Christina Teixeira, Fair Housing Program Manager for California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA), was in town Wednesday to speak about the ins and outs of housing, rentals and the responsibilities and liabilities of landlords and tenants alike.
She held a workshop for landlords in the morning, and another for tenants in the afternoon. The workshops were held in the Ellie Randol Reading Room at Mammoth Lakes Library.
Lunch attended the morning session. Rea attended the afternoon.
The highlight/lowlight of the morning session was the discussion about pets.
It was tough news for landlords and good news for pet lovers.
Essentially, if a potential tenant has what is described as an “emotional support animal,” a landlord cannot discriminate against that person when it comes to renting a unit.
This seemingly expands the traditional definition of a service dog or seeing-eye animal. Emotional support animals, as I understand it, are the ones that help you through a tough break-up. Or the ones that sit on a couch with you smoking a joint after you got fired from your latest job.
So that “no pet” designation you see … well, that’s kind of obsolete.
All a renter needs is a note from a doctor saying he/she suffers from anxiety, depression, or can’t sleep at night without Buffy or Fido and voila, the pet is an “emotional support animal,”
And if the landlord takes the renter, he can’t ask for a greater security deposit on account of a pet.
Yes, the pet does have to comply with whatever rules might exist – cleaning up after a pet, putting a dog on a leash, no barking/noise at night, etc.
But again, they’re not pets anymore. You’ve got to use the proper lingo. They’re “emotional support animals.”
Lunch aside: I wish had an emotional support animal with me in order to finish this story. Oh, that’s right. I have a ton of those already: mortgage, wife, kids, ex, Uncle Sam, FTB …
Other items of note from the workshop:
State law says there can only be one occupant for every 200 square feet of living space, so if a landlord is worried about overcrowding in a unit, it’s a simple calculation.
A landlord cannot ask a person about their immigration status.
A landlord can’t reject a prospective tenant just because they have “a bad feeling” about them.
Whatever criteria a landlord adopts in selecting a tenant has to be uniform and consistent. For example, if there are several candidates for a unit, perhaps the tie-breaking criteria is highest credit score. That was one example given.
If a landlord knows about a problem and does nothing about it, the landlord could be waiving his/her right to do something about the problem, as the tenant has come to “rely” on a particular condition.
The example could be an “emotional support animal” not formerly disclosed, an extra car, an added person not on a lease, etc.