Emotional Support Animals

15 Replies

My rental has a no-pet policy. Mainly because the septic field of the house was just repaired and its all dirt, an animal can really destroy it fast. Its seriously costly and if its destroyed now I really wouldn't have much to repair anymore. A lot of people contact me and when I deny saying they mentioned pets and we have a no-pet policy, they claim its an ESA . I went through all the forums I could find here and I have gone through the Fair Housing Laws regarding disabilities and ESAs, but still have some unanswered questions.

Can I deny based on - "The presence of the assistance animal would pose an undue financial and administrative burden to the provider"?

If not, I would like to give them a form and require them to get it filled by their licenced medical provider, like a lot of people mentioned in forums. But I could not find a copy of such a form anywhere. I see only the letters from the fake ESA certification sites when I search. Can anyone point me to a solid form to use for verification, a letter which I can ask them to take to their doctor to fill. 

Is it ok to call the medical provider too for verification?


Also, is it ok to ask applicant was evaluated on the DSM-V?


You didn't state what type of pet the ESA pet is; cat, dog, lizard??? Honestly, I have never had an animal destroy a septic field in any of my houses, and I have been managing for over 20 years. Now, I have had a large truck park on the field and crush it, but not a pet.

You can request the doctor to fill out your form, but you can not ask what they have been evaluated for, but can ask what type of service the pet provides for their disability if it is not readily visible.

Have you tried forming a statement about the septic field and that it would be an undue financial and administrative burden, a specific statement that you can recite to any applicants requesting an ESA and see if that sends them elsewhere?  If they insist, let them know just how expensive it would be and that it would be their financial responsibility to repair if damage is done.  There are support animal verification forms online that you can adapt to your needs.  Ask that the form be e-mailed, mailed, or faxed directly from the doctor's office.  I imagine those steps would weed out all but the most serious of applicants.    You cannot ask for higher deposit or pet fee or pet rent, and you cannot ask what their medical condition is, but I don't see any harm in telling them up front that  you have an issue that would be an undue burden on you.

Is this property in a rural setting? Is it a mound style system? How would a pet destroy a septic system? Other than probably digging or dragging the mud in the house not sure. Definitely do not want large vehicles or heavy equipment going across it.

@Bryan K. @Kim Meredith Hampton The septic system was just repaired and the backyard had drainage issues which were saturating the drainfield. We had to regrade and put two quad truck loads of topsoil just to get the drainfield in a shape that the water would drain out, it was very hard to achieve. Its loose and can easily be moved, last thing it needs is anyone digging or moving the dirt there, which took a lot of effort and money to put in place.  System is very delicate and after one year of overuse by tenants (12 people staying when 3 are on the lease), thousands of dollars into it for repair, a year of pain, I am not up for taking any chances. No digging, no moving dirt, can't afford it! I don't want to differentiate between different kinds of pets just to keep the policy simple.  

@Lynn M.   I have not formed any statement yet, I didn't know if I could tell them that. I'll try telling them upfront and hopefully they understand.

From what I have read, the housing regs regarding support animals do not apply to single family homes owned by individual investors.  I'd have to search to find that again, but I have read it in more than one place

I've changed my language and docs to not include the word 'pet' anymore at all.  I have an animal policy, an animal application, an animal agreement, etc.

ESA, comfort, and therapy animals are not pets!

BTW, on my anonymous for rent ads online, one of my main questions is..... How many animals?   Know going in.  You can deny if someone wasn't truthful up front.

Not your question but i would set an occupancy limit based on the septic that could help. For dogs I dont think you could set a permanant restrictiion on ESAs because grass would solve the dirt problem. However there are other ways you might handle. No dogs in yard? That is not attractive to dog owners. That must have been terrible 12 people with a 3 bedroom septic.

@Roger S. Its true for if owner is not using a  broker and owns less than 4(3 or 4 I frogot) units. I am licenced real estate agent, even if I am the owner, FH laws are applicable for my rentals. 

Just changed everything related to "animal":), will mention no animals allowed in the yard, thanks all!

Forget the new septic, it does not matter why you don't want animals in your rental. An animal is an animal, whether it is for "emotional support" or not. Aren't you allowed to choose what goes into your rental? I think allowing "ESA" is opening up a can of worms...emotional support worms. How about 'this is my emotional support drug dealer boyfriend'? Or 'I am a food addict, I need you to provide me with three refrigerators.' Or 'I have chronic insomnia, I need you to provide blackout curtains and a white noise machine.' You own a rental property, not a psych ward. I would hope that no decent physician would provide such documentation. What a sham "necessity." 

@Mona Verma read the North Carolina Disability Rights packet. It's a pretty good overview and includes a sample form near the end.

Fraud is rampant. Most people claiming an ESA are liars trying to sneak in their pet. They purchase certificates online or even get a "diagnosis" from a licensed physician over the internet. I do not accept any of those. I also do not accept an old letter. I give them a form that must be completed by their healthcare provider. This scares away the majority.

You are allowed to verify the disability and the service the animal provides. That's it. 

Something else to remember: many people will claim to have more than one animal prescribed for the same issue. You are not required to permit that. Even under the disability act, only one service animal is permitted per disability. A person could have one dog that alerts them to seizures and another that guides them. I know of no legal requirement to permit multiple animals for anxiety.

I discovered that if you educate yourself and develop policies, it will scare most of the fraud away.

It is far easier to avoid the "emotional support" issue entirely. Simply inform all applicants you do not want to accept that they are not first in line and that you are still screening applications and you will inform them in time. Patients will turn up a acceptable applicant and you then simply inform all others that the unit has been filled.

I have never rejected any applicant for having a animal, emotional support or otherwise, I simply wait till I have a better applicant.

What if they are already moved in and then bring this to the table? Would this override the lease agreement signed by them stating no pets allowed? This will be the angle tenants take once they see a landlord is educated. 

"What if they are already moved in and then bring this to the table?"

In that case it would definatly be a scam and you move forward with a  eviction.

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