Emotional Support Animal...that's a Pit Bull Mix

51 Replies

All:

I've got a well qualified tenant that I would love have...except she has an ESA that happens to be a pit bull mix. I'm fine with the ESA but I think my insurance won't be fine with the dog.

Waiting to hear back from my insurance agent but I'm 99% sure he's going to said it's not allowed.

Any insurance agents or PMs know the ruling on this? @Joe Splitrock any ideas?

@Bruce Woodruff I'm not disputing that it's mostly a scam but I do think that the law requires that I take them, regardless. I may be wrong on that. 


However, I'm curious is to know if I have to take them regardless of breed?  

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@Will Gaston Unfortunately denying some due to the emotional support animal could get you in trouble if they report to Fair Housing - we have even gotten into a debate with Fair Housing about an emotional support pot belly pig before. We use petscreening.com to verify the legitimacy of the ESA - hopefully your insurance would accept this documentation and screening as well as proof. 

Originally posted by @Will Gaston :

All:

I've got a well qualified tenant that I would love have...except she has an ESA that happens to be a pit bull mix. I'm fine with the ESA but I think my insurance won't be fine with the dog.

Waiting to hear back from my insurance agent but I'm 99% sure he's going to said it's not allowed.

Any insurance agents or PMs know the ruling on this? @Joe Splitrock any ideas?

The law requires you to make a "reasonable accommodation" to your policy. If your insurance provider threatens to cancel your coverage because of a "dangerous breed" animal, then it is not reasonable for you to accept the animal.

HUD Policy (print and keep!): https://www.hud.gov/sites/dfiles/PA/documents/HUDAsstAnimalNC1-28-2020.pdf

You should also contact your local HUD office to see how they answer this question.

If it were me, I would tell the applicant that my insurance doesn't allow dangerous breeds. If they push back, tell them you'll keep working on it to see what your options are. While you're working on it, find another renter. You're under no obligation to hold it for them while you do your research.

Thank you @Russell Brazil @Nathan G. @Kelsey Bailey !

Just to be clear, I am fine with the dog. Also, she has used petscreening.com and the report seems fine. 

But I do not think my insurance company is okay with this. And I am not okay with not having insurance (and neither is my lender!)


Waiting to hear back from my agent to verify.

@Will Gaston I live and invest in SC and I’m also a commercial insurance agent. The first insurance carrier I found to not have a breed exclusion on small residential policies was surprisingly State Farm.

This being said, I now have a scar on my arm from the pit bull we allowed lol. The tenant was a buddy of mine and he said nothing even close to that had ever happened before. He's one of the best guys I know and I believe him 100% but stuff happens. For that reason, definitely get a policy without a breed exclusion and also be sure to have your tenant list your LLC/self as an additional insured regarding general liability on their renters insurance. Make sure to get a copy of this each year to be sure that they haven't stopped paying and let their policy lapse.

Good luck!

I was just surprised by my insurance policy through Allstate when I asked for a reminder of the banned breeds and they let me know they got rid of it a while ago.  All the pits I know are the nicest dogs and I have never felt threatened however stats are stats and numbers don’t lie.  If the majority of insurance companies are a hard no I am more likely to trust their actuaries than my limited experience.  I have only had one request for an esa pitbull but luckily I had a better candidate so it was a non issue.  My understanding for you though is it is not reasonable to have to drop your carrier or have the dog excluded so you could deny for that.  I wouldn’t let them know that is exactly though and would continue looking and just send a text I found a different tenant and not give a reason.  No one is legitimately prescribed a pitbull specifically for an esa they should have thought about this when they selected the animal.  

Originally posted by @Daniel Mears:

@Will Gaston

 Sadly esa dogs are a Total scam to get the town mutt in the house and break the landlords rules . I do month to month leases . I would suggest simply throwing them out by non renewing if they want to play that game . 

Yessir! You got it!

Originally posted by @Adam Martin :

I was just surprised by my insurance policy through Allstate when I asked for a reminder of the banned breeds and they let me know they got rid of it a while ago.  All the pits I know are the nicest dogs and I have never felt threatened however stats are stats and numbers don’t lie.  If the majority of insurance companies are a hard no I am more likely to trust their actuaries than my limited experience.  I have only had one request for an esa pitbull but luckily I had a better candidate so it was a non issue.  My understanding for you though is it is not reasonable to have to drop your carrier or have the dog excluded so you could deny for that.  I wouldn’t let them know that is exactly though and would continue looking and just send a text I found a different tenant and not give a reason.  No one is legitimately prescribed a pitbull specifically for an esa they should have thought about this when they selected the animal.  

 Well I was a statistician by trade, and I can affirmatively tell you that yes stats do lie, often. In fact every study we worked on, we would run through a series of questions on any given stat asking how does this particular stat, whatever it was, how does it lie, how does it create a narrative that is untrue, what confirmation bias is occurring here, whats wrong with the data collection, whats the negative proof here, and so on and so on.  

That is why there is a leaps and bounds difference between simple stats collected by say media reports, versus peer reviewed research from professional journals. 

Because of the way that this law is written you are actually being asked to make a 'reasonable' accommodation for the animal to live on your property. It is not any different than when a person in a wheelchair says that they want a ramp to the front door instead of your stairs. If the ramp can reasonably be put there, you are to do that. HOWEVER, the tenant must pay to put the ramp in and to put the stairs back when they move out.

Since your insurance company will not insure that animal, you can ask the potential tenant to find a liability /damage policy that will cover that animal and insure YOU.  They buy and pay for the policy for you.  YOU must make sure that the policy can not be cancelled by the tenant and is required for the tenant to stay in the place, must be paid for and renewed 65 or 75 days before the lease is up so that you do not end up not able to notice them to leave if they do not buy you a new policy.  And they must pay for you to buy a supplemental policy if they for any reason do not have that policy in place(it can get cancelled by the insurance company, non-payment, what ever).  The federal government has already determined that it is not reasonable for a landlord to have to change their insurance as an accommodation.

And if she was an A+ tenant she would have gotten an emotional/support animal that is easy for landlords to deal with.  They have choices when they first get an animal and the brighter ones think ahead and get labs instead of huskys and pitts.

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Originally posted by @Will Gaston :

@Craig Simpkins but would the renter's insurance policy have a pet breed exclusion for the tenant holding it?

@Lynnette E. Thanks! What are the chances you have a link government ruling?

The insurance situation was used as an example in one of the HUD guidance documents. Administratively it is not acceptable for a landlord to be requires to change insurance companies for each situation. It is hard to then track company to each property and group/bulk discounts can not be achieved. So that leaves getting separate additional insurance and the law requires the applicant to pay for additional costs. See number 3 on the March 5, 2008 Joint statement of HUD / DOJ . I can not get the links to post. There are two sets of guidance HUD issues 2013 and 2020, you should read them both.

Here is the only link that I can get to attach:

Joint Statement on Reasonable Modifications - March 5, 2008 (hud.gov)


Originally posted by @Will Gaston :

@Craig Simpkins but would the renter's insurance policy have a pet breed exclusion for the tenant holding it?

@Lynnette E. Thanks! What are the chances you have a link government ruling?

 For Craig's question, the idea of the tenant getting his own insurance is that he can search for a company that will insure the animal.  Some companies do insure anything.  One company will insure pitts--Allstate, I think does.  Another will insure husky.  Another German shepherds.  So a landlord does not have to change insurance companies, based on each animal.   It is not reasonable for the landlord to have to change insurance companies for each house and each tenant's special needs, administratively of financially.

@Will Gaston I suggest you read your own homeowners policy. It's not a bad idea to ask your agent but I wouldn't 100% rely on the answer. Don't assume people know what they are doing and realize that your insurance agent makes money by selling you more insurance. You can probably even get an electronic copy of the policy and just "Control F" for "pet" or "dog"

@Daniel Mears may I suggest that pit bulls are not bad, they really get a bad wrap. I’ve met some amazingly sweet and even docile pits. Depending on where you live in the US your local town may have demonized them. Denver was like that. I was afraid for a long time. Now in california it’s not an issue and honestly I’ve seen the light. They are STRONG for sure but can be very very sweet and not destructive. Now my sisters husky mix? Destroys everything in its wake.

I have seen a legit ESA dog...

It was in the grocery store with a young lady who had seen service in the middle east.

It wore a special vest and when she walked it touched her at all times. She would stop, it would auto sit.

She went to the bacon area and browsed, the dog calmly set next to her ignoring the tasty bacon easily within reach.

Some veterans help group gave it to her--their logo was on it's vest.

it behaved very well, and just leaned into her at all times walking or standing or sitting--always touching her leg.

I had no doubt this dog was a legit ESA dog, and would never have questioned it.

Plus you could tell from her overall composure--she needed it.

It was just a medium sized friendly looking mutt, nothing special--and not a pit bull.

(ESA Cats never eat neighborhood children!)