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emotional support animals come home to roost: WWYD?

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  • The White Coat Investor The White Coat Investor 
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    Status: Physician
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    If they have an emotional support animal, surely all of their references can’t be awesome. How many past landlords have you called?

    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

    #228968 Reply
    Avatar Dilaudidopenia 
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    Status: Physician
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    Joined: 05/22/2016

    Do you actually think these people will take the time, effort, money, emotional energy to sue if you deny them?

    I feel like most people would just go find another place to rent.

    #228979 Reply
    Avatar mjohnson 
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    #228983 Reply
    jfoxcpacfp jfoxcpacfp 
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    Status: Financial Advisor, Accountant, Small Business Owner
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    Joined: 01/09/2016

    If they have an emotional support animal, surely all of their references can’t be awesome. How many past landlords have you called?

    Click to expand…

    My hunch is they won’t say a word if the person had an ESA at the time. Kind of like calling an employer for a reference. Although I would never lie, I tend to be circumspect about how I provide negative information.

    Johanna Fox Turner, CPA, CFP: I am not your financial advisor; any responses are for general purposes only
    http://www.fox-cpas.com/for-doctors-only ~ [email protected]

    #228986 Reply
    Liked by snowcanyon, Tim
    Hank Hank 
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    Joined: 03/27/2017

    These are your only qualified prospective tenants?  At this point, I’d consider firing the property manager and either hiring another property manager who can market the house properly or manage it yourself (to get rid of the ESA exclusion and to increase profit on the rental).

    Then again, if your cousin were to tell you that he wanted to move in, then you’d have to take it off the market.  If he decides to stay in Chicago, you could list it again in another month or two.

    #228989 Reply
    Liked by snowcanyon
    Avatar RollieStrummer 
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    Status: Physician
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    Ugh. I’ve been through the ESA fight.

    We own a condo in a high rise in another city.  It has a very strict “no animals” policy.  It’s the type of place where everyone knows each other, and if you commit an HOA violation you are going to get a notice within 24 hours.

    A couple of years ago one of the units is sold and a woman moves in with her 2 dogs.  She is immediately told “no animals”, and responds that they are ESAs. This is followed by a letter from her lawyer to the HOA board outlining her rights under the ADA.  HOA board hires a lawyer, and after several thousand dollars in fees, realizes unless they want a very expensive fight that they will probably lose, they are going to have to let her have the dogs.  HOA board reluctantly allows the dogs, but everyone is steamed.  The dogs are poorly behaved (because they’re pets, not trained service animals), and cause some problems around the building. The dog owner becomes a pariah and gets glares from everyone in the building.

    A few months later, she “trips” on some “loose carpet” in the hallway, has a fall and suffers “soft tissue injury” to her chest and arm.  She then files suit against the building, the HOA and by proxy all the other owners.  Well.  Now the HSA mounts a vigorous defense, indicating that they won’t settle for nuisance value.  She is presented with a litany of documented HOA violations and also confronted with video of the alleged fall, which was nothing of the sort.  (She didn’t realize there were cameras in the hallway.)  This drags on for a few months, and eventually she drops the suit. (More likely her lawyer dropped her.)  She then moved out a year ago, and the saga came to an end.

    It seems that many ESA owners “know their rights” and are prepared to enforce them, so skirting the law or hoping that they go away is probably not a good strategy.

    I had my own fun experience about 3 months ago.  Woman comes into the hospital for her liver biopsy with her golden retriever.  He’s an ESA, and she demands to have him with her throughout the procedure.  I say no way.  I’m not doing a liver biopsy with a dog in the room.  She protests and I list all of the reasons why this is not going to happen:  It’s not safe for her, it’s not safe for me, it’s not sanitary for anyone using that room, etc.  After she realizes that she is not going to bully me into getting her way, we reach a compromise of the dog waiting outside the biopsy room in kind of a control area that’s not open to the general public.

    Biopsy goes fine.  We leave the biopsy room and discover that the dog is gone.  Somehow the door was opened and the dog took off.  The patient loses it and starts screaming.  She’s yelling at us, wailing in despair, creating such a racket that staff come running from all over the department to see what’s going on.  A couple of staff stay with her, while everyone else goes searching for the dog.  It’s found fairly quickly wandering down a hospital hallway, dog and patient are reunited and all are relieved, except for the patient who is now threatening all of us with lawsuits, formal complaints, medical board inquiries, etc.  It’s been a few months, and I have not heard anything, so maybe nothing is coming, but the whole incident did make me take a closer look at my FIRE projections.

    Should you sell the house?  I don’t know, but stuff like this is the exact reason I don’t own any SFH in the real estate arm of my portfolio.  If there is any legal way to avoid an ESA tenant, do it, but be prepared to be challenged.

     

    jfoxcpacfp jfoxcpacfp 
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    Good grief. I’m so glad your HOA stood up to her.

    Johanna Fox Turner, CPA, CFP: I am not your financial advisor; any responses are for general purposes only
    http://www.fox-cpas.com/for-doctors-only ~ [email protected]

    #228994 Reply
    MPMD MPMD 
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    Status: Physician
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    Joined: 05/01/2017

    If they have an emotional support animal, surely all of their references can’t be awesome. How many past landlords have you called?

    Click to expand…

    My hunch is they won’t say a word if the person had an ESA at the time. Kind of like calling an employer for a reference. Although I would never lie, I tend to be circumspect about how I provide negative information.

     

    It strikes me as one of those areas where being relatively non-communicative would serve you well. You are under no legal obligation to return calls or emails in a timely fashion when negotiating a lease agreement. Heck just a brief email that says something like “will be checking your references and doing background check when I can, busy few weeks coming up, also just FYI I am considering not renting for a few months to do some upgrades just in case you want to look elsewhere.”

    #228995 Reply
    Avatar GasFIRE 
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    Status: Physician
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    Joined: 01/08/2018

    This doesn’t sound like passive income to me.

    #228996 Reply
    Hank Hank 
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    Joined: 03/27/2017

    Just remember, a REIT doesn’t call you at 2:30 in the morning with a backed up toilet.

    Avatar G 
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    Status: Physician, Small Business Owner
    Posts: 1882
    Joined: 01/08/2016

    ug.  I ended up saying yes to dogs because otherwise you’re excluding half of the available tenant pool and I happen to be a dog person.  however, I can see how somebody who thinks they need an ESA could be a PITA.  there is a difference between Fluffy making somebody feel better and Fluffy with a bonafide job for a person with a disability.  if somebody wants to sue you because they don’t see that difference, well there’s nothing stopping them.  last I checked this is a free country for both of you (although recent anti-landlord laws passed here are beginning to make me wonder…).

    I’m tired of dealing with tenants/prop mgrs and have just put my super cute place on the market…so you can guess my vote.

    #228999 Reply
    Avatar burritos 
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    Status: Physician
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    Joined: 04/23/2018

    location of the rental?

    #229017 Reply
    Avatar snowcanyon 
    Participant
    Status: Physician
    Posts: 540
    Joined: 10/22/2018

    Ugh. I’ve been through the ESA fight.

    We own a condo in a high rise in another city.  It has a very strict “no animals” policy.  It’s the type of place where everyone knows each other, and if you commit an HOA violation you are going to get a notice within 24 hours.

    A couple of years ago one of the units is sold and a woman moves in with her 2 dogs.  She is immediately told “no animals”, and responds that they are ESAs. This is followed by a letter from her lawyer to the HOA board outlining her rights under the ADA.  HOA board hires a lawyer, and after several thousand dollars in fees, realizes unless they want a very expensive fight that they will probably lose, they are going to have to let her have the dogs.  HOA board reluctantly allows the dogs, but everyone is steamed.  The dogs are poorly behaved (because they’re pets, not trained service animals), and cause some problems around the building. The dog owner becomes a pariah and gets glares from everyone in the building.

    A few months later, she “trips” on some “loose carpet” in the hallway, has a fall and suffers “soft tissue injury” to her chest and arm.  She then files suit against the building, the HOA and by proxy all the other owners.  Well.  Now the HSA mounts a vigorous defense, indicating that they won’t settle for nuisance value.  She is presented with a litany of documented HOA violations and also confronted with video of the alleged fall, which was nothing of the sort.  (She didn’t realize there were cameras in the hallway.)  This drags on for a few months, and eventually she drops the suit. (More likely her lawyer dropped her.)  She then moved out a year ago, and the saga came to an end.

    It seems that many ESA owners “know their rights” and are prepared to enforce them, so skirting the law or hoping that they go away is probably not a good strategy.

    I had my own fun experience about 3 months ago.  Woman comes into the hospital for her liver biopsy with her golden retriever.  He’s an ESA, and she demands to have him with her throughout the procedure.  I say no way.  I’m not doing a liver biopsy with a dog in the room.  She protests and I list all of the reasons why this is not going to happen:  It’s not safe for her, it’s not safe for me, it’s not sanitary for anyone using that room, etc.  After she realizes that she is not going to bully me into getting her way, we reach a compromise of the dog waiting outside the biopsy room in kind of a control area that’s not open to the general public.

    Biopsy goes fine.  We leave the biopsy room and discover that the dog is gone.  Somehow the door was opened and the dog took off.  The patient loses it and starts screaming.  She’s yelling at us, wailing in despair, creating such a racket that staff come running from all over the department to see what’s going on.  A couple of staff stay with her, while everyone else goes searching for the dog.  It’s found fairly quickly wandering down a hospital hallway, dog and patient are reunited and all are relieved, except for the patient who is now threatening all of us with lawsuits, formal complaints, medical board inquiries, etc.  It’s been a few months, and I have not heard anything, so maybe nothing is coming, but the whole incident did make me take a closer look at my FIRE projections.

    Should you sell the house?  I don’t know, but stuff like this is the exact reason I don’t own any SFH in the real estate arm of my portfolio.  If there is any legal way to avoid an ESA tenant, do it, but be prepared to be challenged.

     

    Click to expand…

    ESAs don’t have standing in the hospital. My system, much to my irritation, allows them, but the law says nothing. If they don’t have a caregiver for the animal, you are more than within your rights to say no and reschedule when dog caregiver is available, or you can just refuse to do the procedure. Given your experience, refusal is a much better choice. You were too nice. This is 100% a reason to cancel the procedure and reschedule. Psycho needs you more than you need her.

    As to OP-

    ESA lady has all the rights here, but she is liable for any and all damages caused by said dogs. You can, and I would suggest, consulting with a local attorney as to whether you can write fines and rules into the lease- if you find animal waste in the yard, $25, she must have renter’s insurance and umbrella that cover any and all liabilities (such as from her pet), if there are noise complaints she is liable, if the dog attacks, she is liable. She’s legally allowed to have an animal; she’s not legally allowed to be a nuisance.

    Property manager (or you) need to inspect this place regularly if she rents.

    Your rental is doing OK, but it doesn’t meet the 1% rule, so selling would be reasonable, although you will pay mighty and awful taxes. At least you can deduct the 7k in damages when you sell. It sounds like the headaches of landlording are not your thing, which is completely understandable. If it’s not an ESA, it will be something else. The ways tenants can destroy a property are endless.

    #229025 Reply
    jfoxcpacfp jfoxcpacfp 
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    Joined: 01/09/2016

    Side question – when I went to pick up my husband after he was in the hospital a couple of days from surgery, I mentioned to the nurse that I had left my Aussie in the car so I was hoping checkout wouldn’t last too long. [Beau is both an EA and often a PIT-A but not an ESA.] Her reply? Bring him up! So, I did – I got some strange looks, but nobody stopped me. Is that unusual?

    Johanna Fox Turner, CPA, CFP: I am not your financial advisor; any responses are for general purposes only
    http://www.fox-cpas.com/for-doctors-only ~ [email protected]

    #229029 Reply
    Avatar Tim 
    Participant
    Status: Accountant
    Posts: 3339
    Joined: 09/18/2018

    “It seems that many ESA owners “know their rights” and are prepared to enforce them, so skirting the law or hoping that they go away is probably not a good strategy.”

    1) Anecdotally, most ESA owners are single.
    2) A lot of single emotionally have a type of void, the feeling of being needed.
    3) An ESA provides companionship
    4) An ESA doesn’t argue and appreciates all the life necessities provided.
    5) You will never overcome the rationalization that an ESA is really comforting. At least to the point that the owners selfish intentions at the expense of others is not valuable.

    These used to be called “PETS”. Service dogs ( I am unaware of any other animal that can be trained sufficiently) are a completely different issue.

    When in doubt, “because”. No more. Thinking.
    Not sure if “your emotional needs” are suited to being a landlord.
    I tell my brother, “If you dang dog is going to the restaurant, enjoy the meal.” Not one word about ESA, I don’t share a meal with the dog. Avoid any argument.

    Anything you say can and will be used against you. Silence is golden. Ghosting is better. Their is no law about answering a phone or silence. Even to the point of criteria. “Because.” Inaction is legal . They have to “prove” a violation. “I decided the think about my work and handle the house later”.

    #229030 Reply
    Liked by pulmdoc

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