Urgent, Help, Potential Tenant with Pitball

134 Replies

I would remind the PM that you are the owner and will not be renting to them and if they have a problem with that you will no longer need their services. I would deny this tenant not because of the dog but because of their threats to sue before they even move in. Even if the tenant claims they will get rid of the dog I would not rent to them.

This is not a tenant that you want. Insist that the PM keep searching for another tenant and if they refuse hire another PM or self manage. Something does not feel right to me about how the PM is insisting on it. Either they have a personal relationship with the tenant or they already promised the property to the tenant which they should not have done. Have they even shown you the tenant’s credit report? There could be other red flags that you are not even aware of. If you have not seen it insist on seeing it and then ask them why they even considered this tenant if you see red flags on the report.

I agree! This isn’t a tenant that you want who is threatening to sue before even moving in. Definitely look for a new PM who knows Fair Housing well. You should list in your application criteria which type of animals are prohibited at your property to prevent an event like this in the future.

@Jo Zhou send this link to your PM. It is directly from the Federal Government HUD website. It is a great summary of the fair housing act. It is pretty clear what the protected classes are.

https://www.hud.gov/program_offices/fair_housing_e...

When you send the link to the PM, just keep your message simple to limit what you put in writing. Explain that you fully comply with Fair Housing and any protected class. If the PM responds, don't respond to their message in writing.

Call the PM and terminate them. Explain the termination is due to a series of events and since there is threat of litigation, you would prefer that ALL future communications be through your attorney.

As far as insurance. The tenant carrying insurance is not sufficient to cover you. That only covers the tenants liability and the tenant could drop that policy at any time without notifying you. Your mortgage company will require you to hold insurance on the property. Your insurance company will drop you if they find out there is a pit bull there. Even if the tenant has a mental disability requiring treatment with an emotional support animal, it is unreasonable to expect you to suffer the consequences of dropped insurance.

If you get sued, it does work in your favor that the animal was not presented to you as an Emotional Support Animal. If you end up in court, you just argue they presented it as a pet. As long as they have not sent you anything talking about "disability" or "treatment" or "emotional support" and there is no doctors note, how would you know this is anything but a pet?

Prior to firing your PM, have a realtor come over to your house and do a "fair market analysis" and tell the agent you are considering selling the property. If it looks like you are going to be sued, just stick by the story that you decided to sell the property instead of renting it. Given CA real estate prices, you just decided it is time to cash out. Keep a copy of the dated analysis as proof you were planning to sell. If the threat of litigation get's too real, you could always just put the house on the market and cash out. Not sure that aligns with your goals, but it is an option.

Most likely the renter is full of empty threats. If it was a normal state, I wouldn't be worried so much about litigation, but in California common sense went up in smoke years ago.

Jo Zhou, 

Man, you need to take a stand!

These people (your manager and the other guy) are messing with you. 

Their jealous of the Chinese guy who owns the building and they want to take a shot at you.

You wrote:

"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"

And if you go against the terms of your insurance contract they may cancel your policy, and that's going to start a series of other problems.

Take a stand NOW otherwise you will be vulnerable to such attacks in the future.

Let this PROBLEM be an OPPORTUNITY for you and ask people here for a good PM.

When you get a few people to interview present THIS issue and ask them to advise you:

1) right there on the spot.

2) in 24 hours, ie after they've been able to reach out to their own sources for the best way forward.

W,

There are 3 stories going on here and yours is the only one you can trust!

My thought is the PM told the "Potential Renter" that he/she needed to have X amount of insurance before he would rent to him. PM looking to not rent to him, so choose what he thought was a way to eliminate him by creating a financial barrier. Renter went out and purchased policy, brought it back and dropped it on PM desk-OOPS! Renter now is understandable a little ticked off that he has money into a policy that is actually useless to him, but followed the directions of the PM! 

But as many people have said something is not right about the "Facts".  FIRST and foremost CYOA!

And the common denominator here and for your problems in Detroit is..... tenant selection by.... a PM.

Why do you keep punishing yourself?  RE is about control. No control over who lives in YOUR property?

Anyway, a simple question in for rent ads saves us from all this drama- how many animals?

One option is to not disqualify them as an applicant.  But instead hold on the the application for being incomplete. If they left any blanks in the rental application at all.  You can also request additional documentation.   When they fail to provide you with a document set their application aside as incomplete and go with a different tenant. You can request documents such as payment receipts from the previous land lord showing they paid all rents on time.  Request tax returns and 2 months of check stubs. 

Now, you did not disqualify them or turn them down in anyway. They just never completed the application.

People with pets are not a protected class. It is possible that your PM and the potential tenant are confused. There is a law that applies to HOA's that prohibit them from completely banning all pets. So they have to allow at least an indoor cat but can ban dogs. As far as I know that is the only protection on the books for people with pets. Since you are not a owner of an entire condo building you have a right to ban all animals, not just pits. Even if the dog is a comfort animal, as opposed to a service dog, if renting to them would cause financial hardship you don't have to. Not true for service animal. So if it were me I would terminate the PM and let them try to file a law suit. It won't get them anything. And I agree with everyone that renting to a person who threatens to sue is a bad idea.

Thank you for all your replies. I feel I lost the control because PM has the tenant’s everything, and PM stands by the tenant, I couldn’t do anything. Get ride of PM will take 30 days, it seems too long for the issue. I need a good attorney because the PM said the tenant had a very good attorney, we will lose the case if they sue. It seems PM is so sure we are going to lose, PM even doesn’t think how we could be protected. This is the weird part.

You can deny an applicant based upon the fact that they have a dog or any other issue you find with their application. This should be your PM's problem, not your problem. You definitely do not want this litigious applicant as a tenant because this will be the first of many issues if you sign a lease with them. Go with your gut instinct and pass on the applicant. 

 Number one you make it real clear what you want your property manger to do with your homes.  If they have  done a good job other than this, just have a sit down over coffee and discuss what you want and why your landlord is so passionate about this issue.

 Number two what are you afraid of with pitbulls?  These folks generally make the  best tenants as they cant find decent places to live with there beloved pets. Take a look at any pics these potential tenants may have public to see if they look like they are keeping there current rental clean, well kept. See if the dog is a part of the family. Happy families keep your places up better.  Ask to meet the potential pup.. Tell your landlord to ,and to check out there current living situation if they have maintained the property with the pup. 

Change insurance companies if you have a issue to State Farm. There is a movement going on all across the nation, that big dogs, and restricted breeds are more readilty accepted in rentals. Thank you  God !

Require your tenant to carry renters insurance with liability  spelled out on there policy for there pup.

Set rules for the dogs behavior before move in..... Total vetting is one. 

Do a  3 month inspection on place to be sure you are happy dog is not destructing things..

I say rent to pitbull folks every time..... As long as they are responsible and good paying tenants.. 

Ask your PM to scan all of the leases and email them to you.  Also, get your deposits.  Then fire your PM.

I purchased a 4plex in Las Vegas and one of the tenants had a Pit-bull.  My insurance company made an exterior inspection and cancelled policy after seeing a Pitbull on the patio.  I had to get new insurance through State Farm and the premium was $500 more per year.

Good Luck.

If you haven’t fire the PM yet, what are you waiting for?

I think at this point, you need to take the property off the rental market for at least 30 days.  With your insurance threatening to drop your policy, you can no longer afford to rent to anyone.  Hire a good real estate attorney who has experience with litigious tenants.  Ask him or her how to handle this issue and how to fire the Property Manager.  The PM's first responsibility is to you and he isn't fulfilling his responsibility.  I agree with the others--there is something wrong with this scenario, but the important thing is to protect yourself and your property.  Good luck, and let us know how it turns out!

This tenant is too much drama before you even open the doors to him/her. I would look over your application and the relevant instructions provided to applicants. Then I would have my attorney review it to ensure it is on point. The PM's attorney seems to only be saying that the applicant's insurance would cover the liability, not that you have to rent to the applicant. The PM seems to have ulterior motives or isn't looking out for your best interest. Did you hear the PM's attorney say anything with your own ears? If not, I'd be suspicious. Listen to your attorney and your insurance company. If you have a policy that you will not do anything that will cancel your insurance then that's your policy. They can sue if they want to. I would simply counter sue as I believe in my claim. I do not let anything go if I can help it. I establish this with all of my tenants up front. I tell them I will fight for every inch to let them know that I'm not going to be an easy target especially for those who elope in the middle of the night (thank you social security number). In any event, you sound stressed. Simply follow the instructions of your professionals and move along. Let them sue. Sounds like someone looking to score on a "rich landlord."  I'd call their bluff and document everything. Then I would relieve the PM of their duties as soon as possible. Contact some landlords in the area where your property is located and find a good PM before you fire them though.

Originally posted by @Wilson Lee :

One option is to not disqualify them as an applicant.  But instead hold on the the application for being incomplete. If they left any blanks in the rental application at all.  You can also request additional documentation.   When they fail to provide you with a document set their application aside as incomplete and go with a different tenant. You can request documents such as payment receipts from the previous land lord showing they paid all rents on time.  Request tax returns and 2 months of check stubs. 

Now, you did not disqualify them or turn them down in anyway. They just never completed the application.

Ahh, the "fool's errand" approach; maybe the applicant is a fool, maybe not ...

I love dogs. We have a beautiful German Shepherd, we live on 20 acres, our tenants live in duplexes and apartments so the rules are different. In the apartments it is 'no pets'; in the duplexes we are ok with cats and small dogs. Last year the PM for our duplexes told me a tenant has got a Pitbull. We informed the tenant nicely and firmly that either the dog goes or they both go. in this case the dog went. It is a liability issue; dogs like pitbulls (and German Shepherds) have a reputation and if my tenant's pitbull mauls a neighbor kid we will be included in an eventual lawsuit. So whatever the hurdle the dog has to go; IMO anyway.

Originally posted by @Steve Babiak :
Originally posted by @Wilson Lee:

One option is to not disqualify them as an applicant.  But instead hold on the the application for being incomplete. If they left any blanks in the rental application at all.  You can also request additional documentation.   When they fail to provide you with a document set their application aside as incomplete and go with a different tenant. You can request documents such as payment receipts from the previous land lord showing they paid all rents on time.  Request tax returns and 2 months of check stubs. 

Now, you did not disqualify them or turn them down in anyway. They just never completed the application.

Ahh, the "fool's errand" approach; maybe the applicant is a fool, maybe not ...

 If they turn in a incomplete application and don't come back to finish process before someone else turns in theirs, That is on them.   As long as the OP has written out the application requirements and requires them form each applicant.  He is in the clear. 

@Jo Zhou

I would check to see if your insurance company even permits pitbull to be on your property.  Our insurance company will not insure us if we permit a "dangerous breed" on the property.

So basically your PM wants you to change your insurance and accept a client that is threatening a lawsuit before they even move in?

Sounds like a great way to start off a wonderful long term relationship with a new tenant !!

Have the PM send you the legal precedent that you have to rent to a tenant that has a breed that is prohibited on your current liability insurance.

Is this your only applicant? ...would this PM even tell you if it was?

In some ways part of the PM job is to stop you from doing something stupid, but this is going too far. If the PM is claiming that their attorney is saying to rent to them, I would want to speak to that attorney in person and hear what they have to say, and then get it in writing

Originally posted by @Jo Zhou :

Thank you for all your replies. I feel I lost the control because PM has the tenant’s everything, and PM stands by the tenant, I couldn’t do anything. Get ride of PM will take 30 days, it seems too long for the issue. I need a good attorney because the PM said the tenant had a very good attorney, we will lose the case if they sue. It seems PM is so sure we are going to lose, PM even doesn’t think how we could be protected. This is the weird part.

I am not an attorney but my family and I have been landlords in San Diego for many year (too many years).

There is no way you lose this case if the animal is not a service animal. A landlord can choose to accept or deny any animal that is not a service animal. Unfortunately HUD's definition of a service animal is much lower than ADA's definition but I have threaten to fight this inconsistency on a couple of occasions and both times the tenant backed down (We never went to court).

What sort of asset protection do you have in place?   Do you have an umbrella policy?  Is the umbrella policy with the same insurance that insures the property?

Unfortunately I would not take this tenant because 1) they are threatening to sue without merit 2) Your insurance does not take Pit Bulls.  However, this could result in a law suit which even though you will not lose and you could possibly collect your expense would be a pain in the butt.

In addition, I would fire the PM for cause and not worry about breaking the contract 1) PM has displayed provable incompetence 2) PM has not followed your direction which is grounds for immediate termination 3) PM has already displayed they are afraid to get their hands dirty in a legal battle and therefore are very unlikely to sue you because you have a good case for firing them and if they are afraid of a meritless lawsuit against them they certainly are not going to initiate their own losing law suit.

Note if the dog is a service animal then the merits of the case are tougher. It is very easy to get an animal certified to the level of HUD definition as a service animal. There are places that will certify emotional support animals for a very small fee. I believe it is illegal in CA to claim an animal is a support animal when it is not but I have never seen any enforcement.

Good luck

Originally posted by @Barry O. :

There are 3 stories going on here and yours is the only one you can trust!

My thought is the PM told the "Potential Renter" that he/she needed to have X amount of insurance before he would rent to him. PM looking to not rent to him, so choose what he thought was a way to eliminate him by creating a financial barrier. Renter went out and purchased policy, brought it back and dropped it on PM desk-OOPS! Renter now is understandable a little ticked off that he has money into a policy that is actually useless to him, but followed the directions of the PM! 

But as many people have said something is not right about the "Facts".  FIRST and foremost CYOA!

This sounds like exactly what happened to me as well.  In this case, any potential suit or liability would fall on the PM and not the owner.  The PM is likely aware of this and trying to brush it under the rug by trying to convince the owner to take on this tenant anyway.

The tenant in this case likely also has a legitimate suit for the cost of the renter's insurance.

My advice to the OP: FORGET ABOUT THE DOG.  The dog is not the issue at hand.  What was promised to the renter by the PM?  Has the renter already paid expenses associated with things like renter's insurance to try to rent the property?  Get the facts about what was agreed to already.  The dog really is a periphery item in this discussion.

Service animal issue...... make sure you have ALL of the communications so far documented in writing , so you can prove that you denied them BEFORE they pull the trump card of calling it a service animal....because they may throw that out there pretty soon. You need to prove that with all of this back and forth discussion, that they never mentioned that until very late in the situation, when it became more contentious and they started to realize that you weren't going to bend.

DO NOT broach the subject of it being/not being a service animal....don't ask.....don't mention....don't even point it out that its not. You will only give them ammunition that apparently they haven't thought of or used YET..... don't even point out that fact to your PM...at least until you have it well documented that the pet was never presented that way until they were about to lose on their threats.

Folks I worked in a animal rescue for 3 years, poodles and  chi' dogs bite more than large dogs Pitbulls ect... We as owners need to take a stand against this bias of large and supposed"restricted" dogs..... with insurance companies.... How can you ask a tenant to give up a family member???!! Its a very passionate issue for them.  I use State Farm and don't care if its more money for me, as one of you said higher rates!..... I have  folks with these restricted pets calling me weekly to rent from me.... How can you be a  pet lover, and give in to this ? Where do the large and restricted dogs end up kill shelters..... Be the solution !

Originally posted by @Jenny Jones :

Folks I worked in a animal rescue for 3 years, poodles and  chi' dogs bite more than large dogs Pitbulls ect... We as owners need to take a stand against this bias of large and supposed"restricted" dogs..... with insurance companies.... How can you ask a tenant to give up a family member???!! Its a very passionate issue for them.  I use State Farm and don't care if its more money for me, as one of you said higher rates!..... I have  folks with these restricted pets calling me weekly to rent from me.... How can you be a  pet lover, and give in to this ? Where do the large and restricted dogs end up kill shelters..... Be the solution !

When was the last time you heard of a poodle killing someone?  Seriously hurting someone?  Pitt Bulls, it happens way too often.  I have no issue with big dogs in my units that allow dogs but they cannot pose a high risk.  Also your bite statistics on the poodles does not match the last stats I saw on dog attacks by breed but I have not looked it up in few years.

I am not asking the tenant to give up a family member.  I am making them rent somewhere else.  As soon as they chose a pitt bull as a pet they limited their housing choices.  That is a decision they made.

In this case the current insurance will not cover the dog.  That is not a landlord decision but the decision of the insurance carrier.  There is no way I am switching insurance to cover a pitt bull.  I have already indicated that we have been threatened with law suit before over the dog "support animal" item.   So far the tenant that threatens to sue has always went away without following through with their threat of suit.

By the way I have units that allow dogs and units that do not.  Each unit that does not allow a dog I have rationale for the decision and the rationale is not something like I do not want dogs.  The rationale is stuff like shared yard or yard that is all pavers.  I have at least 5 units that have dogs and at least 3 units without dogs are not dog free units by lease (i.e. the tenants could choose to get a dog and pay the additional deposit and pet rent).  One unit that has a dog was a dog free unit but the tenant has an obvious case for a support animal (versus a bogus case) and he was up front and contacted us prior to getting the dog.  We told him at that time it was a dog free unit due to a single shared yard but if the other tenants were OK with the dog then all was good.  The other tenants, similar to us, knew this was not a support animal scam and were OK with the dog if the owner cleaned up after the dog immediately.  Both sets of tenants still are living there.

I have a large dog (lab that is over 100 lbs) and have had in the past Goldens and a King Shepherd (150 lbs of virtually no fat).   So I do not have issues with dogs just because they are large.

These service animals are sometimes a scam and it irks me.  The last issue we had with a dog the tenant brought the animal into a no animal unit without permission.  When caught they claimed it was a support animal.  We told them we did not care and that they broke the lease (lease clearly states we are to be informed prior to any dog staying at the property).  We indicated we could evict them for the broken lease.  She denied we had that right but she got rid of the dog.  The same tenant tried to claim we did not have the right to not rent to smokers.  It ended similarly in that we indicated smoking is not a protected class and we would not went to a smoker.  She said she would look into it and we never heard about it again.

I think this case of a pitt bull that is not a service animal has no merit and the threat of suit will not result in a suit (no legit lawyer would want this case). If it was a service animal then there is the whole issue of HUD definition of service animal versus ADA definition of service animal as well as the whole issue of bogus service animals. My interpretation of the HUD guidance is that it does not require a support animal to need any specialized training. ADA clearly indicates that it must have specialized training and that cats do not qualify. I think the HUD guidance is a part of the problem; makes it too easy to have illegitimate support animals.

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