Tenant lied on application

18 Replies

I  have a new tenant that's been in our unit for a month. On her application she stated that she had no dog. We recently found out that she has a dog. On our application any pets have to be approved and that there is a extra monthly fee. When we kindly brought up that on her application she didn't check that she wanted to have a dog, she stated that it's a service dog.

-Her "handicap" is not plainly visible in any way, so are we legally able to ask her why she needs a service dog?

- Can we charge her the extra for the "service" dog?

-Is this a breach of her contract because she lied?

Also she told our PM that she was divorced with 2 teenage children. We have everyone's name on the lease as occupants. She ends up disclosing to my wife in a general conversation that she is married & that her husband is deployed oversees and won't be back for x months. So this possibly puts us in a position of adding an occupant to the lease, only because they are married, but we have no idea who this person is.

-Do we have to add the "husband"?

-Is this a breach or can we void the lease and get someone else in the unit?

She seems to be a nice tenant & the dog is definitely friendly. I'm not sure if these are actual red flags yet, she's only been there a month but I want to be prepared.

thanks

@James Green I believe I heard that you can require a Doctors note saying that she needs a service animal. They do not need to disclose the condition that requires this only that one is needed.

I also believe you can ask for certification of this animal being a certified service animal.

You can't charge extra for as service animal as these are not"pets".

The husband thing is another wrinkle. I would tell her that the husband has to submit to a background check prior to being added to the lease. My lease states that there is an extra $150/month for persons found to be living in the property that are not on the lease.

Your PM should know the laws and rules for your area. That is one of the reasons you are paying them.

@James Green

-Her "handicap" is not plainly visible in any way, so are we legally able to ask her why she needs a service dog?

i believe yes but you have to be careful how you ask - get good legal advice here. 

- Can we charge her the extra for the "service" dog

Absolutely not presuming it is a legitimate service dog. 

-Do we have to add the "husband"?

My guess is no but again get good legal advice here. 

-Is this a breach or can we void the lease and get someone else in the unit?

It may be a breach of lease. But absolutely no you cannot void the lease. With a breach of lease you must go to court.

I'm going to assume it's not a service dog since she blatantly lied about it. She got caught and is now trying to cover her tracks. The problem is is I think you can go online and pay like $25 and "make" your dog a "service" dog, which is probably what she will do if/when you ask for documentation.  The whole service dog/animal thing is getting out of control and I think they (political officials who make the laws) need to crack down on it some...but that discussion is for another day. 

Also, how does one forget they're married? I'm going to guess that her "deployed" husband is actually working for the state (he's in jail). This tenant seems like trouble. Is she month to month or year lease? If month to month, I'd probably just try to get rid of her now.

@Chris Szepessy My lease states I can evict based on falsified information . Based on what you posted, There is virtually nothing that this tenant told you that has been based on truth or fact . Why even attempt to work with this idiot . I would be careful to make no mention of the dog In your reasoning and get her out based on her lies and falsifications in the lease agreement . It’s only going to get worse if you keep this idiot around

If a person with a disability needs to use an assistance animal, they must first make the request for a reasonable accommodation. HUD says that a person seeking the accommodation must submit reliable documentation of the disability and disability-related need for the assistance animal if the disability is not known or readily-apparent. This documentation is usually a letter from a medical doctor or treating therapist who can establish the disability and need for the assistance animal. The housing provider may not ask for access to medical records or unreasonably delay the request.

This is a common sham. They move a pet in and then claim it's a service animal after they've been caught. If you ask them for proof, they run to a doctor or a web site and get a letter.

You have to determine your comfort level and how you want to proceed. For me, I don't play that game. If they move an animal in without first identifying it as a service animal and requesting a reasonable accommodation then I consider it a violation of their lease agreement and evict. I've only had to do it a few times and they haven't pushed back. I also don't accept certificates from online web sites or letters from out-of-state doctors that are three years old. I provide applicants with a sample form letter and require them to have it completed by a local / current provider. If they decided to take me to court, I'm willing to spend the time and money to fight it.

How do I know emotional support animals are a sham?

1. You can buy "certificates" online for $100. Call in with a credit card and the person on the other end of the line will determine your disability with a 30-minute phone consultation. How's that for science?

2. Most people with service animals don't declare the service animal until after they've been caught.

3. I've had dozens of applicants claim to have emotional disabilities yet almost none of them are being treated. They get a prescription for the service animal and then never go back to the doctor.

4. People prescribed emotional support animals still function at work. They go on vacation without their animal. They dine out, watch a movie, or spend the day shopping in another city. Yet they are allegedly so disabled that they can't handle being in the privacy of their home without an animal? 

5. Nobody is ever "healed" from their disability and then converting their emotional support animal back to a pet. Never. If service animals help people with anxiety or PTSD, why is nobody ever healed?

6. In my experience, the vast majority of people with emotional support animals are under 30 and lower income.

This is just one example of how weak our culture has become.

I charge a pet fee even if they say it's a service animal. I set that expectation up front, all animals...dogs, cats, snakes, hampsters, etc. There is a fee. I do specifically make them sign a form that says there will be no pets, to include service animals. Violation after that is eviction. I give them one chance to start paying, and then the discussion is over and it's eviction.

I'm not saying they can't have pets, they can..there's a fee. I'm not saying they can't have service animals, they can, there's a fee for having a domesticated animal residing inside my property. They can pay the fee or be evicted. It eliminates the crutch that it's a service animal, which is fine...there's just a fee.

As for the other adult, that's immediate eviction.

Don't talk, don't text, serve. There are plenty of tenants out there that are wonderful. Cut ties quickly and move on.

I know it will be a hassle and expensive but this won't be the last issue you have with this tenant if you don't.

Lying on a lease application is grounds for termination of her lease. She is continuing to lie regarding the dog being a service animal. I would be terminating her lease and ask her to move or evict. Tell her you will not permit the husband to live there since he was not on the application. You have leverage, use it to get her out .  You never want to keep any tennat that is blatantly lying and clearly has zero respect for their lease or their landlord. These are people that you will regret keeping.

Bite the bullet and get rid of them now.

Yes others will fear monger regarding "service animals". Make her prove it if you wish but get rid of her for the  lies anyway. 

@Thomas S. is right about lying tenants, it's always going to create distrust and ultimately lead nowhere good. But I also realize in Prince Georges County, Maryland, it's going to be very hard to get her out. If it's only a year lease perhaps the least painful thing is to let her stay through her lease and then give her notice 60 days before the end of it that you have other plans for the property.

RE marital status, FWIW, I sometimes misspeak and call my ex "my husband" 8 years after our divorce. We're actually pretty good friends. Neither of us has remarried. Everyone knows who I'm talking about. Who knows, could she have made that mistake? What does your wife say? It doesn't sound like she mentioned plans to move him in.

Also divorce and marriage certificates are public records, it shouldn't be hard to verify her marital status. If you get his name you can look online in the judicial records in Maryland and see if he's been convicted and if so what for. Then once you have verified everything, check with an attorney about your options.

Marital status is a protected class in Maryland, in other words, you can't refuse to rent to someone because they're married, unmarried, divorced or separated or whatever. So be sure to get your facts straight about this tenant. Your beef is not that she's married but that she lied about it. There might be some way to document your reason if you want her to move out.

On the service dog thing, it does not speak well of her that she concealed her intention to house a dog at lease signing. And even though she can get fake certification and doctor note, I think you should make her do it. Let her pay that $100 and do the doctor visit etc. She should have some consequence, or at least some inconvenience, for lying. 

If she is able to "prove" it's a service dog somehow I don't know if you can charge her a higher rent in MD but maybe you can ask for a 50% increase in her security deposit. My guess is she won't go to the trouble and expense of proving it, in which case, you are fine raising the rent, but check with an attorney.

Also listen to the wiser minds in this thread about improving your lease for the next tenant. Best of luck with this. 

@James Green My wife is a counselor / therapist and has her own practIce . She has a doctorate In psych and says In her experIance any low level quack counselor can write that slIp up for a person to get a mutt approved for somebody who stumbles into their office for a half hour of therapy. Very common practice in mental health atleast around here sadly . Seems to me that Unless they have blindness or epilepsy or some serious condition they don’t need a dog . Being anxious or having emotional issues should not warrant a dog in my opinion .
I agree with @Nancy Roth Be very careful about protected status in your state. ADA fines can be very large as well as damages awarded to the tenant. I won’t advise you based off my beliefs like others, but I’ll HIGHLY recommend you seek legal counsel to pursue an eviction if that’s what you decide to do. It all depends on how your contract is written, if you’ve allowed any loop holes or didn’t outline in writing BEFORE they signed the lease then you need proper guidance on how to protect your assets to get out of the contract. I will say that if they started off lying then it comes way to easy for them. It’s a precursor for something bigger down the road. Keep us posted.
Originally posted by Account Closed:

I charge a pet fee even if they say it's a service animal. I set that expectation up front, all animals...dogs, cats, snakes, hampsters, etc. There is a fee. I do specifically make them sign a form that says there will be no pets, to include service animals. Violation after that is eviction. I give them one chance to start paying, and then the discussion is over and it's eviction.

I'm not saying they can't have pets, they can..there's a fee. I'm not saying they can't have service animals, they can, there's a fee for having a domesticated animal residing inside my property. They can pay the fee or be evicted. It eliminates the crutch that it's a service animal, which is fine...there's just a fee.

You charge a pet fee for a service animal? You better hope and pray anyone who has paid that fee was lying about it being a service animal, because if it was a legitimate service animal you violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and they will fine you up to $75,000 for your first violation.

Ha, no. I would never. It's only come up once or twice directly with me, and nothing really came of it. The conversation was merely that we would need to see all documentation for any service animal to be allowed on the premises (it was a no-pets property). She said she would provide and never called back and didn't rent the property.

The others have been inquiries of existing tenants looking to save money, but who clearly didn't have enough follow through to get what was needed.

Back to the original post, I make it clear that no animals are permitted on the premises for any reason without being approved by me first. Failure to follow that part of the lease is ground for immediate eviction. It's not come up yet someone challenged me with official documentation on a service animal. Lot's of people try to get out of the fee's by saying they have one, but then can't provide the paperwork and pay the fee (bc they're full of it).

Of course, I would never discriminate against someone with a legitimate service animal....and by legit, I mean they've taken the time and energy to validate their service iguana or gold-fish. Fine you checked the block, no fee.

The service animal scam at the verbal level is just one of a long line of traits in potential tenants I do my best to avoid. The dishonesty the original poster mentioned is what I think should be their trigger to get that tenant out.

@James Green We ask all tenants with service animals (or any animals) to submit an application and documentation. We use petscreening.com to do the due diligence for us. It is free for the LL to use and they do everything within the legal constraints of the laws. They do not charge an app fee for service animals, but they do charge an application fee for pets. You get a full pet profile and they score the pet for you. As for the adult being added to the lease, make sure they follow the same application process. We note that all adults over 18 must apply and pass our published minimum criteria. Good luck!
@James Green you an ask why she needs a service animal but you can require documentation proving that she needs one. I would also question your PM about why this was not uncovered with a landlord check? I would make sure that your PM does frequent checks of the property to catch other problems early on.