Assistance Animals...Emotional Support Animals...Fair Housing Act


#1

QUESTIONS - EMOTIONAL SUPPORT ANIMAL:
1.) "Has anyone had a Tenant who owned an Emotional Support Animal?"
2.) "If yes, what documentation did you require and receive (such as documentation from a physician that there was a need for the Emotional Support Animal)?"
3.) "Did you require insurance for the animal?"
4.) "Did you have your insurance provider deal with the situation (as per Frank)?"
5.) “How is/has the situation worked out for you?”

I searched this thread and the last specific thread on Service Animals was from 2013. Thus, I am writing a new post.

Currently, we are in the process of renting one of our Park Owned Mobile Homes.

We have an ad which states “No Pets”.

We have a Prospective Applicant who has 2 “Emotional Support Dogs” for their Autistic Grandson that they just adopted.

Below is a link to the HUD Government Website for:

As per the HUD Website Link:

  • Housing providers may ask individuals who have disabilities that are not readily apparent or known to the provider to submit reliable documentation of a disability and their disability-related need for an assistance animal.
  • For example, the housing provider may ask persons who are seeking a reasonable accommodation for an assistance animal that provides emotional support to provide documentation from a physician, psychiatrist, social worker, or other mental health professional that the animal provides emotional support that alleviates one or more of the identified symptoms or effects of an existing disability.

As per HUD since the disability is not readily apparent we have requested:

  • “Documentation from a physician, psychiatrist, social worker, or other mental health professional that the animal provides emotional support that alleviates one or more of the identified symptoms or effects of an existing disability.”

This Prospective Tenant said that they did not have that specific documentation and that they were not able to secure the documentation over the weekend.

I have given them until this Monday at 8 AM to provide the documentation.

I am not opposed to having the dogs in the Mobile Home.

Since they currently do not have the documentation to support this need, I get the impression that they are using this “Emotional Support Animal” to get housing for their dogs, not pay the Pet Fee (Non-Refundable) and not pay the Monthly Pet Fee.

They have not technically applied for the Mobile Home.

However, I want to make sure that I obey the Law.

The Law actually states that as a Landlord:

  • “For example, while housing providers may require applicants or residents to pay a pet deposit, they may not require applicants and residents to pay a deposit for an assistance animal.”

The Law also states that:

  • “Breed, size, and weight limitations may not be applied to an assistance animal.”

If you have experience with this issue, please share.

Thanks So Very Much!


#2

You make the final decision who lives in your rentals or even your park. When in doubt we try to find residents less complicated as to special needs or beyond our understanding of all the laws our screwed up government is forcing upon US… Try to have numerous parties interested in your units and tell potential renters you have others wanting to rent the same unit. If you have this many questions about a potential resident that is maybe a situation you need to pass on. Recently I had an officer come to my office and before he left he make the following statement, “with all the laws I am sure I could arrest you for breaking a law”. Trying to stay out of the crosshairs of government regulators will become a more difficult problem and staying away from certain issues can be very wise.


#3

You are being scammed by this applicant. The dogs are their pets that they had prior to adopting. Two dogs are not necessary for support.
These applicants are liars and not the type of people you want as tenants. They will be nothing but trouble. Do not even mention the issue of the dogs simply inform them that you are still taking applications and at some point send them a rejection without specifying why. Never give reasons when rejecting applicants.
In the operation of your business you must resist being pressured into accepting bad tenants out of fear. Doing so will result in you filling your community with the worst types of tenants.


#4

@carl & @Greg , thank you for your comments!

Greg, you are correct. The dogs were their pets that they had prior to adopting the Grandson.

Greg, you are also correct that these are not the type of Tenants we desire.

We desire hard working Tenants who pay their Bills and cause no drama.

There has been way more drama with this one Prospective Tenant than I desire.

Are there any Owners that have actually had “Emotional Support Animals”?

If yes, please share your experience.

Thanks So Very Much!


#5

Greg is probably right. Someone once suggested contacting the airlines and find out what documentation they require. But, like Greg said is probably just not lease to them with no answer given.


#6

UPDATE:
"- The Prospective Tenant never provided the following (as per HUD) by the deadline:
The documentation from a physician, psychiatrist, social worker, or other mental health professional that the animal provides emotional support that alleviates one or more of the identified symptoms or effects of an existing disability."

Thus, I have sent this Prospective Tenant an email indicating that we have moved on to other Prospective Tenants and that we wished him the best on his home search.

In the future I will now be more prepared for this situation.

I learn something new everyday :grinning: .


#7

There are consultants on Fair Housing even as there are attorneys specializing in Fair Housing. The attorney that comes to mind is Robert S. Coldren. ( https://www.linkedin.com/pub/robert-s-coldren/34/b28/170) and the consultant is Nadeen Green
( http://fairhousing.forrent.com/author/nadeen). I have also heard good things about Nan McKay & Associates ( http://www.nanmckay.com/t-general-contact.aspx ) but I have no personal experience with them.


#8

I just ran into this situation at my Oregon Park. I hired a new manager and she told me that people were Hiding Pit Bulls in their homes. I told her to send out notices to get rid of the dogs or get out. Well, Guess how many of these Pit Bulls are “emotional support animals”? If you guess all of them you’d be correct.

I did my research and I’m screwed. Fair Housing says I must make a reasonable accommodation for “emotional support animals”. Breed cannot be considered. They equated the Dog to a wheelchair and you wouldn’t care what brand the wheelchair is, so you can’t deny based on Breed.

HUD code does not allow me to limit how many dogs, what breed, what size etc. So now I have one tenant with 2 Pit Bulls. It just so happens that the other Pit Bulls tenants are either direct neighbors or family.

The only way I can have the EMA removed is if they bite someone, are barking, and/or are uncontrollable.

Be very Careful with this subject and do your research. If you make a wrong move you can be sued and fined for Fair Housing Violations.


#9

The reality is however that the dogs in your community are very likely not “emotional support animals” and unless your tenants can prove, with medical verification, that they are you evict. To not do so is allowing your tenants to control your investment.
I would serve notice.


#10

Hi Kristin,

Here’s some info:

QUESTIONS - EMOTIONAL SUPPORT ANIMAL:

2.) “If yes, what documentation did you require and receive (such as documentation from a physician that there was a need for the Emotional Support Animal)?” - Documentation levels can vary by state and legal jurisdiction (OR, CA, NY, IL take particularly strong defense of animal owner positions). Some allow no inquiry, but I’ve yet to see one who called it a violation by requiring the pet owner to put in writing their assertions - see the "Service or Emotional Support Animal… " letter at http://www.mobileagency.com/insurance-forms.html
3.) "Did you require insurance for the animal?"
Most legal opinions say you can’t do this - it’s a Fair Housing and or ADA violation
4.) "Did you have your insurance provider deal with the situation (as per Frank)?"
For those that want to take a hard line with these type of tenants, you can truthfully say we can’t allow any pets over 35lbs because our insurance company will not allow it, and we can’t find an insurance company that will, thus it’s an unreasonable financial hardship for us to allow your emotional support 100 lbs pit bull into the park.
5.) "How is/has the situation worked out for you?"
I’ve seen a number of our park owners threatened with litigation over this, but no lawsuits to date. As Greg and the others point out, the emotional support animal legal allowance is often fraudulantly used. To me that’s similar to an able bodied person parking in a handicapped zone space, but it happens.

Also, keep this in mind. Tenant safety is a real consideration and valid defense when prohibiting a dog from the park. If any “emotional support” animal bites or tries to bite another person or another dog, you can legally have it removed from the park (or evict the tenant if they won’t remove it).

Take note, that on three occasions this year, we’ve had park managers notice unapproved dogs, send written notice to remove the dogs, heard back from the tenant the dog is now gone, and then had a dog bite incident from the allegedly removed dog bite them in the b_____ , or even horribly bite a lady’s neck. So once you evict a disallowed dog, follow up.


#11

@KurtKelley , thank you so very much for your responses!

We greatly appreciate it!


#12

The tenants provided a “Doctor’s Note” prescribing the Dog as an Emotional Support Animal…


#13

going through the same issue here. From what I’ve found if they get a doctor to sign a form saying the tenant is “disabled” and the animal is “necessary” to treat their disability there isn’t much you can do except keep them from renting in the first place. Here is a copy of the letter I recently sent out.

Maybe its just my honest nature but I can’t imagine a doctor fraudulently signing the form as written. We’ll see.

Jason


#14

I’m a bit confused because I saw this image from here..

I’ve always understood the service dog as an ADA compliant issue, but didn’t realize emotional support counted as well - that being said, if it falls within ADA I think you’re completely in the right to require documentation as why a reasonable accommodation must be met. IMO, based on vernacular I think a therapy dog sounds more legitimate than an emotional support animal.


#15

Aren’t all house pet dogs pretty much kept as pets because of the emotional support they provide?


#16

Here’s a couple of more notes on the topic:

  1. Service Dogs are usually readily identifiable and the source of little fraudulent attempts to keep a dog otherwise prohibite. Example would be a Lab accompanying a blind person or person in a wheelchair. These animals often have one year plus of specialized training and were purchased for thousands of dollars or donated by a non-profit group;

  2. Emotional Support Animals - require no training and can be about any type of animal. While it appears most jurisdictions allow landlords to demand written confirmation of the animal’s status and an accompanying certification from a “health care provider,” that’s not entirely settled and demanding such documentation involves some risk as of today (I think it’s worth the risk to do so, but it is a risk);

  3. Tenants will often label the animal they are seeking protected status for as a “Service Animal,” though they are more likely seeking status as an “Emotional Suport Animal;”

  4. Regardless of the animal’s protected status, you can demand that it be safe and in control at all times, and evict the animal if it is not.