Author Topic: Help! Landlord says ESA is in violation of lease  (Read 618 times)

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Offline JustaGyrl

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Help! Landlord says ESA is in violation of lease
« on: August 04, 2017, 10:58:16 AM »
Hello.  I apologize if this is lengthy.

 My daughter has PTSD and severe depression/anxiety/night terrors.  A few years ago her Dr suggested an ESA might help her.  We have went back and forth with the idea and after a severe episode she decided to try the ESA.  Her Dr wrote her the letter stating her disability and that she would benefit from a support animal.  We got a really great little shih tzu and he has been a godsend for my daughter.  When I paid my rent yesterday I turned in the Dr letter along with a letter stating we obtained the ESA.  Yesterday afternoon I got a call from a lady in the office (manager is on vacation) and she stated "it doesn't work like this and you are in violation of your lease and the dog needs to be removed".   (Just for clarification, pets are allowed on the property and most of my neighbors have them, one has even bit my son and is still on property.)  She stated we have to go through an approval process and my daughters DR needs to fill out all their required forms before they decide if the ESA is approved.   How do I handle this?  My daughter is in a turmoil thinking she has to get rid of her dog.  What papers would her DR need to fill out that her letter doesn't cover?

Thank you.

Offline Kirsten

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Re: Help! Landlord says ESA is in violation of lease
« Reply #1 on: August 04, 2017, 12:20:57 PM »
You do have to go through an approval process of sorts. 

First, how long has the daughter had the ESA and is she moving in with you or have she and the ESA been there the whole time they have been together?  Somehow I got the impression she had been living elsewhere with the dog and is now living with you?

Anyway, if she is an adult who is going to be living there permanently (on the lease) then she must make the request for accommodation in writing, accompanied by the letter from her doctor.  Her request and her doctor's letter have to contain certain information.  If either letter is not complete, then it's reasonable for the landlord to request the missing information.  Often landlords will simply have a form to fill out to make sure they get all the information to which they are entitled.  It makes things simpler for all parties.

So I guess the first thing you do is take a look at the form and see if you have any objections to any of the questions they are asking.  For example, they are not permitted to require her complete medical records or even the specific diagnosis.  There are two main things the landlord needs to know:

1.  Does the doctor consider her to be disabled by mental illness?
2.  Is there a direct relationship (a "nexus") between that mental illness and the dog that the doctor feels is important for her mental health?

The doctor needs to state it is a mental illness, but is not required to state the specific diagnosis.  They also need to state they are treating your daughter for that mental illness, that it is disabling, and that the emotional support animal is necessary as part of their treatment plan for her.  It needs to be on the doctor's letterhead and be dated.  If the letter is more than a year old, they can request a new letter dated less than a year ago.  It needs to contain contact information for the doctor (hence the need for the letterhead) and it needs to have the doctor's license number and qualification on it (for example, is it a general MD, a psychatrist, psychologist, LCSW, etc.).

If their form is more invasive than that, then it may be you don't have to provide additional information they request.  BUT, if you and the landlord don't agree there isn't a quick fix to the problem because the FHAct is not a criminal law and is therefore not enforced by police.  It is enforced through courts and bringing a lawsuit takes time.  You can file a complaint with HUD and hope to avoid court, but this also takes time.

So here's the start of our series of articles on ESAs in housing:  http://servicedogcentral.org/content/ESA-housing

And here's a memo from HUD on the subject:  https://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/documents/huddoc?id=servanimals_ntcfheo2013-01.pdf

If she is a minor child, then her guardian makes the request on her behalf.
If you are the leaseholder and she is an adult guest visiting in your home but is not going to be on the lease itself, then you make the request on your own behalf, but that's more complicated so let me know if that's the case so I can give you the correct information.
« Last Edit: August 04, 2017, 12:24:19 PM by Kirsten »
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Offline JustaGyrl

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Re: Help! Landlord says ESA is in violation of lease
« Reply #2 on: August 04, 2017, 01:29:32 PM »
Kristen,

Thank you for your reply.  My daughter lives with me, she just turned 18 but has lived with me her whole life.  We have been in this unit for the past 3 years and she has always been here and listed on the lease.  We have had her dog almost 2 years and it's never been an issue.  We got the letter from her Dr in May of this year after the Dr realized she never wrote one and that we have the ESA.  It states my daughter has been under her care from 2014-present.  It also states her diagnosis and that she will benefit from having an ESA.  It is on letterhead and signed by the DR.  I'm not concerned that it won't be approved per se, I will see what the manager says when he returns on Monday.  My concern is them stating we are in violation of the lease and the ESA needs to be removed from the home today until it is approved which could take 2 weeks or longer.

Offline ccunnin3

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Re: Help! Landlord says ESA is in violation of lease
« Reply #3 on: August 04, 2017, 01:58:56 PM »
You may need to find a temporary place for the dog until the paperwork is finished. If the dog is there and is not approved, you are in violation of your lease. Try boarding your dog or leaving him with a trusted friend or family member for a bit.
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Offline OlgatheGSD

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Re: Help! Landlord says ESA is in violation of lease
« Reply #4 on: August 04, 2017, 03:11:15 PM »
If you've have the dog for 2 years whike living there, does that mean that you paid the pet fees/deposits and then showed paperwork that it is an ESA, or did the landlord not even know you had a dog at all and you just now turned in paperwork for it. I can understand a lease management team getting upset about being blindsided. I'm not sure the law says about pets currently legally living in a dwelling and then they become an ESA, though, since to get approved for an ESA you have to get approved by your landlord before you bring the dog home.
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Offline Kirsten

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Re: Help! Landlord says ESA is in violation of lease
« Reply #5 on: August 04, 2017, 04:58:50 PM »
Yes, technically you're supposed to get approval before bringing the ESA home.  But if it's already there with permission as a pet then it wouldn't be a violation of the lease.  I'm guessing they didn't previously know about the dog.

The thing is ESA access in housing is not automatic like SD access in public accommodations.  Some landlords are exempt and even those that aren't have some rights of their own, including the right to set rules and the right to exclude some animals for certain specific reasons.

In addition, landlords are receiving the brunt of the burden of fake service dogs and ESAs.  They're suffering damages to their property and headaches like complaints from other tenants and neighbors with no benefit to themselves.  It's burdensome to them and this can make them cranky and less cooperative, but can you really blame them looking at how much the fake ID people are promoting faking and causing problems for them?  So anyway, I always encourage people with legitimate ESAs and SDs to be the most patient and polite they can muster and cooperate as much as they can not just to make things easier for the landlord, but to make the landlord more willing to work with them by acting sane and reasonable, unlike the fakers typically act.  Both sides are happier and the resolution is typically faster and more satisfactory on both sides if they can remain polite and cooperative throughout.
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Offline JustaGyrl

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Re: Help! Landlord says ESA is in violation of lease
« Reply #6 on: August 04, 2017, 05:14:17 PM »
Thank you all for your replies. 

My manager(whom we have not talked about this with yet) knows we have the dog.  He has had conversations with my daughter while she has been walking the dog and he was walking his.  Plus the dog has been present for all the inspections and repairs done on the unit in the past 2 years.  He has not been hidden.  The dog was adopted as an ESA after my daughter's Dr recommended she get one.  I am in the process of starting to move out and wanted to make sure everything was set up correctly for my daughter to remain on the lease on her own and when discussing this with her Dr she realized she had not given us the letter and thus here we are.  My concern is not that he won't be approved but that he will need to relocate until this process is completed and thus cause an episode for my daughter.   It appears this is something we need to prepare for.  However, the phone call was from someone standing in who admittedly has no idea how this works nor does she have access to the requested paperwork she stated we needed.
 FYI: My apartment complex does not charge pet rent and no pet deposit has ever been mentioned and the lease was just renewed for another year. 
« Last Edit: August 04, 2017, 05:23:18 PM by JustaGyrl »

Offline TherapyPals

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Re: Help! Landlord says ESA is in violation of lease
« Reply #7 on: August 29, 2017, 08:35:25 PM »
Landlords absolutely face the majority of burden of ESAs although the public knows about them mostly through airplanes.  There is nothing a landlord hates more than an ESA.  And you can have multiple ESAs which drive landlords crazy.

Offline Kirsten

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Re: Help! Landlord says ESA is in violation of lease
« Reply #8 on: August 30, 2017, 01:13:35 AM »
I don't think it's reasonable to generalize that landlords hate ESAs.  Most landlords are accommodating when approached reasonably by someone who follows the proper steps.

You can only have multiple ESAs with a disability related need that reasonably demonstrates why more than one is necessary.  Landlords don't have to permit multiple ESAs just because the tenant wants them.

I notice from your email address that you work for an entity that is involved in providing ESAs and yet you seem to have several important misconceptions about ESAs.  Perhaps this is why your experience is that landlords an angry dealing with your organization.
Kirsten and Tardis
In loving memory of Cole (1/11/99 - 6/26/12)  He gave me back my life.

"The one absolute, unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world -- the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous -- is his dog." -George G. Vest

Offline Poedog

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Re: Help! Landlord says ESA is in violation of lease
« Reply #9 on: August 30, 2017, 07:10:58 AM »
Both of my landlords were fine with ESAs. The first wasn't so great when we broke the lease early after they ignored our multiple requests to deal with mold in the wall due to a pipe leaking (our neighbors had confirmed black mold after they paid for the test because the complex wouldn't 🙄) but that's besides the point haha.

I only have experience with 2 landlords, but I would venture to say, most will be willing to work with you if you go through the proper channels and have a legitimate need. People blow off ESAs far too often. Poe has completely changed my life and is legitimately a vital part of my treatment for my disability. Don't abuse the system and you'll have a better (not 100% of course) chance of the landlord working with you.

Offline TherapyPals

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Re: Help! Landlord says ESA is in violation of lease
« Reply #10 on: August 30, 2017, 12:17:07 PM »
I don't think it's reasonable to generalize that landlords hate ESAs.  Most landlords are accommodating when approached reasonably by someone who follows the proper steps.

You can only have multiple ESAs with a disability related need that reasonably demonstrates why more than one is necessary.  Landlords don't have to permit multiple ESAs just because the tenant wants them.

I notice from your email address that you work for an entity that is involved in providing ESAs and yet you seem to have several important misconceptions about ESAs.  Perhaps this is why your experience is that landlords an angry dealing with your organization.

I run a medical practice and providing ESAs is a hobby.  I have been doing ESAs for two years.  Agree, there are a ton of misconceptions and I shouldn't generalize like that.  When it comes to having more than one ESA, there really isn't much more to it than the doctor just agreeing to it.  If a person says they need more than one, invariably the doctor will agree to it.  The letter doesn't say anything about the disability.  It is intentionally vague.

Like all ESA laws, it is murky in regards to landlords having to accept it. 

Thanks!

Offline Suse

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Re: Help! Landlord says ESA is in violation of lease
« Reply #11 on: August 30, 2017, 10:04:54 PM »
I find it very strange that they would allow the dog as a pet and then raise a fuss about it becoming an ESA.  That makes absolutely no sense.  ????  Perhaps I have read this all wrong?  Did your lease require that you have permission  for a pet and you did not obtain that? 

Offline Kirsten

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Re: Help! Landlord says ESA is in violation of lease
« Reply #12 on: August 30, 2017, 11:46:24 PM »
Again, it is not "invariable" that the doctor will agree to it, and it's not up to the doctor.  It has to be reasonable, which means there has to be a disability related reason why two are necessary and one will not do.

Landlords have rights too.

So much misinformation from one scammer looking to exploit the disabled for financial gain.
Kirsten and Tardis
In loving memory of Cole (1/11/99 - 6/26/12)  He gave me back my life.

"The one absolute, unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world -- the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous -- is his dog." -George G. Vest