Can My Landlord Refuse To Allow Me An Emotional Support Animal?

Can My Landlord Refuse To Allow Me An Emotional Support Animal?

Pets

Can My Landlord Refuse To Allow Me An Emotional Support Animal?

Can a landlord legally refuse to rent to a tenant who owns a dog (emotional support animal), if the prospective tenant is disabled and the dog helps his disability?

If not, what if the disability is only psychiatric in nature?

And if not, how would the prospective tenant be able to prove to the landlord that his dog is for his disability?

If your lease prohibits pets (and many of them do) a landlord can initially refuse to allow a tenant to get a pet. Note that I said initially. If you are disabled and you need a service animal to provide service or emotional support, you have the right to ask your landlord to allow a pet in the premises regardless of the language in the lease. A service animal is not a pet.

A request for reasonable accommodation before one leases an apartment may be difficult. If prospective tenant applies to rent an apartment in “no pets” building, discloses his or her disability and asks for a reasonable accommodation to have a service animal, a landlord could simply refuse to rent based upon other criteria. For example, an African American or a family with children shows up to fill out an application for a rental and the landlord tells the applicant that the apartment has already been rented—classic examples of discrimination of housing discrimination

It might be difficult and expensive to prove that the landlord discriminated against the tenant based upon his or her disability.

If you suspect that a landlord has rejected your application to rent because you are disabled, you should file a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing.

A guide dog for a blind person is a classic service animal. A landlord who refused a request for such an animal is clearly discriminating against the tenant based upon disability.

A request to allow an emotional support animal is a little more tricky, but your rights are still clearly defined under the law.

What is the difference between a service animal and an emotional support animal?

“Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. These tasks can include things like pulling a wheelchair, guiding a person who is visually impaired, alerting a person who is having a seizure, or even calming a person who suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The tasks a service dog can perform are not limited to this list. However, the work or task a service dog does must be directly related to the person’s disability. Service dogs may accompany persons with disabilities into places that the public normally goes. This includes state and local government buildings, businesses open to the public, public transportation, and non-profit organizations open to the public. The law that allows a trained service dog to accompany a person with a disability is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

“An emotional support animal is an animal (typically a dog or cat though this can include other species) that provides a therapeutic benefit to its owner through companionship. The animal provides emotional support and comfort to individuals with psychiatric disabilities and other mental impairments. The animal is not specifically trained to perform tasks for a person who suffers from emotional disabilities. Unlike a service animal, an emotional support animal is not granted access to places of public accommodation. Under the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA), an emotional support animal is viewed as a “reasonable accommodation” in a housing unit that has a “no pets” rule for its residents.” — FAQs on Emotional Support Animals, Rebecca F. Wisch, Michigan State University College of Law, 2015.

Discrimination under the FHA includes “a refusal to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services, when such accommodations may be necessary to afford [a person with a disability] an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling.” 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(3)(B). So long as the requested accommodation does not constitute an undue financial or administrative burden for the landlord, or fundamentally alter the nature of the housing, the landlord must provide the accommodation. —Right to Emotional Support Animals in “No Pet” Housing, Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law.

I recommend that you read the entire article quoted above, as it provides a thorough analysis of federal law applicable to emotional support animals.

Asking your landlord to add a pet based upon your disability is called a request for a reasonable accommodation. Your request must be reasonable. For example, you cannot request that the landlord, to accommodate your disability, purchase Flynn, the bichon frisé best in show winner at this year’s Westminster Kennel Club dog show and add him to your lease. That would be unreasonable. It would also be unreasonable to get a big, untrained, vicious dog because the landlord could be liable if the dog bit someone in the building.

You must also be prepared to prove to the landlord that you are disabled within the meaning of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

When the disability or need for reasonable accommodation is not obvious, a landlord may ask the person with a disability for documentation that he or she has a disability and a disability-related need for the service dog or support animal. The tenant or boarder must then provide the landlord with reasonable medical documentation from a health care provider that confirms the existence of the disability and the need for reasonable accommodation. —When California Landlords Must Allow Tenants to Have Service Dogs and Emotional Support Animals, by Zachary Duffly, Nolo Press

Under California law, the health care provider who provides this documentation does not have to be a doctor. Documentation can come from other providers, including clinical psychologists, clinical social workers, or marriage and family therapists.

If you are planning to request a reasonable accommodation to get a companion animal, you should also check out PAWS (Pets Are Wonderful Support). In San Francisco they are now a division of the Shanti Project . Their site provides a step-by-step procedure to request a reasonable accommodation to get a support animal. The PAWS suggestions about a health provider’s letter are simple, accurate descriptions of the legal requirements for such a letter:

In order to prove that a dog is a service or support animal, you may be asked to have documentation from a licensed professional (doctor, nurse practitioner, psychiatrist, other mental-health professional or social worker) stating that the animal is an essential part of treatment for a disability. A doctor’s letter must have two essential components.

1. It must state that you have a disability. The disability does not need to be identified. 2. It must state that it is the professional opinion of the provider that is it essential for you to have a service/support animal.

From my point of view, a common mistake tenant can make is getting a pet (assistance animal) first and then attempting to justify the need for the animal later–after the landlord, during his annual, unannounced, illegal inspection, discovers Fluffy hiding in a closet. While the mistake is not irreparable if you make a timely request for reasonable accommodation, you don’t want to find yourself in court defending an eviction based upon your breach of the lease. You might win, but it will cost you a bundle of dough, and, believe me, it will only exacerbate the symptoms of your disability.

If your lease prohibits pets, make your request for reasonable accommodation in writing. If your landlord accepts your request, get it in writing.

If you are not disabled and your landlord refuses your request for a pet rather than an assistance animal, forget it. I’ve seen too many instances in which long-term tenants are forced to choose between their beloved dog and living in the streets.

Crow & Rose, Tenant Lawyers

605 Market Street, Suite 400
San Francisco 94105
Phone: (415) 552-9060

Is This Legal Advice?

Ask yourself four questions:

Have you spoken or written to us personally?
Did we respond?
Did you sign a contract with Crow & Rose?
Did you pay us?

The opinions expressed in these articles are those of the author, do not constitute legal advice and the information is general in nature.

Seek the advice of an attorney for any specific problem.

You understand that no attorney-client relationship will exist with Crow & Rose unless we have agreed to represent you. You should not respond to this blog with any information that you believe is highly confidential.

If you are seeking legal representation from Crow & Rose please respond by either calling us at (415) 552-9060, or going to our contact page and filling out the form.

by May 17, 2018
How Do I Get My Landlord To Allow Me To Get A Dog?

How Do I Get My Landlord To Allow Me To Get A Dog?

Pets

How Do I Get My Landlord To Allow Me To Get A Dog?

I found a wonderful rescue dog. He’s already been potty trained and is very small (6 lbs.) I really want this little guy and if I don’t take him, he will be forced to go to animal control. How do I get my landlord to allow this pet? I emailed him to ask his permission to allow me to have the dog, but he refused. Is there anything I can do to persuade him? I want to do this legally so I do not get evicted (illegal pets — just cause).

About me: I live on the first floor, have lived in this apartment since Dec. 2007, pay market rate for rent (though I did negotiate it down $50/mo. when he was renting the same units for less, and paid a huge security deposit–$3000. Other residents in the building have animals. I have always paid my rent on time. We had one minor dispute about a repair but that was resolved and I paid it even after some unprofessional email exchanges on his part. When I moved in, though he listed the apartment for $1690 but made me pay $1800 since there was “such demand for the unit.” 1.5 years later, I negotiated the rent back down to $1750 as that is what he was listing the other units for. Unit is an old Victorian, hardwood floors, tile kitchen, though floors are not in good shape. I work at home with a stable job so will be here all the time to take care of this animal.

You know I’m a Gemini. I was ranting and raving last week, but I’m going to be very reasonable and businesslike today. Tell the heartless bastard if he doesn’t allow you to get your dog, you’ll have no choice but to tender your 30-day notice to vacate!

WTF!? That’s reasonable?! Sorry, still riffin’ on last week, but, indeed, this might be the way to go. Here’s why.

I am assuming that your lease probably has a standard “no pets” clause that requires the landlord’s written permission to have a pet. You tried to get permission and you failed.

I am also assuming (and this is the tricky part) that you may still be paying market rent for your unit. In your tenure at the building how long does it take to rent a vacant unit? If the units remain vacant for a month or more, you might convince the landlord that allowing your dog would be a good business decision on his part.

Start checking the rental market via Craigslist, etc. See if there are comparable units that you would consider renting. The news is full of articles about housing prices. Rents are rising, rents are dropping–I don’t know what to make of the reports. I tend to think that San Francisco rents haven’t dropped that much. I think there are many unreported vacancies in the City because there are still quite a few vacant buildings, cleared of tenants for TICs that never materialized. (I support efforts to squat those buildings, but that’s another column.)

Apartments in San Francisco are like diamonds. Rents are artificially high because the vacancies create a cartel-like price support. That said there are still a few deals out there.

Get out your calculator. If you move out, the landlord tries to rent the apartment for $1,800.00, and it’s vacant for just a month, it will take him 35 months, almost three years, to amortize the loss. If it takes him a month to rent the apartment at $1,750.00, he loses that amount forever.

It suddenly doesn’t seem like a great business decision to refuse your pet, given that the landlord already allows pets in the building. (I’m assuming he knows about them.)

I recommend that you ask the landlord to accept your pet one more time. Offer to increase your deposit significantly. Base your bottom line on what your move will cost you. Gently demonstrate that he may not be making the soundest business decision if you move.

If the landlord won’t budge and you’re secure about finding a new place, tell the heartless bastard if he doesn’t allow you to get your dog, you’ll have no choice but to tender your 30-day notice to vacate!

Whatever you do, don’t try to sneak the dog in and hide him. That’s a recipe for disaster.

Crow & Rose, Tenant Lawyers

605 Market Street, Suite 400
San Francisco 94105
Phone: (415) 552-9060

Is This Legal Advice?

Ask yourself four questions:

Have you spoken or written to us personally?
Did we respond?
Did you sign a contract with Crow & Rose?
Did you pay us?

The opinions expressed in these articles are those of the author, do not constitute legal advice and the information is general in nature.

Seek the advice of an attorney for any specific problem.

You understand that no attorney-client relationship will exist with Crow & Rose unless we have agreed to represent you. You should not respond to this blog with any information that you believe is highly confidential.

If you are seeking legal representation from Crow & Rose please respond by either calling us at (415) 552-9060, or going to our contact page and filling out the form.

by Jul 15, 2010
How Do I Ask For Permission To Get A Dog?

How Do I Ask For Permission To Get A Dog?

Pets

How Do I Ask For Permission To Get A Dog?

I‘ve been living in a fourplex since December 2005. I’d really like to get a small dog, but I don’t know how to go about asking my landlord. Cats were negotiable, and I know that my neighbor has two cats. My lease states: “No pets of any kind shall be kept on the premises without the prior written consent of the Owners. If such consent has been established, the Tenants agree to the following rules:” And then there’s a lengthy paragraph about keeping cat litter a certain way, bird cages, cats being spayed and neutered, but nothing about dogs.

So my question is: how can I ask my landlord for permission to have a dog, without getting rejected?

Fear of rejection…a huge factor in the human condition. Because I have recently bleached my hair, I’m feeling it. Will she think I’m attractive? Will I lose credibility with my clients, or worse, the judge? Why did I let Laura, my hairdresser, convince me to do it? Now do I look like an over-the-hill Billy Idol? Will anyone say Yes! to me ever again?

As the old saw goes, life carries with it few guarantees. Maybe that’s why many of us are so attracted to dogs. They usually offer unconditional love, unlike landlords.

First, I have to say that you are approaching this issue correctly from a legal standpoint. As I have said several times in these columns, you don’t want to get a pet without permission and, after you’re threatened with eviction for breach of the lease, have to send it to the pound or move out. For purposes of this column I’ll assume that you have no disability issues and cannot request a dog as a reasonable accommodation.

I’m also going to assume that you’re rent is below market rate because you’ve lived in the unit for almost five years. Unfortunately, then, you likely don’t have the leverage of threatening to move if the landlord denies your request.

We know the landlord in your case isn’t completely opposed to pets. That’s a good thing. But cats don’t dig and chew and bark. Maybe your landlord is a cat person. That could be a problem.

Before you ask for permission to get a dog, try to anticipate the landlord’s objections. Be ready to explain your concept of a “small dog.” If you get an adult dog, rather than a puppy, you have some good built-in arguments. You already know the adult size of the dog. The dog might be housebroken and not so inclined to chew up the landlord’s precious 1898 door jambs. Be ready to answer the question, “What if the dog gets lonely and barks all day while you’re at work?” Ask the other tenants how they feel about a dog on the premises. If they’re okay with a new dog, that could go a long way in assuaging the landlord’s fears of potential liability.

SF Appeal readers, please share your experiences about this.

There’s an old Butthole Surfers song called “Sweat Loaf” that starts with a question:

Child: Daddy?
Father: Yes, son.
Child: What does regret mean?
Father: Well, son a funny thing about regret is that it’s better to regret something that you have done than to regret something you haven’t done…

The point here is that there is no perfect way to ask your landlord for permission to get a dog. You may be rejected, but you gotta ask.

Crow & Rose, Tenant Lawyers

605 Market Street, Suite 400
San Francisco 94105
Phone: (415) 552-9060

Is This Legal Advice?

Ask yourself four questions:

Have you spoken or written to us personally?
Did we respond?
Did you sign a contract with Crow & Rose?
Did you pay us?

The opinions expressed in these articles are those of the author, do not constitute legal advice and the information is general in nature.

Seek the advice of an attorney for any specific problem.

You understand that no attorney-client relationship will exist with Crow & Rose unless we have agreed to represent you. You should not respond to this blog with any information that you believe is highly confidential.

If you are seeking legal representation from Crow & Rose please respond by either calling us at (415) 552-9060, or going to our contact page and filling out the form.

by Mar 3, 2010
Prohibited Pets Could Put You In The Doghouse

Prohibited Pets Could Put You In The Doghouse

Pets

Prohibited Pets Could Put You In The Doghouse

A couple years ago I fell in love with my now 12 pound, somewhat disabled, dachshund-terrier and brought her home to my one bedroom apartment in the city. The problem is, it is clearly checked off on my lease ‘no pets’. She doesn’t make noise, never poops or pees (in the apartment), has never damaged any part of the apartment, and generally doesn’t bother anyone in the building. In fact, new tenants are often surprised there is a dog in the building when I leave to walk her sometimes.

My worry is that, if the landlord somehow finds out about her, can he evict me? Can he evict her?

I hope you didn’t name your dog I.P. Freely or Killer. It doesn’t seem that your dog is causing any damage or threatening the neighbors, but that is not the issue. The fact is that you are in breach of your lease and could be evicted for having your pooch because it seems like the lease has a clear “no pets” provision. Your landlord could serve you a 3-Day Notice to Cure or Quit. That is, get rid of your dog or move. If you do not comply, you could be served with an unlawful detainer (eviction) lawsuit alleging that you are in breach of your lease.

Sometimes we see cases where the landlord who lived in the building visited the tenant and even played with the pet. In one instance we heard from a tenant whose landlord illegally entered the unit to express the puppy’s anal glands! In those cases one can argue that the landlord waived the “no pets” provision in the lease. You imply that your landlord is unaware of your dog. That’s a problem.

If you live in a rent controlled apartment and your rent is lower than market rate, that’s another problem. You may have provided your landlord the perfect excuse to get rid of you in order to double the rent.

So what do you do now? You can ask your landlord to allow your dog to live in the premises. If the landlord agrees, you should ask him to put it in writing. As you can see this option is fraught with pitfalls because you have alerted the landlord to the fact that you have a dog. You should get as much information as you can before you talk or write to the landlord. For example, ask around the building to see if the landlord has permitted other tenants to have pets. You can also offer to increase your security deposit to take care of any damage that you dog may cause.

If you are disabled you can request that the landlord provide you a reasonable accommodation and allow you to keep the dog as a companion animal. This is a common and legal request that has been consistently supported by disability case law. Low income pets owners can get help from PAWS (Pets Are Wonderful Support).

Or you can do nothing. Sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn’t. If the landlord sells the building, it is common practice for new owners to ferret out tenants who are breaching their leases. Usually they want to increase their income and that’s a great way to do it. Beware of a pending sale and consult an experienced tenant counselor before you reveal that you have a pet to potential buyers in what is commonly called an estoppel certificate.

Interestingly there is a growing movement to forbid landlords from discriminating against pet owners. The San Francisco Animal Control and Welfare Commission is currently considering a resolution supporting the idea that could lead to a new ordinance. You should write them to support their efforts: City Hall, Attn: Commission of Animal Control & Welfare, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, Room 362, San Francisco, CA 94102, (415) 554-6074.

I unequivocally support these efforts, but I still need to berate you a little. As a lawyer, it is extremely frustrating to me to speak to tenants who have knowingly violated their leases by acquiring a pet and who are forced to either give up their cherished animal or face eviction. I don’t enjoy assuming the role of hard-hearted bastard to tell them their case is a loser. In general, if you have a clause in your lease prohibiting pets, don’t get one until you receive permission, in writing, from the landlord.

Crow & Rose, Tenant Lawyers

605 Market Street, Suite 400
San Francisco 94105
Phone: (415) 552-9060

Is This Legal Advice?

Ask yourself four questions:

Have you spoken or written to us personally?
Did we respond?
Did you sign a contract with Crow & Rose?
Did you pay us?

The opinions expressed in these articles are those of the author, do not constitute legal advice and the information is general in nature.

Seek the advice of an attorney for any specific problem.

You understand that no attorney-client relationship will exist with Crow & Rose unless we have agreed to represent you. You should not respond to this blog with any information that you believe is highly confidential.

If you are seeking legal representation from Crow & Rose please respond by either calling us at (415) 552-9060, or going to our contact page and filling out the form.

by Nov 18, 2009