Urgent, Help, Potential Tenant with Pitball

134 Replies

Please help me look at my situation: My PM threats me that the potential tenants will sue my insurance company and me for not taking them because they have a pitbull. Seriously, my Property Manager threated me that If we don't take this potential tenants, the tenant will sue. My PM is siding with the tenants? They said that the Fair Housing Act prevents people from discriminating the tenants with dogs. I am in California, is it true? 

Can I fire the my PM right away? I feel they are forcing me to take the tenants and they said they had to do it because it is fair to the tenants. They have to be fair.

Before we made the decision not to take this tenant with Pitbull, I read through all the posting in biggerpocket, majority of the landlords will not take the pitbull because of the liability issue. My insurance company sent me a special message and warned me not to rent the house to the tenant with 6 types of dogs, pitbull is one of them.

Please give me some advise what I should do, please, thank you.

I would ask them exactly where in the Fair Housing Act does it say you can't discriminate against dog owners. Im pretty sure dog owners arent a protected class.

If that were true, why are there apartments that allow No Pets?

I am in California and one of my insurance companies states the same...it gives me an automatic way to turn down an application. I usually back this up with other reasons. I manage m own properties though...and I wonder if you might need a better (different ) property manager. One that can get your insurance cancelled is not looking out for your best interests.

and to piggyback on

@Anne Smith , youre right...dog owners arent a protected class...unless it falls into that grey area of 'service animals'  ...Im a pet friendly landlord but have my limits. A few places I simply say ' no animals' 

You have a terrible PM and should tell him to reject the applicant. Once you confirm he has done as you requested you can then fire him.

If you dig into it you will likely find the applicant is a relative of your PM.

First, make sure it's not a service animal because, if it is, that makes a difference.  You can deny a non-service animal, but denying someone just because they have a service animal would likely be a Fair Housing violation since people with a disability are a protected class.

However, even if it is a service animal, you're still not obligated to rent to them just because they have a service animal.  You just have to screen them like every other applicant and can't deny them based solely on the fact that they have a service animal. 

If your PM didn't explain all that, or is trying to force you into renting to someone who simply has a pet pitbull, you should definitely find a new PM.

I was shocked by my PM, we worked together for 6 years. Finally, they start biting me. People changes or something?

The dog is not a service animal. My PM said that the tenant has bought the $1,000,000, PM's attorney said it will be fine to rent the house to them. My own attorney said no, do not rent to them. My PM said that I have a bad attorney. I believe I have a terrible PM now even if they are so good 6 years ago.

How do I fire a PM? Could I just let them go? Ask for all the deposits, leases? Can I break the management lease agreement?

@Jo Zhou   

Perhaps you could require that the owners carry a specific renters insurance which takes away all of your liability.  I am a renter with two pit bulls and I got a great policy with State Farm which SPECIFICALLY covers Pit Bull Terriers.  This was how I put my land lord at ease (and of course arranging a face to face meeting).  I didn't threaten lawsuit before meeting though lol, I'd like to tell you to stay open minded while legally protecting yourself at the same time.  

Perhaps try to meet the tenants in person and assess the situation yourself.  Maybe you will realize there is no need to panic.

Best of luck finding a great tenant!

@alex, Exactly, I don't mind working with the tenant for the issue, but who will want to rent the place to people who wants to sue us at the first place. I am panic because PM said that the tenants will sue us for violating Fair Housing Act. Would it be fair to landlord? I doubt if it is the tenants' intention to sue us or PM forces us to rent. If this tenants sue us, who will take a tenant who will sue the landlord easily? I would definitely work with people who give us options, but threat us.

Clearly the PM is not well versed in the Fair Housing Act, because if they were then they would be well aware that pit bull owners are not a protected class; the owner of the pit bull might be a member of some protected class, but not because of owning a pit bull. And since the PM is not well versed in Fair Housing, there could be some other violation under Fair Housing that the PM committed ... no way to know that until a lawsuit is filed. But this PM sounds like another bad PM - no surprise with that, what else is new.

Originally posted by @Alex Bekeza :

@Jo Zhou   

Perhaps you could require that the owners carry a specific renters insurance which takes away all of your liability.  ...

There is no real protection in a statement like "taking away all liability". Just the fact that there could be an incident that leads to a lawsuit, with the landlord having to defend the lawsuit, is a very expensive matter; and there's no guarantee the tenant will cover that legal expense for the landlord, even if they so promised to indemnify. After all, many tenants enter into leases and then just choose to ignore or violate provisions in the lease that the tenant promised to follow.

LOL.  Last I checked, dogs were not a protected class.

Then again...you ARE talking about California.  They do all kinds of crazy stuff there! :)

Something clearly is not adding up here. No one, no matter how dumb they are, have been in business as a PM for 6+ years and thinks dog owners are a protected class.  I think there is some kind of miscommunication between the pm and the op.  Some piece of information is not getting through.

Hi Jo Zhou,

One thing to consider:

There are stipulations in some states requiring you to list the approval criteria in the lease application. I would look into that further to make sure you are going about the denial process correctly.

Other than that, denying an applicant for having a pit bull is not illegal. Working with This tenant and property manager seems to have a lot more financial risk than denying the applicant. I would deny their application, inform them of the reason why in a way that'sappropriate in California, and consider getting a different property manager.

Review the written agreement you have with this property manager and take necessary actions to exit your contract.

Good luck in the future.

What kind of PM that work against the landlord? Maybe he is trying to rent your house to his buddy?

Fair housing act doesn’t say anything about pet. In my lease, there’s one clause saying “No pet allow”. Don’t rent to tenants with dogs. Besides potential liability & insurance issue, dogs, especially big ones, can do lot of damage to the house (if dog pee inside the house, you would have to replaced the flooring to get rid of the smell)

My PM just called in and reinforced that the potential tenant  will sue us for discrimination because they already provided us the $1mm renter insurance coverage. The PM’s attorney is also on this issue that confirmed we are covered if the renter has the renter insurance.  I told him if we take this tenant, my landlord insurance will be canceled. The PM said that the tenant will sue the insurance company also. It seems that the tenant has decided to sue whoever it is.

Also, PM asked me if the property is under LLC, or just has umbrella policy. It makes me feel suspicious. As Russell Brazil suspected that something didn't add up, are they trying to get all of my properties? please let me know how I should prepare for it? Who has a CA attorney is good at this matter? Should I put each property under LLC? (I have 3).

Who knows a good property manager, attorney, San Diego fellows, please message me. 

Thank you, thank you for everybody’s help.

If the tenant has a disability they can call it a companion animal. That's different than a service animal. Mental illness would apply to companion animal. Based on the threats I would assume they are mentally disabled & looking to sue if the sun comes up tomorrow. Whether you deny today or something in the future happens the tenant will likely sue. Some people are just that way. 

I would stop addressing the tenant issue & fire the manager but put in writing requesting the tenants contact information & state you will forward the contact information to the new PM. Your new PM will be your attorney until it's rented. Allow your attorney to hire an agent to list for rent & show potential tenants because they can't list or show without the agent license. Once it's rented hire an actual PM. 

What if I have a disability and depend on a service or companion animal?

This is a special situation, where landlords must allow animals even if they have a "no pets" policy.A service or companion animal should not be considered a pet. A service or companion animal should be treated, from the landlord's perspective, like a piece of medical equipment. Because of federal fair housing laws that require landlords to allow reasonable accommodations for tenants with disabilities, the following apply:

  • Landlords may not prohibit a service animal or companion animal from living in the unit.
  • Landlords may not charge the tenant extra "pet" rent or "pet" security deposit.
  • Landlords may not apply other "pet policy" rules like breed or weight restrictions. For more information from HUD on this, click here.


Fire your property manager and find another one immediately. Most insurance policies will not cover pitbulls and if you rent to someone with one anyway you are liable, not the insurance company if something happens. I love pits and used to have one but my PM will never tell me I have to take someone that my insurance company will not cover.

I don't have an issue with the dog (other than your insurance not allowing it).  My issue would be the potential tenant who is willing to sue you and anyone else for no reason at all.  This person almost sounds like a "professional tenant."  Sounds like your PM is related to this person, owes someone a favor, or promised them the place before consulting you.  After 6 years of doing a great job, there's gotta be more to the reason why your PM is so adamant about renting to this person.

I agree with Russell.  Something is not adding up here.  Sounds like a miscommunication.  I would get an attorney involved.  Probably have them contact your PM and ask why they feel you will be sued for not renting to them.  Better to get one now then after the fact if you really think this is a problem.  
I would not rent to Pit bulls.  I love dogs but Pits are dangerous, too many first hand experiences at dog parks etc.  
If the tenet is threatening to sue now imagine how they would be if they moved in the your place.  How often are you going to have to deal with the threat of being sued.   

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