Below are questions asked by rental property owners regarding California property management and resident manager laws followed by answers provided by Attorney Franco Simone.
Definitions used in this article:
Assistance animal is a term used to describe both 1) a service animal and 2) a support animal also known as an emotional support animal.
Service animal is defined by the American Disability Association (ADA) as “any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.”
Support animal or emotional support animal provided by HUD is “other trained or untrained animals that do work, perform tasks, provide assistance, and/or provide therapeutic emotional support for individuals with disabilities.”
Q: I heard on the news that California passed a new law about emotional support animals. One of my tenants sent me a letter from a doctor located in San Diego, which stated that my tenant requires an emotional support dog. This letter does not state the doctors license information. Is this proper documentation of the tenant’s need for the emotional support animal?
A: No, this is not proper documentation of the tenant’s need for the emotional support animal. Previously, a letter from a health care practitioner stating that a tenant requires an emotional support animal (ESA) for a condition that is considered a disability was all that was required to be provided to the landlord. It did not matter where the healthcare practitioner was located.
Under AB 468, a healthcare practitioner may only provide documentation of an individual’s need for an ESA if the healthcare practitioner meets all of the following: 1) they have a valid and active license and that license information is on the documentation, 2) their license is within the jurisdiction of where the documentation is provided, 3) there is a client-provider relationship with the tenant for at least thirty days prior to providing the documentation, 4) they have completed a clinical evaluation with the tenant regarding their need for the ESA, and 5) provide notice to the tenant about Section 365.7 of the Penal Code.
Since the letter does not include their license information the tenant’s letter is improper.
Q: I own a duplex and have a strict “no pet” policy. One of my tenants made a written request for a reasonable accommodation to allow him to have a dog. What does “reasonable accommodation” mean and how should I respond to him?
A: The term “reasonable accommodation,” as defined by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), is “a change, exception, or adjustment to a rule, policy, practice, or service that may be necessary for a person with a disability to have equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling, including public and common use spaces.” By requesting a reasonable accommodation, your tenant is asking you to change or make an exception to your “no pet” policy. This request does not have to be in writing and your tenant does not even have to use the term “reasonable accommodation.” If your tenant asks you to make a change to your policy or requests a reasonable accommodation, then you must engage in an “ interactive process” to discuss the request with your tenant in good faith. To assist you with this process, on January 28, 2020, HUD issued notice FHEO-2020-01 to help housing providers assess a tenant’s request for an assistance animal (service animal or emotional support animal) as a reasonable accommodation. A copy of the January 28, 2020, notice issued by HUD as FHEO-2020-01 can be found at the following link:
Q: I do not allow pets in my rental properties. I found out that my tenant has an unauthorized dog and told him to remove the animal. A week later, my tenant told me the dog is an emotional support animal and provided a doctor’s note requesting a reasonable accommodation. Do I have to let him keep the dog?
A: Yes, if your tenant has a note from a medical professional that complies with AB 468 which states that he requires “an emotional support animal” for a condition that is considered a disability, then you must comply with this request. Remember, an “emotional support animal” is not considered a pet.
Q: I received multiple complaints from my tenants about another tenant’s emotional support animal. She is letting the dog bark all night and the dog recently charged at a child. What am I required to do?
A: Even though your tenant has an emotional support animal, he is still responsible for complying with all provisions of the lease/rental agreement and cannot cause or allow a disturbance of her neighboring tenants if your lease/rental agreement prohibits it. Further, the tenant’s animal cannot cause a nuisance. So, you may be able to serve the tenant with a notice to perform covenant or quit, if your lease/rental agreement prohibits the tenants from disturbing surrounding tenants or a notice to quit for nuisance if the animal is causing a nuisance. Please contact a Landlord/Tenant attorney prior to serving such notice.
Attorney Franco Simone, of Simone & Blevins, has been doing evictions for over 28 years. He is also an adjunct law professor at the University of San Diego. Mr. Simone’s office is open Monday – Friday from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Tel: 619-235-6180, website: www.landlordslegalcenter.com or email [email protected]