Emotional Support Pets After Move-In

27 Replies

Hi Guys,

Brand new landlord here and was hoping the BP family could help.

I had some tenants move in and signed a lease indicating no pets and making no meantion of any emotional support animal.

One month after move in, I drove to the property and they had a dog.  When I confronted her about it, she says “I’m waiting on a letter from my doctor for one of those emotional thingys”.

My questions:  Do emotional support pets have to be disclosed before hand?  Do I have any grounds to charge her fees to make up for the month that she didn’t have the note for? 

Really i would love to hear how an experienced landlord or prop manager would handle this situation.

Hi Mike,

Unfortunately, you can not charge any extra fees or deposits. I know it stinks and especially being lied to!!! You can ask her to have her doctor fill out your form that you provide, instead of possibly "the thingy" she got online for $25. Try that approach

I'm pretty sure with a doctor's letter, you're stuck. As of now, it sounds like she's in violation of the lease. Does your lease specify a penalty for pet violations.

Who knows if she'll ever get a letter. We put a $200 initial penalty plus $10 per day for pet violations. I'd go after her. Pretty damage sucks. Been there done that.

Yes, the request for accommodation needs to be disclosed before the accommodation. This is true if the accommodation is a ramp or an emotional support animal.  The Idaho Apartment Association recommends that the landlord provide a form directly to the health care provider to complete and return.  (Form is provided to members)  Often providers do not want to say "no" to their patients.  If the patients do not meet the definition of needing the assistance, the provider is hesitant to falsely complete the form and provide it to a third party.  It is also recommended that the LL have an ANIMAL -- not pet -- policy covering care, animal waste, vaccinations, insurance, inspections and damages.

I would inspect and immediately charge for damages.  If you want to keep this tenant (I would not), I would charge a deposit and pet rent.  I would refund these upon submission of proper documentation.

I would give them a notice to comply, to remove the dog or provide the needed documentation.  In our area we can have it be 3 working days, but I'd give them a week to get their act together. Regardless of whether it qualifies, they are likely in violation, depending on your lease language.  Be very agreeable, don't seem like you are going to discriminate.  Keep in mind that there have not been many legal cases for emotional support animals.  You're goal is to be firm that any old pet can not be emotional to avoid fees, but you don't want be the next court case.   "We fully support emotional animals, we only need this form completed, please."

A form a lawyer provided:

FORM TO REQUEST AN ASSISTANCE ANIMAL

We are committed to granting reasonable accommodations when necessary to afford persons with disabilities the equal opportunity to use and enjoy our rental properties.

Under the Fair Housing Act, a person with a disability is defined as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. Reasonable accommodation may include waiving or varying pet polices and fees to allow an Assistance Animal. An Assistance Animal is an animal that does work or performs tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability, or provides emotional support or other assistance that alleviates one or more symptom or effects of a person’s disability.

Please complete this form completely and return it to us. All information will be kept confidential, except as otherwise required by law.

Today’s Date: _______________________

Name of person with disability requesting accommodation: _____________________________

What is the species of animal? __________________________

Provide the name and physical description (size, color, weight, license) of the animal:

_______________________________________________________________________________

Does the animal perform work or do tasks because of the disability? _____________

If Yes, please provide a statement from a health or social service professional indicating that you have a disability and explaining how the animal is able to do work or perform tasks that alleviate one or more symptoms or effects of your disability.

If No, please provide a statement from a health or social service professional indicating that you have a disability and how the animal alleviates the symptoms or effects.

Please attach statement with any additional information and contract information for the professional completing the statement.

_______________________________________ _______________________

Signature of Person Making Request Date

_______________________________________ _______________________

Signature of Person with Disability Date

Unfortunately one cannot charge for emotional support dogs but I like @ Kim Meredith Hampton’s suggestion of requesting, that “thingy” to verify that it is legitimate.

I thank you for this post, because, as a result, I am going to modify the #2 section of my lease which is the “RELIANCE ON RENTAL INFORMATION”, details of which are presented below.I love Bigger Pockets for the great information and ideas that come up even when one is not looking.Feel free to adapt and modify the reliance on rental information provided below.Now whether it will hold up in court, that is for an attorney to decide but at the very least it initiates that agreement between me (Agent) and tenants.Cheers!

RELIANCEONRENTALINFORMATION:

Outside of a sale-purchase scenario, this Lease agreement is often executed subsequent to Tenants completing a Rental Application and their rental application being accepted. In instances of purchase of property, lease is executed subsequent to buyer entering into a rental lease agreement with inherited tenants.This agreement is preceded by review of due diligence documents provided by seller to buyer.Tenants acknowledges that Agent is entering into this Lease in reliance on the information contained in Tenant’s rental application and or all other information provided to Agent by Tenants or Tenant’s current landlord/property management team in the event of a property sale, all prior to this lease agreement. If it is determined at any time that such information is false or materially misleading, then Agent shall have the option to terminate this Lease upon three days’ notice to quit. If tenants decide to provide any new information (not previously disclosed) after lease signing, Agent shall have the option to carefully consider this additional information and either decide to terminate this Lease upon three days notice to quit if the additional information has the potential of unfavorably impacting the previously signed mutually benefiting lease agreement, or Agent can decide to make adjustments accordingly including but not limited to any additional screenings as needed, rent/security deposit/utility fee or any other applicable fee raises, pet fee implementations as applicable, request for emotional support documentation for new pets and request for completion of a pet addendum to modify existing lease.Unless otherwise communicated, Tenants are required to resubmit application for any Rental Lease Renewals.Tenants shall promptly notify Agent in writing of any subsequent change in the information provided by Tenants on Tenant’s lease application.

I agree with Michele Fischers' posting.

At this point in time you have NO documentation that your tenant has an emotional support ANIMAL (not a dog, an animal).  All they have told you is that she is waiting on a letter from my doctor for one of those emotional "thingys".

What the hell does that mean? 

At this point your tenants are breaching their lease which states "no pets".

Gail

Wow, one of my first post and I cant believe how fast you all jumped in to help.  I totally appreciate it.

If she does in fact produce documentation for it. I have a feeling that it will be a prescription dated after the incident.  I think because I was not disclosed of it, and if it was prescribed after the animal was brought to the property, I should be able to treat it like a "pet" up to the point I was provided documentation.


What I was thinking... I should be able to collect a "Pet Fee" & pet rent since it was technically a pet for the first month. Your guy's thoughts?


Also, can I evict a tenant for having an animal on the property that was classified as a "pet" prior to them being prescribed?  So in other words, if she gave me proper documentation tomorrow... Can I still evict based on the fact that she had the pet at the premises prior to the doctors prescription?

-Mike

This is why I add the above "Reliance on Rental Information" clause and also have a pet addendum to my leases that all tenants sign including those without pets (in which case on their lease it just shows 0 pets, but they get the exact same addendums as all other tenants).  In all fairness, your tenant is changing the terms of the agreement, after the fact.  You as owner should be able to challenge that and if not happy about it, then at least have the option to terminate said agreement.  Not knowing how your lease reads, I would suggest checking with an evictions attorney.  Evictions based on non-compliance are difficult (not impossible).  I really would not spend time without attorney input trying to figure out what time-frame you were legally right to charge for pet fees.  The amount of time may well, be more than the amount of pet fees you are looking to get compensated for, for the duration of time.  I think sometimes we forget that time truly is money.  My suggestion is run it by attorney including the above clause to see if it is something you can begin to implement in future leases, to at least give you something to fight with.  Again, as previously stated, not sure how strong my reliance on rental information clause is and/or if would hold up in court, but I borrowed and modified it from a property management company that managed a property that I rented at, a while back when I was a renter not landlord.  Please keep us posted on what you find. Cheers!

Originally posted by @Kim Meredith Hampton :

Hi Mike,

Unfortunately, you can not charge any extra fees or deposits. I know it stinks and especially being lied to!!! You can ask her to have her doctor fill out your form that you provide, instead of possibly "the thingy" she got online for $25. Try that approach

 Kim,

We were told by a lawyer that we could charge a pet security deposit for service pets. I thought this was part of the federal ADA which would mean that this would be true no matter the state but perhaps I'm wrong.

What I'm learning is that it is always best to treat tenants, vendors, contractors, etc as calmly and even handedly, as possible. The moment I allow my indignation to get the upper hand is the moment I cause myself more harm. In other words, I attempt to follow advice similar to what @Michele Fischer mentions above, You're goal is to be firm that any old pet can not be emotional to avoid fees, but you don't want be the next court case. "We fully support emotional animals, we only need this form completed, please." 

My understanding is that single family homes, rented without using a broker, are exempt from service and ESA requirements.    Research it for yourself, I for one am tired of idiots passing off their 100 pound pit bull as an ESA when my ads for rentals specifically say NO LARGE DOGS ALLOWED.

Originally posted by @Carolyn Fuller :

We were told by a lawyer that we could charge a pet security deposit for service pets. I thought this was part of the federal ADA which would mean that this would be true no matter the state but perhaps I'm wrong.

The lawyer that told you that is 100% wrong.

Originally posted by @Roger S. :

My understanding is that single family homes, rented without using a broker, are exempt from service and ESA requirements.    Research it for yourself, I for one am tired of idiots passing off their 100 pound pit bull as an ESA when my ads for rentals specifically say NO LARGE DOGS ALLOWED.

The exemption does exist for owner occupied multis 4 units or less, or on single families if you own 3 units or less. It is called the Mrs Murphy exemption. However remember many states have more restrictive laws than the federal law, so many states do not recognize the Mrs Murphy exemption. Also discrimination based on race is not included in the exemption, as HUD leans on the Civil Rights Act of 1866 also. Advertising is also is not included in the exemption. The exemption is never extended to real estate licensees or professionals.

Also while the exemption applies, it does not necessarily protect you from civil liability, as there have been a number of lawsuits in the last few years against AirBnB and its host regarding the Mrs Murphy exemption.

Just to follow up to my issues.  I ended up providing the following 3 resolutions to my tenants:

1) Provide me documentation from a doctor that shows prescription.  If not dated prior to lease date, the first month of rent would be handled treating the animal as a pet.  As such paying a full pet fee and full months pet rent.

I did indicate that failure to disclose and the month of lease non-compliance would likely affect my decision to renew her lease. In this case my tenant is on a voucher program... They tend to like to plant their roots as its hard to find SFH that will work with the program.

2) Get rid of the pet.

3) Find somewhere else to live.

Conclusion:  She decided to get rid of the pet.

Originally posted by @Bettina F. :

Yes, the request for accommodation needs to be disclosed before the accommodation. This is true if the accommodation is a ramp or an emotional support animal.  The Idaho Apartment Association recommends that the landlord provide a form directly to the health care provider to complete and return.  (Form is provided to members)  Often providers do not want to say "no" to their patients.  If the patients do not meet the definition of needing the assistance, the provider is hesitant to falsely complete the form and provide it to a third party.  It is also recommended that the LL have an ANIMAL -- not pet -- policy covering care, animal waste, vaccinations, insurance, inspections and damages.

I would inspect and immediately charge for damages.  If you want to keep this tenant (I would not), I would charge a deposit and pet rent.  I would refund these upon submission of proper documentation.

Because they are currently in violation of the lease, I would collect pet rent and/or evict. If you want to keep them, You can refund them the money after they provide the documentation.

Emotional Support Animal? You have got to be _____ with me hahaha! This world is nuts! Are there other things like this I should be prepared for as a landlord? Is it possible to get a "smoking crutch" permit so tenants can make my walls all yellow and stinky as well?

I would follow up with quarterly inspections.  Or whatever is outlined in your lease.  Most people are reluctant to get rid of their pet.  So it is the trust but verify.

Originally posted by @Mike Mazzucco :

Just to follow up to my issues.  I ended up providing the following 3 resolutions to my tenants:

1) Provide me documentation from a doctor that shows prescription.  If not dated prior to lease date, the first month of rent would be handled treating the animal as a pet.  As such paying a full pet fee and full months pet rent.

I did indicate that failure to disclose and the month of lease non-compliance would likely affect my decision to renew her lease. In this case my tenant is on a voucher program... They tend to like to plant their roots as its hard to find SFH that will work with the program.

2) Get rid of the pet.

3) Find somewhere else to live.

Conclusion:  She decided to get rid of the pet.

 Nice work! That was well put together and even better executed! I'm going to tuck that one in my back pocket for later. Thanks for posting Mike!

@Mike Mazzucco it may be gone or may be staying with friends while they get you off their back. Keep an eye on them. I have had tenants tell me animals are gone, only to find them there later. It may blow your mind to hear this, but people lie quite often.

Another consideration for application and lease terminology is to use the word animal instead of pets. State on the lease that no animals are to be brought into the property without previous written authorization from the landlord. Even if you have a "no pets" policy, have this clause in your lease to cover ESA.

On an application, technically an ESA is not a pet, so if you asked how many pets, they could say 0 truthfully. A better way to ask:

How many animals?

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