Tenants with Service Animals and a no pet policy

22 Replies

Hello, 

Please forgive me if this is common knowledge. But I'm still learning and I want to stay compliant with a fair housing laws and regulations. I'm an investor in upstate NY I have a vacant unit and a friend sent me a referral for a prospective tenant. After speaking with this individual they seemed like a good fit from my initial phone screening (I still have to do a complete screening and background check) except he told me at the end of our conversation that he has a dog (Micro bully, pitbull mix). I do not want pets in my units as I've had bad experiences in the past and being a multi unit property I'm nervous about my other tenants. I told him I do not except pets. He then told me that this dog WILL be a service dog and he's working on getting all the dogs documents to become a service animal. My question is, do I have to accept this tenant with a potentially dangerous breed? If so, I'm I allowed to ask for documentation proving the potential tenants dog is indeed a service animal? Or should I let the individual apply and try and find something else that disqualify him tenancy in my property? 

Thank you for any feed back 

Read up on service versus emotional support animal-(ESA). This animal is probably a pet they are going to turn into an emotional support animal. If they become an ESA by getting a doctor to write them a note you will need to accept without extra charge. So if you really dont want them the cleanest thing is to tell them to let you know when the pet becomes an ESA and process some other applications. Also check with your insurance company, if they wont cover you may have an undue hardship and can refuse based on that if the insurance company excludes coverage on this breed.

A pit bull?

No way no how

Email your insurance company tell them you have a potential tenant with a pitbull will they allow it?

Then you will have your way out of renting to him if you want it

Why would you not want pets? You accept kids? In my experience kids cause way more damage then pets. I’m happy to allow pets since 90% landlords won’t, I get some great renters who love their pets; which makes happy renters who feel at home. I’ve never in 20 yrs of renting had a dog or cat do any real damage. Dogs over kids any day!

When you have a no pet policy your best option when confronted with a applicant saying they have a service animal is to not make an issue of the fact they have a animal. Take their application, continue taking applications, and when you find the applicant you do want you inform all others the unit is no longer available. You are not obligated to accept an applicant because they have a service animal. They must still be the most qualified applicant based on your screening criteria.

This method should insure you never have animals in your property.

If he said it WILL be a service dog , then deny him now . Its not a service or ESA  animal at this time . 

I ask , Do you have any pets?  when they say yes I say sorry , no pets . Then they say its a ESA . And I tell them you just told me it was a pet first . You cant have it both ways 

Especially with referrals, I ask the person referring- How much do they smoke? How many animals do they have?  The answers would have prevented this whole dilemma without even speaking with them.

Have an animal policy, not a 'Pet' one. 

In the meantime, I agree with Matthew.  Deny while it is still a pet.

Originally posted by @Matthew Paul :

If he said it WILL be a service dog , then deny him now . Its not a service or ESA  animal at this time . 

That defence will not fly because it would legalize the denial of a white applicant after he told his landlord he planned to bring over his black girlfriend in the future. 

Originally posted by @Ihe O. :
Originally posted by @Matthew Paul:

If he said it WILL be a service dog , then deny him now . Its not a service or ESA  animal at this time . 

That defence will not fly because it would legalize the denial of a white applicant after he told his landlord he planned to bring over his black girlfriend in the future. 

I dont get what you are saying here .

But in any case    All pets will be  emotional support animals once the papers arrive .  If someone applies with a pet with out papers , It is a pet . I would deny at that moment , and be fine .  if they reapply that would be different . 

Originally posted by @Ihe O. :
Originally posted by @Matthew Paul:

If he said it WILL be a service dog , then deny him now . Its not a service or ESA  animal at this time . 

That defence will not fly because it would legalize the denial of a white applicant after he told his landlord he planned to bring over his black girlfriend in the future. 

 What? No. Just no. 

ESAs aren’t protected in most states, anyway. 

Great question.  According to a Nevada attorney 'The federal Fair Housing Act also prohibits discrimination in housing accommodations against those who use service animals. To fall under this provision, you must have a disability and you must have a disability-related need for the animal. In other words, the animal must work, perform tasks or services, or alleviate the emotional effects of your disability in order to qualify."

When I have the first conversation with my tenants I ask those initial screening questions and I ask them if they have pets. I give them a link to a website  which reiterates the requirements with a copy of the application that they can fill out online and in paper.  I choose the ones with no pets.  But if the person is disabled and has all of the proper documentation, then yes but you can charge fees if the animal does damage.   

I love my cat and he does no damage, ok maybe the carpet in his room. But sometimes other pets can do more damage like spraying and require carpet  replacement etc. With one of my tenants their 2 pit bulls kept going in a neighbor's yard.  They ended up leaving.  If pit bulls are going into neighbors yards and they become aggressive, guess who gets sued.

Originally posted by @Matthew Paul :
Originally posted by @Ihe O.:
Originally posted by @Matthew Paul:

If he said it WILL be a service dog , then deny him now . Its not a service or ESA  animal at this time . 

That defence will not fly because it would legalize the denial of a white applicant after he told his landlord he planned to bring over his black girlfriend in the future. 

I dont get what you are saying here .

But in any case    All pets will be  emotional support animals once the papers arrive .  If someone applies with a pet with out papers , It is a pet . I would deny at that moment , and be fine .  if they reapply that would be different . 

I gave you an example of what wouldn't be fine and am saying that what you are suggesting is no different.

A court/tribunal would see right through your explanation. 

@Ihe O.  Of course you cant discriminate because of race . 

When i get an inquiry I ask " what type of pets do you have ? "  Someone will say a dog .  Right away I reply " Sorry , this is a no pet property " and I end the call . I do not give them a chance to change their mind and make it a service animal or ESA . They have already established it as a pet 

Someone with a service animal will say they dont have a pet , but they do have a service animal . Those calls will get a showing . 

Originally posted by @Matthew Paul :

@Ihe O. Of course you cant discriminate because of race . 

Yes and for the same reason as my example your defence will not succeed.

A

In the future you've told me it will be a service animal but right now it's a pet so I think I can deny you without discriminating.

B

In the future you've told me you will be a mixed race couple but right now you are a single white male so I think I can deny you without discriminating.

Case B will not work. Case A is just B in a different clothing. Neither are a viable defence.

Originally posted by @Ihe O. :

In the future you've told me you will be a mixed race couple but right now you are a single white male so I think I can deny you without discriminating.

 Apparently you think single white males are exempt from discrimination. Landlords cannot discriminate based on race, color, sex, or familial status, regardless of what that race, color, sex, or familial status is. Refusing to rent to a single white male is just as egregious a violation as refusing to rent to a black woman with 2 kids, IF race, color, sex, or familial status is the reason for the refusal.  You have made up a silly comparison to try to bolster your opinion about so called service animals, but it only makes you look ridiculous.

Originally posted by @Sylvia B. :
Originally posted by @Ihe O.:

In the future you've told me you will be a mixed race couple but right now you are a single white male so I think I can deny you without discriminating.

 Apparently you think single white males are exempt from discrimination. Landlords cannot discriminate based on race, color, sex, or familial status, regardless of what that race, color, sex, or familial status is. Refusing to rent to a single white male is just as egregious a violation as refusing to rent to a black woman with 2 kids, IF race, color, sex, or familial status is the reason for the refusal.  You have made up a silly comparison to try to bolster your opinion about so called service animals, but it only makes you look ridiculous.

The analogy did not say or infer that single white males are exempt from discrimination.

If you  calm down before you read it again you will have a better chance of understanding it.

I deal with todays facts . Not tomorrows .  You dont have an income today , I dont rent to you . Telling me you will get a job in the future is just blowing sunshine up my A$$.   So when you apply and tell me you have a pet but it will be a service animal soon doesnt mean squat to me . At the time of the application its a pet ................................DENIED

Do what you have to do, but don’t take this renter with “service animal” pit bull.

I just went through this in California and I found what @Colleen F. said to be on the money.  I actually run a pet friendly rental and love it.  I require renters insurance naming me as additional insured, additional deposit, pet rent and the animal's paperwork to ensure responsible owners and reduce the risk to me.  After we (new tenant and I) agreed on the pet terms and I accepted their application she turned around and gave me ESA paperwork.  Goodbye pet rent and deposit...oh well.  I'll jack up the rent to compensate at the end of the year.

Originally posted by @Ihe O. :
Originally posted by @Matthew Paul:

@Ihe O. Of course you cant discriminate because of race . 

Yes and for the same reason as my example your defence will not succeed.

A

In the future you've told me it will be a service animal but right now it's a pet so I think I can deny you without discriminating.

B

In the future you've told me you will be a mixed race couple but right now you are a single white male so I think I can deny you without discriminating.

Case B will not work. Case A is just B in a different clothing. Neither are a viable defence.

Your logic is faulty. There is a major difference here between your two examples. Example A assumes a future hypothetical. In other words if the animal did not become a service animal in the future, it would remain a pet. It also ignores the fact that at the time of application, the animal was a pet. Example B would be illegal now or in the future, so there is no hypothetical. 

To further prove your faulty logic, let me give you a better example:

C

I park in a handicap spot and get a ticket because I don't have handicap license plates or window tag. I go to court and tell the judge that in the future I plan to be handicap after having a leg surgery. The judge will say, but you were not handicap at the time of parking there.

This example is very close to what we are talking about with ESA. A doctor or trained mental health professional is the only one that can "prescribe" an ESA for a patient. The fact that the animal was not "prescribed" at the time of application means it is not an ESA, it is a pet therefore same logic applies, they were not disabled at the time of application. 

Logic says, they are only seeking ESA certification as a way to bypass the landlords no pet rules. They are most likely going to download some internet certification that is totally bogus. Of course I am guessing, but that just further supports my point that it is a hypothetical situation. Until the landlord is presented with documentation to prove otherwise, it is just a pet.

@Jean Coquilla

Your attorney is not correct. ESA do not require any training and are protected by HUD. I refer to HUD section entitle "Reasonable Accommodations Under the Fair Housing Act" (see below).

Insurance companies may provide an out.

Another out is to find a better tenant that is not only better because they do not have an ESA. Maybe they earn more, have better credit score, have better references. Just make sure that the better is not due to the other tenant not having an ESA as HUD views needing an ESA as a protected status. Be sure you can defend, to an impartial person, that the tenant you choose is better qualified.

HUD's website makes it clear that a support animal does not require any training. HUD's requirement is more lenient than the ADA requirement for support animals. See HUD section entitle "Reasonable Accommodations Under the Fair Housing Act", especially the second to last sentence in the quoted section:

"An assistance animal is not a pet. It is an animal that works, provides assistance, or performs tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability, or provides emotional support that alleviates one or more identified symptoms or effects of a person's disability. Assistance animals perform many disability-related functions, including but not limited to, guiding individuals who are blind or have low vision, alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to sounds, providing protection or rescue assistance, pulling a wheelchair, fetching items, alerting persons to impending seizures, or providing emotional support to persons with disabilities who have a disability-related need for such support. For purposes of reasonable accommodation requests, neither the Fair Housing Act nor Section 504 requires an assistance animal to be individually trained or certified. While dogs are the most common type of assistance animal, other animals can also be assistance animals."

My view is the HUD definition of support animal is so lenient that it is a big part of the problem and that the ADA definition would better serve the true disabled and the landlords. Any pet can qualify for the HUD protection because the HUD definition does not require the animal to have any training or to be certified. It is a stupid directive.

@Ihe O. is completely wrong. The law requires you to accept support animals. It does not require you to accept animals that will possibly  be a support animal in the future. That's equivalent to accepting a guide dog because the owner plans to be blind some day.

@Genny Li emotional support animals are supported by federal law which means every state must accept them.

National Association of Residential Property Managers is trying to fight the emotional support animal issue. The law is so poorly written that very few people know what to do. Tenants are abusing the system just like airline passengers are doing with taking pets on planes. 

Some states are fighting back. Wyoming passed a law last year that institutes a fine of $750 for anyone caught fraudulently claiming an ESA. I have that statement in bold letters at the top of my policy. I'm also in a Landlord-friendly state where I will stand up and fight. I wouldn't be so bold in other states like the People's Republik of Kalifornia.