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Arrius79

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Posts: 1
Reply with quote  #1 

I am a California resident. I rented my former townhome through a prop managment company. In late August we notified our tenants who are 1 year through a 2 year lease that we would be moving back to their area from Seattle and would thus be taking care of the property directly. 

Last week we discovered that they have had a large dog on the property since the beginning of the lease. Its an 8 year old dog that I assume they have owned from the start. We asked them to remove the dog and pay 1 year back pet rent. They produced an ESA emotional support dog letter from one of these common websites, dating from just 3 weeks earlier. That's just 2 weeks after we told them of our move. The letter is from a doc that lives over 100 miles away and never even met my tenants. But the doc appears to have a valid license. 

During the 2 previous on site inspections, including 1 from just 2 weeks ago) the dog was carefully hidden and its food dish, etc taken away. 

Do I have any options for challenging the validity of the ESA? 

AccidentalRental

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Posts: 98
Reply with quote  #2 
This is a tricky area.  I don't know CA specifically, but I'm guessing they heavily favor the tenant in these situations.  You are generally allowed to do the following with respect to an ESA:
  • Request a doctor to confirm the tenant has a disability and the presence of the ESA eases the disability
  • Request to see the immunization records of the ESA 
  • Evict the tenant if the ESA creates an unsafe environment for others
  • Refuse to allow an ESA if it will present an undue hardship or expense (generally not extra damage to property but maybe for extra insurance cost because the ESA is a restricted breed)
The fact that they tried to hide the ESA and received the certification after you informed them of your visit might not look good to a judge but I'm not sure that would matter much if they have a legitimate need for an ESA.

My advice, if they are otherwise great tenants and the dog doesn't seem to be bothering neighbors or causing undue hardship, then you should let them keep it.  Also, speak with a lawyer as I am not qualified to give legal advice.

You can read my Landlord's Guide to Dealing with Pets because for more on this subject.  Good luck!

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LLinVA

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Posts: 356
Reply with quote  #3 
I agree, California loves tenants and hates evil, money-hungry landlords. The sweet person walking into a courtroom who just needs their dog to feel better will make you look bad real fast. We all know this stuff is made up most of the time, which makes it harder for the few with legitimate needs to be taken seriously, but that's reality. 

There seems to be some conflict at the federal level about actual protections for ESAs, but I am guessing California may have their own laws protecting them a little better. 

As stated, in the end, if the dog isn't actually a problem dog, I would leave it be. If you are allowed to charge pet rent, do so moving forward (maybe back to when you KNOW they had a dog, but no further), but don't put too much effort into fighting it. If it's a problem, just don't renew their lease. They are wrong, but you will have more of a headache trying to fight it than it's worth if this specific dog isn't a problem animal.
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