The game changing animal issue, what can be done?

17 Replies

It seems as though the no pet policy is soon to be outlawed and I’m concerned. My company has had a mo pet policy since inception, however the law has changed to now force me to take in ESA animals. This includes horses. People seem to be placing a higher importance on animals and not hummus, so I expect this trend to continue to grow. It seems easy to get an ESA and a lot of people are using this to get their animals on flights at no cost. I’m not attempting to discuss the legality, nor am individuals need, I am hoping to get some input on ways to protect my investment. It’s my understanding that not only do you have to accept an ESA, but you also can not insure your property by getting a pet deposit. How can you animal proof your house? Can anything preserve our investment? A dog does different damage than a cat, what about a horse? Thoughts would be appreciated.

Hi @Perry Ivy , I agree and I do understand your concern. It is a concern of mine as well. I read about how "easy" it is to get a pet for this kind of emotional support. I'm not sure what all animals it covers but its concerning that some individuals with this are not required to insure the little critters. To answer your question, I thought about having monthly inspections for anyone with a pet, IF I am being forced to provide housing for the animal. An animal can tear your property up pretty quickly and some renters may not be as quick to take care of matters because it is a rental. I'm not sure if you can do a monthly inspection legally or not but, I would also have animal care agreements in the lease such as...proof of shots for the animal (and all other legal requirements), noise levels, smells from the animal or its waste, and agreements about what is to be done with the animals waste, and rules about where the pest can go, or rules about the animals being on a leash at all times. I'm not even sure what can be done about any of those. For now, the best thing you can do is get a list of concerns like the ones I posted here and take it to an attorney to find out what you can legally put in your lease. Then if they violate the lease, you can legally evict them. Its your job to protect your property even if it means being very strict on a renter that is careless with their animal. Thanks for posting this topic. I was discussing the same issue because some renters have serious allergies and some pet owners do get careless with their animals. If you find out anything else, please let us know.

you only recourse is to always request the maximum security deposit allowed in your state and learn whatever you can about ESA laws. When a tenant says they have an ESA, you are allowed to request certain things. Do proper due diligence, and you may discourage those who are faking it and don't know what they are doing. Of course some will slip through, so if it is truly a concern, use floors that are less susceptible to animal abuse. perhaps vinyl in kitchens, avoid carpets everywhere else. remember you can hold tenant liable for damage from ESA. maybe solidify your collection process as well to ensure you collect from anyone who damages your property from an ESA.

some of that may be over the top, but can all be considered. ESA is simply a cost of business you must account for. Of course, depending on your local laws you can always do your best to avoid them by choosing more qualified candidates, just be careful not to end up in a discrimination suit.

Some of us may have taken to asking questions at the bottom of our 'for rent ads' while not offering our phone number or actual property address (cross-streets only).

One of the questions in the ad might be 'how many animals?'  Because most LLs have strict rules against lying or being untruthful during the application process, there aren't any surprises later.  If there are, being untruthful could be grounds for non-approval.

Some of us may have jacked up our security deposit requirement for everyone just in case an animal is involved.

In light of 'first come, first serve' application rules as well, some LLs may pre-screen extensively prior to even showing a unit or providing the address.  

Some of us are distressed by how absolutely careful and anonymous we must be as we try to offer decent, affordable housing to folks that really need it in a market with less than 1% vacancy. 

Thanks for the responses, each provide much food for thought. In the not so distant future, the ESA law will become more problematic as animals get larger and more exotic. like I stated, a horse now falls in the ESA category, so how would you prepare for that? I put vinyl In my rentals, but that wouldn’t sustains a horse. I wonder if anyone’s had an experience with this. What about a cow? Snake? Possum? Rat? Raccoon? Etc... it’s sadly coming to a rental near you. You could turn a potential tenant down for other factors, but what happens when your current tenant gets the ESA certificate for a horse?

There have been several here at BP who have stated that when they provide an applicant with a form to take to their medical provider to state the need for an ESA, the entire idea of this falls through the cracks like a marshmallow melting in the heat.

While it is easy to purchase one of those fake "ESA certificates" online a landlord does NOT have to accept this as either adequate or accurate evidence that the animal in question is, in fact, an Emotional Support Animal.  

If a tenant has a true ESA they will have (or be willing to provide) accurate documentation from their medical provider to justify the need for such.    And this is NOT just any medical personnel either.  There are specific medical personnel who can provide this.

Will there always be medical providers who will blindly sign these forms?  Perhaps.  But making an applicant work for such is one way of screening out those who claim without evidence that Lassie or Fluffy or Trigger is now an ESA.

Gail

This post led me to look up laws regarding this. I found: "training requirement often eliminates emotional support animals, therapy dogs, and comfort animals from the definition of service animal." BUT when it comes to housing laws, "HUD does not have a training requirement for service animals....Emotional support animals and comfort animals would be included as a reasonable accommodation under HUD rules.

Seeing how easy it is to get registered for an ESA and how many people abuse this, I feel there should be more strict guidelines. Landlords should be allowed to get a pet deposit. There should be a limit to which species. I am thinking of writing a letter to HUD about this. Can't hurt. Maybe I could start a petition?

I totally agree!

http://www.guidehorse.com/news_emot_supt.htm

Originally posted by @Perry Ivy :

 This includes horses. People seem to be placing a higher importance on animals and not hummus, 

I also think animals are more important than hummus.

Then you haven’t had good hummus :)

Originally posted by @Russell Brazil :
Originally posted by @Perry Ivy:

 This includes horses. People seem to be placing a higher importance on animals and not hummus, 

I also think animals are more important than hummus.

 LOL. I was going to post the exact same thing. Glad I read the whole thread first :)

Your first line of defense when getting these requests is simple: if the nature of the disability or need for the animal is not obvious (i.e. a "seeing eye dog" for a blind tenant), you are legally permitted to require the applicant provide official documentation of the need for the animal, and the type of animal, from a physician, psychiatrist, social worker, or mental health professional. That is going to eliminate 95-99% of your fake claims right off the bat. For the 1-5% who provide some fake documentation, you do some research and obtain the credentials of the "professional" in question. If they have no credentials, I would feel completely comfortable denying the request. 

Also, not all housing falls under Federal Housing guidelines, nor are all guidelines applicable to all housing. Identify what regulations affect your housing and proceed from there.

@jd Martin thanks for the advice, I hadn’t considered checking with my attorney to see what law is applicable, I just assumed it applied to everyone. I have dealt with two guys who wanted to rent a property, however only one had proper documentation and that was cause for denial. I’m more concerned with having a tenant that suddenly needs an ESA and there’s no denying that situation, so at that point how do we protect our property? Ironically I was almost killed by a dog and I’m very uncomfortable around them, but yet the law forces me to accept something that could potentially harm me and destroy my property. I’m trying to preserve what I’ve worked so hard to build, so advice on alternative building materials and such are appreciated.

@Perry Ivy the ADA doesn't apply to residential housing for the most part (see HUD's website). The Fair Housing Act does cover disabilities and reasonable accommodations, but there are exemptions to the FHA: a 4-unit building or less if you live in one of the units; single family housing if you own 3 or less properties and don't use brokers are the two that would be applicable to most landlords (the "Mrs. Murphy" exemption). You can't advertise any kind of discrimination, period, even if you fall in a category that allow you to discriminate.

You also need to check your own state & local laws to see if they are more stringent than the FHA. Some states have gone well beyond the federal limitations. I believe Arkansas is just the federal statutes, like most of the other southern states.

Thanks again, very informative!

Is a horse really at the top of landlord worries? Lot's of bad stuff happens at rental properties but I don't see horse problems being among the most important.

It wasn’t stated as the top of issues, it is simply dialogue about changing laws. I own property in a rural community, so it will eventually affect me and I’m trying to prepare.

Free eBook from BiggerPockets!

Ultimate Beginner's Guide Book Cover

Join BiggerPockets and get The Ultimate Beginner's Guide to Real Estate Investing for FREE - read by more than 100,000 people - AND get exclusive real estate investing tips, tricks and techniques delivered straight to your inbox twice weekly!

  • Actionable advice for getting started,
  • Discover the 10 Most Lucrative Real Estate Niches,
  • Learn how to get started with or without money,
  • Explore Real-Life Strategies for Building Wealth,
  • And a LOT more.

Lock We hate spam just as much as you

Join the Largest Real Estate Investing Community

Basic membership is free, forever.

By signing up, you indicate that you agree to the BiggerPockets Terms & Conditions.