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emotional support animals come home to roost: WWYD?

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  • Avatar FIREshrink 
    Participant
    Status: Physician
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    We own a SFH rental (numbers below) and had a tenant turnover. The first qualified applicant has 2 (count ‘em) emotional support dogs.  They will otherwise meet criteria to be renters.

    Law says: Cannot discriminate. Cannot charge pet fee. Cannot increase deposit.

    Since we have no other candidate we could be staring at a lawsuit if we refuse to rent.

    Alternative is to sell. We had been toying with selling anyway, maybe this makes the decision for us – maybe not.

    This rental is a very small part of our net worth/portfolio.

    Bought: $187k

    Market value: $325k

    Owe: $90k

    After recapture of depreciation, real estate agent commission, and excise fee, plus long term capital gains tax, I think we can walk away with $160k cash.

    Rent: $1695

    Property Tax: $3000

    No HOA

    Management fee: $135 per mo

    The rental has done well for us but it’s basically small potatoes. I don’t want to end up with a $10k yard and interior repair bill that we have to pay. Last time we had pets, they destroyed the carpets and we spent $7000 to put in laminate. So laminate is a little better, but not impervious. On the other hand, I don’t want to overreact. Like I said, the rental’s been a pretty good investment over six years.

    Our manager doesn’t mince words. His feeling about ESAs was, “Since these are people who skirt the rules, we run into problems with them… they don’t follow the rules…”

    What would you do?

    #228891 Reply
    Liked by Craigy, MPMD
    CordMcNally CordMcNally 
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    Status: Physician
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    I didn’t think that emotional support animals had any legal standing. I wouldn’t rent to them. In general, I find people with emotional support animals to typically come with other issues.

    “But investing isn’t about beating others at their game. It’s about controlling yourself at your own game.”
    ― Benjamin Graham, The Intelligent Investor

    #228894 Reply
    Avatar StarTrekDoc 
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    Joined: 01/15/2017

    Did they pass credit check  and personal references and ability to pay the rent given expenses with down?  If not for all those, then no worry but need to have a set standard to deny if challenged.

    #228895 Reply
    Avatar adventure 
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    Earnest refinancing bonus
    I didn’t think that emotional support animals had any legal standing.

    Click to expand…

     

    This Bigger Pockets page is interesting, https://www.biggerpockets.com/forums/52/topics/574351-landlord-esa-question

    and it links to the ADA 2010, which has a very clear definition: https://www.ada.gov/service_animals_2010.htm

    it also has a section about miniature horses.

     

    These ADA FAQs: https://www.ada.gov/regs2010/service_animal_qa.html

    There is more clear guidance there. I think asking said renters to jump through hoops, etc is on option.

     

    And… maybe now is a good time to sell anyway. Might be better able to deploy the capital elsewhere, to some place with less headaches (and risk), but mostly less hassle.

    #228900 Reply
    Avatar jacoavlu 
    Moderator
    Status: Physician, Small Business Owner
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    Joined: 03/01/2018

    What documentation have you asked for to ascertain the validity of these animals qualifying as emotional support animals? You should be safe to do so if nothing else to buy a little bit of time.

    What’s to stop them at just two dogs?

    The Finance Buff's solo 401k contribution spreadsheet: https://goo.gl/6cZKVA

    #228901 Reply
    ENT Doc ENT Doc 
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    Status: Physician
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    You can’t say “sorry, no pets?” I’ve done this for 8 years. It’s my place and no one is going to force me to take a tenant with pets. The emotional support aspect is irrelevant.

    #228925 Reply
    Vagabond MD Vagabond MD 
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    Status: Physician
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    Joined: 01/21/2016

    I saw the capital “W” in the title, and my first reaction was WCICON! So what is the ESA policy at WCICON, anyway?

    😀

    "Wealth is the slave of the wise man and the master of the fool.” -Seneca the Younger

    #228927 Reply
    Liked by CordMcNally
    Lordosis Lordosis 
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    Status: Physician
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    Joined: 02/11/2019

    Add this to the reasons that make owning RE less passive, more work.  I can see how RE can be useful in your portfolio but this is yet another example of a risk that can make it more of a liability.

    If the market is favorable in the area to sell I would take this opportunity.  It sounds like they are waving a big red flag at you and there is little you can do to avoid it.

    Ask for documentation.  Hopefully they do not have a sell out physician who will just write this note.

     

    I was hoping the ESA was a chicken/Rooster!

    “Never let your sense of morals prevent you from doing what is right.”

    #228933 Reply
    Liked by ENT Doc
    Avatar FIREshrink 
    Participant
    Status: Physician
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    Joined: 01/11/2017

    My reading of the law, confirmed by property manager, is that ESAs are explicitly protected by the FairHousing Act, and I cannot refuse. If I had another applicant I could choose another for another reason, but not this reason. Housing is one of the few explicitly protected areas for ESAs, different than trained service animals which are widely protected by the ADA. Apparently there is an exception for SFHs but you lose that if you use a property manager as it’s viewed as a professional endeavor. There is no limit to the type of animal nor to the number of animals permitted. They could have four dogs. Or two chickens. Or both.

    It makes me sad to sell the property as it’s a cute house and has appreciated a lot in six years and continues to do so. It’s basically been throwing off $10k per year net of all taxes, fees, repairs, payments, etc. On $187k down that’s pretty nice. This excludes the appreciation which has been stellar though obviously that can’t continue forever.

    #228952 Reply
    Liked by snowcanyon
    MPMD MPMD 
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    Our manager doesn’t mince words. His feeling about ESAs was, “Since these are people who skirt the rules, we run into problems with them… they don’t follow the rules…”

    Click to expand…

    I feel like this would be my take and my approach.

    I’m confused, why do you have to rent to them? If I apply to rent from another private citizen can’t they basically just say “it’s not a good fit” and move on? Once they’ve passed the check etc are you required to rent to them?

    I would want to know how the law defines emotional support animals very specifically.

    As a last resort couldn’t you say that you decided to do some improvements rather than rent and then slap a slow coat of paint on until this person moved on?

    Also have you tried to chat with the prospective tenant as a normal person to a hopefully normal person? “Look I know these dogs are important to you but I have only had bad experiences with them. If you want to force my hand on this you can, but is that the best way for us to start this relationship?”

    #228957 Reply
    Liked by Peds
    Avatar DocNextDoor 
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    Status: Physician
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    Joined: 01/27/2018

    You are legally allowed to ask for a letter from a mental health professional that the dog will provide disability related assistance or emotional support, this may deter them or allow time for another applicant.

    You can also charge for any damage to the property beyond normal (no dog) wear and tear.

    #228958 Reply
    Liked by snowcanyon, Peds
    MPMD MPMD 
    Participant
    Status: Physician
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    Joined: 05/01/2017

    You are legally allowed to ask for a letter from a mental health professional that the dog will provide disability related assistance or emotional support, this may deter them or allow time for another applicant.

    You can also charge for any damage to the property beyond normal (no dog) wear and tear.

    Click to expand…

    reviewed some links.

    i think i would also do this and looking at one of those links above ask them to have a signed letter from a healthcare professional indicating what specific service the dog provided. if it’s a seeing eye dog it’s simple. but i think the doc is going to feel much less comfortable signing a form for an apartment when asked to specifically note what the dog does.

    if nothing else it’s another fairly reasonable hoop to create.

    #228959 Reply
    Liked by Peds
    Avatar MrsIMDoc 
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    Status: Physician
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    Joined: 01/09/2016

    I would put the house on the market at a high asking price for the next month to give them time to find another place to live. Then you can choose to sell if you get a buyer. If you do not then you can put it back on the rental market but with a much higher rent.  You can also with the new renters have a much higher deposit to cover cost of damage (not pet deposit just regular deposit).  I am not an expert just an idea.

    #228965 Reply
    jfoxcpacfp jfoxcpacfp 
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    I’m confused, why do you have to rent to them? If I apply to rent from another private citizen can’t they basically just say “it’s not a good fit” and move on? Once they’ve passed the check etc are you required to rent to them?

    Click to expand…

    You can say that but if you are saying that to a member of a protected class (and this one, I just don’t get), it is much easier for that person to sue, especially if you’ve already given them the ammunition:

    “Look I know these dogs are important to you but I have only had bad experiences with them. If you want to force my hand on this you can, but is that the best way for us to start this relationship?”

    Click to expand…

    I would try to let go of the emotional attachment to the place and realize it’s been a great run and could have turned out a lot worse. A well-balanced equity portfolio sounds so much simpler – that’s true “passive income”.

    Johanna Fox Turner, CPA, CFP, Fox Wealth Mgmt & Fox CPAs ~
    http://www.fox-cpas.com/for-doctors-only ~ [email protected]

    #228966 Reply
    The White Coat Investor The White Coat Investor 
    Keymaster
    Status: Physician
    Posts: 4389
    Joined: 05/13/2011

    I saw the capital “W” in the title, and my first reaction was WCICON! So what is the ESA policy at WCICON, anyway?

    😀

    Click to expand…

    Emotional support reptiles only.

    Site/Forum Owner, Emergency Physician, Blogger, and author of The White Coat Investor: A Doctor's Guide to Personal Finance and Investing
    Helping Those Who Wear The White Coat Get A "Fair Shake" on Wall Street since 2011

    #228967 Reply

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