and would thus be taking care of the property directly.
Last week we discovered that they have had a large dog on the property since the beginning of the lease. Its an 8 year old dog that I assume they have owned from the start. We asked them to remove the dog and pay 1 year back pet rent. They produced an ESA emotional support dog letter from one of these common websites, dating from just 3 weeks earlier. That's just 2 weeks after we told them of our move. During the 2 previous on site inspections, including 1 from just 2 weeks ago) the dog was carefully hidden and its food dish, etc taken away.
Do I have any options for challenging the validity of the ESA?
There are all sorts of websites that, for under $100, will sell a bogus ESA letter to pretty much anyone. This is useless information.
What a landlord can actual require is notification from the tenants MEDICAL PROVIDER of the need for an emotional support animal. Thus, while the landlord cannot ask the MEDICAL REASON for such, they can require actual documentation from the tenants medical provider.
You might want to google the internet for the appropriate form to print out and provide to the tenant to give to their medical provider to justify the need for this so-called emotional support animal.
Make sure that you follow the law and get certification from their medical provider, however if the animal is legitimately certified you cannot discriminate against the tenant even if you have a no pet policy, otherwise it would be a violation of ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act).
Thanks for the replies. The letter is from a valid doctor, one that happens to live 120 miles from them. So can you clarify what you mean by certification? I am pretty sure this doc has never met my tenant in person.
The big thing I am curious about is the timing. They had the dog for 8 years, 1 in my place. Then they find out I am coming back and then run to get this letter. Plus they hid the dog on the 2 inspections. That strikes me as clear fraud.
I would focus on ending the contract as soon as you can for breaking the rental agreement. Regardless of whether it qualifies as an emotional support animal or not, they did not declare the animal and have been hiding it. Assume you have a clause against any pets without preapproval. You want them out as soon as you can. Stop chasing the prior or current pet rent, don't make it about the type of animal, focus on getting them out without a lawsuit. Give them a notice to comply with the form they need to fill out, make it clear you will not be renewing their lease. See what it would take to get them to move and not retaliate.
I rent apartments in Minnesota and I am experiencing a similar problem. I do allow dogs in my rentals. However, in my situation a tenant went out and got a dog without a pet addendum or talking to me about it. I asked her about having a dog she said "No, I don't have a dog". I caught her with the dog and told her she needed to remove the dog from the property. She then got her therapist to write a letter allowing her to have an emotional support animal. I countered that the letter came after she got the dog. She then found a lawyer to serve me a letter, stating I was harassing my tenant. To me it feels that my tenant and many other tenants are exploiting a law designed to help people. I have read up on state and federal laws and there seems to be nothing that protects landlords and the rules they put in place to provide quality equal housing for all. Her rent gets paid each month and she otherwise does not violate the lease. It seems to me that if I do not renew her lease that she will claim discrimination. I am not looking to become the center of a Fair Housing violation, I just don't like being lied to. Does anyone have experience with this? What were you able to do?
@Jayson Knuts I don't have experience with this, nor am I a lawyer but are you able to take the unit off the market at the end of the lease for the purposes of a major rehab. Eat the cost for a month or less, do some work in it and then put it back on the market?