Author Topic: Can I bring home my ESA before my landlord has approved my RA?  (Read 362 times)

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Offline MarsGalaxies

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Can I bring home my ESA before my landlord has approved my RA?
« on: October 02, 2017, 09:35:24 PM »
Hi guys. As you can see I am very new to this forum.

I am asking this question because the relationship between my landlord and I is extremely strained. I have tourette's and my landlord has become increasingly uncooperative due to complaints from my neighbors. I recently found the perfect dog to help me control my outbursts, and I have submitted all the necessary paperwork for a reasonable accommodation (Letter from doctor, filled out all their paperwork etc.). However I am very aware that my landlord is not going to process this paperwork in a timely manner. Do I have to wait until they have approved my reasonable accommodation request before I bring my dog home? Or can they penalize me if I do that? I really am trying to be amicable with my landlord and follow the rules, but this dog needs to come home sooner rather than later, and with my landlord I can see later becoming a very drawn out process. 

I know the HUD says that landlords cannot take an "unreasonable amount of time" but that is so vague and I would like to resolve this as quickly as possible. Any advice or answers are appreciated. Thank you.

Offline Kirsten

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Re: Can I bring home my ESA before my landlord has approved my RA?
« Reply #1 on: October 02, 2017, 10:26:54 PM »
Can you bring home an ESA before it is approved?

Yes, but it isn't wise to do so because yes, it's possible for some very negative consequences to result.  You minimize added stress for yourself by patiently doing the steps one at a time.  In part it's because of how the FHAct is enforced.  Suppose this landlord decides to evict you because of violating your lease, which I presume has a "no pets" clause.  There's nothing stopping him from that proceeding.  He can do it and you can plead your case in court but the court you'll be going to will be one that specializes in eviction proceedings, not disability proceedings.  You'll have to use your request for accommodation and his taking an unreasonable amount of time as a defense for you violating the lease.  That means the burden on you will be to prove all of the following:
1.  That you are disabled (your word alone is not sufficient for court so you'll have to provide medical documentation and/or testimony and you can be cross examined on details about your disability).
2.  That ESAs are covered under the FHAct (because this is not explicitly stated in statutory or regulatory language, you'll need to present case law, which will probably require hiring an attorney)
3.  That you qualify for an ESA as an accommodation (your existing documentation may suffice for this if it is complete in showing the nexus between the animal and your disability, ie explaining exactly how an ESA would mitigate your disability)
4.  What constitutes a reasonable amount of time under the FHAct.
5.  That the landlord took an unreasonable amount of time.

So I really think you're probably better off going patiently and arguing it out with him before getting the ESA.  What then can you do to perhaps speed up the process?

I have three suggestions.
1.  Make all communication with him in writing and by mail.  Send all of your contacts to him by certified mail, return receipt requested, so you can document when you contacted him and what exactly you said (keep copies of everything you send him).
2.  Make sure your request is complete from the start.  We have sample letters for you (requesting the accommodation) and your doctor (letter of support indicating you are disabled and describing the nexus between the ESA and your disability)
3.  In your initial request, explicitly state a reasonable timeline for a response.  A reasonable time period for some sort of response from the landlord is "ten businesses days" or two weeks (weekend days do not count as business days).  Each time you correspond, request a response within "ten business days."  This is part of why you need to make sure your initial request is entirely complete, so he can't drag it out asking you for additional information.

So what then do you do if you provide him with all of the necessary information and he's still dragging his feet over things that he's not allowed to require, such as making unreasonable requests for additional information?  That's when you send one final letter stating his additional requests are excessive and referring him to HUD (include contact info for him) and again give your ten business days for response.  If you do not receive a satisfactory response after this final letter, then you file your complaint with HUD.  The bad news for you is that filing a complaint can take many months to work it's way through the system and be addressed by HUD and they might tell you they don't have the resources to pursue your case at that time.  Then you can decide whether to move and/or sue.  On the bright side, if you can get a HUD representative to at least contact him to ask about the case, that's usually enough of a fire to produce action.  Not always, but usually.

So let us suppose it takes about three weeks for each response (that's his two weeks to take action to respond, plus time for his response to reach you by mail).  You send your initial request and get his response, which is three weeks.  His response asks for additional information, and because your initial request was so complete he's asking for something he hasn't a right to ask for, so you send another letter explaining this and that is three more weeks for a response.  So you're looking at six weeks or so if things are perfect on your end before filing a complaint with HUD.

Do you have to take these steps in order to file a complaint with HUD?  Maybe not, but these are the steps most likely to prepare a case that can be proved in court and that can affect whether they take on your case and whether or not they (or you) can prove discrimination to the satisfaction of a judge.

It is in your own best interest to be super polite and correct in your dealings with the landlord over this matter.  It is in your own best interests not to rile him up any further that absolutely necessary over it (and it sounds like you think the request itself will not be well-received).

Other things you can do to improve your odds of success and speed of success would include choosing a small breed adult dog that is already housebroken and doesn't bark much and then pointing out these attributes to the landlord in your initial request.  If you choose a member of a breed that might appear on an insurance company's ban list, this could cause a significant delay or could potentially cause your request to be legally denied (as an "undue burden" to the landlord).

Finally, are you certain your landlord is subject to the FHAct?  Landlords that are religious entities or who have four or fewer units are usually exempt.  Part of why you have to make the request is to give the landlord an opportunity to explain he is exempt and the other part is to give the landlord an opportunity to negotiate on the accommodation, such as breed and how that might affect his insurance premiums.  He can also negotiate on reasonable pet rules like where the dog is toileted and walked and what happens if the dog disturbs neighbors (say by nuisance barking).  It's not an automatic accommodation, which is why you have to request it.

Here's our article on ESAs in housing:  http://servicedogcentral.org/content/ESA-housing
You might want to check it over to see if you've covered everything.
Kirsten and Tardis
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Offline Suse

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Re: Can I bring home my ESA before my landlord has approved my RA?
« Reply #2 on: October 02, 2017, 11:45:11 PM »
Wow, Kirstin's response was so thorough I can't think of a thing to add. Only maybe to say I too would suggest waiting until it's approved by the landlord. And if you have a lease coming up not to renew until you have approval.

 I am hoping this works out for you :smile:

Offline MarsGalaxies

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Re: Can I bring home my ESA before my landlord has approved my RA?
« Reply #3 on: October 06, 2017, 01:32:05 PM »
Kirstin thank you so much for your detailed response. It confirmed what I thought to be true - that I can't bring them home before my request is approved.

So I made a drastic decision and consulted a lawyer! My lawyer then called the corporate offices (my apartments are owned by a large company) and got a letter of approval straight from the regional supervisor. So my ESA is snuggled up in my lap now, thank you all so much!

Offline OlgatheGSD

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Re: Can I bring home my ESA before my landlord has approved my RA?
« Reply #4 on: October 06, 2017, 02:17:05 PM »
That is great news!! Congratulations on the finally swift response and bringing home your ESA!  :biggrin:
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Offline Kirsten

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Re: Can I bring home my ESA before my landlord has approved my RA?
« Reply #5 on: October 06, 2017, 07:04:16 PM »
Hey, great news!  I'm so glad this has worked out for you.  Congratulations on your new ESA!  How exciting!
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 Suse

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Re: Can I bring home my ESA before my landlord has approved my RA?
« Reply #6 on: October 06, 2017, 08:56:08 PM »
Wow, great example of how to bypass a landlord!  Congrats.

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Re: Can I bring home my ESA before my landlord has approved my RA?
« Reply #7 on: October 06, 2017, 09:21:01 PM »
That's amazing! Congratulations!
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