Pet Fee/Emotional Support Animals- Illinois

10 Replies

We have had the same tenant in one of our units since 2015. It is now time for lease renewal and she doesn't want to pay the pet fee for her new lease term because she claims her dog is an emotional support animal. She has never stated this to us previously, nor has she provided any paperwork. We understand that once the paperwork is provided, the pet fee shall be returned to her. But without providing paperwork, is t she still obligated to pay the pet fee for her new lease term? If she refuses, what are our options?

First I'm not an attorney, fair housing violation lawsuits are expensive, and I could just be a guy on the internet spouting nonsense, so please seek professional advice. 

Emotional support animals are the biggest scam going right now and tenants have figured out that they can get around pet policies by claiming any pet is a support animal. The tenant must provide a letter/certificate from a doctor and you then must accept the animal as a support animal. There are websites selling support animal "certificates" and vests that are not prescribed by a doctor and legally not acceptable, BUT there are now websites with doctors selling service animal "certificates" and they are probably legally legitimate. The government created this mess of the abuse of emotional support animals and needs to do something to correct it. Good luck.

Emotional Support Camel

BTW ADA and Fair Housing laws are different. Fair housing allows for emotional support animals of any type. Have you met my emotional support gorilla? 

Illinois REIA is working with other groups across Illinois and at the national level to address this issue. If you are not a member of a local REIA that is part of National REIA now is the time to join. We have been to Springfield and DC to defend landlord rights. The best group near you meets in Lombard. The Chicago Creative Investors Association is run by Jane Garvey.

Some one has told her of the scam to avoid pet fees. I would look her in the eye and tell her that. Nothing I hate more than liars. (as a hard *** landlord I would not be renewing her lease strictly on principal.)

If she shows the proof you can refund her fee but for now she pays.

your tenant is probably lying to avoid the fee...but that's not easy to prove. if the tenant has not provided proper documentation, then up to this point its a pet. I would kindly inform tenant that until proper documentation is provided, this is a pet and pet fee is due. if the proper documentation is not provided before lease renewal no pet fee is due, but if not then you can always return it later.

the pre-requisite to all this, is knowing your local laws and being aware of exactly what proper documentation is and what you are allowed to ask tenant for. I am no expert, so you may want to consult an attorney in what you can specifically ask for.

@Shannon Gauthier thanks for starting the thread! I think this is definitely an interesting topic for landlords right now. Especially those who typically would prefer no pets in the unit and/or building at all. 

With that being said there are rules you should follow and you can check online recourses, but in Chicago typically if a tenant renews there are no additional fees move in or pet. If the fee reoccurs it is typically in the forms of a small pet rent usually about 15-25$/month and I have seen this number begin to increase over the years. 

When it comes to a service or emotional support animals, there is no additional fees or deposits that are to be paid. A tenant with an emotional support animal also does not have to follow pets policies regarding if they permit them, size, breed etc. Please note there is also a difference between service animals and emotional support animals.

It is challenging though because you can not really inquire into the nature of why they have an emotional support animal what you need is reliable documentation from doctor, social worker psychologist etc. that determines have an assistance animal will alleviate one or more of the symptoms or effects. Should be an ESA letter you are looking for.

I would suggest consulting an attorney to make sure you are covering all your bases. Do you live in the building? What are the total units in the building?