Jan 20

From Reuters:

Effective March 1, Delta, the second largest U.S. airline by passenger traffic, said it will require passengers seeking to fly with pets to present additional documents outlining the passenger’s need for the animal and proof of its training and vaccinations, 48 hours prior to the flight.

People love their animals. What they often do not comprehend is the impact an animal can have on others.

My wife has severe animal allergies. The allergies are so bad she went anaphylactic on a flight over the Atlantic due to an undeclared purse dog when we were coming back from teaching in Jamaica. When an emergency inhaler did not do the trick, we used her Epipen and the flight crew gave her oxygen.

I thought she would die. Anaphylaxis is terrible it’s like a fish out of water, struggling to breath. It was the absolute scariest couple of hours of my life.

Similarly, she cannot go into a house or a hotel room if there has been a dog in the place, without similar reactions. And animal allergies are not as uncommon as some believe.

Once every rental has to be pet friendly, where do the people with life threatening allergies live?  One would hope that Fair Housing laws give more weight to issues that can cause death.


Feb 09

For the past couple of years, we have sold out both the spring and fall sessions of Attorney Tristan Pettit’s AASEW Landlord Tenant Law Boot Camp.

It looks like we are on track to do the same for the upcoming February 18th, 2017 Boot Camp.

Last fall I waited too long to sign up my new staff members and could not get them in. I signed up three staff people very early for this one. 😉

You may ask ‘Why would Tim pay $537 plus wages to send three people to Boot Camp when he knows the laws so well?’

The answer is easy: One small mistake or missed opportunity will cost us far more than this. It is important that my folks know the law as WI landlord Tenant Law is not always what a reasonable person would assume it to be. And this is ever evolving, with both new laws, new interpretations by courts and new tricks by tenant advocates*. This is not the first time we’ve sent staff either.

This course is presented by Attorney Tristan Pettit. Tristan’s law practice focuses on landlord-tenant law, he is a current board member of the Apartment Association as well as former president, and drumroll please, he writes all the standard landlord tenant forms for Wisconsin Legal Blank.

If you want to go, now that my seats are secure ;-), you can sign up online or call Joy at the Association 414-276-7378 and reserve a spot.


* Most “tenant advocates” only advocate for tenants that break the rules. This ultimately costs the rest of the good tenants more in increased rents and decreased service or more noise and disruption… but this is another story for another day.

Aug 19

A reader on the ApartmentAssoc at YahooGroups list asks

What thoughts are there on a Request for a comfort animal with a month to month lease.

Can the lease be terminated under the month to month provision.

Terminating the tenancy due to a legitimate, i.e. they met the requirements of a comfort animal, not that you feel it is legitimate, comfort animal probably is worse than simply rejecting a request as you are now breaking additional rules and statutes.  For example in Wisconsin’s Chapter 704 (Landlord Tenant Statutes)

704.45  Retaliatory conduct in residential tenancies prohibited.

(1) Except as provided in sub. (2), a landlord in a residential tenancy may not increase rent, decrease services, bring an action for possession of the premises, refuse to renew a lease or threaten any of the foregoing, if there is a preponderance of evidence that the action or inaction would not occur but for the landlord’s retaliation against the tenant for doing any of the following:

(a) Making a good faith complaint about a defect in the premises to an elected public official or a local housing code enforcement agency.

(b) Complaining to the landlord about a violation of s. 704.07 or a local housing code applicable to the premises.

(c) Exercising a legal right relating to residential tenancies.

(2) Notwithstanding sub. (1), a landlord may bring an action for possession of the premises if the tenant has not paid rent other than a rent increase prohibited by sub. (1).

(3) This section does not apply to complaints made about defects in the premises caused by the negligence or improper use of the tenant who is affected by the action or inaction.

The real answer is to ask the feds to step in and repair this rule before housing goes to the dogs, including Federally Subsidized Housing.

A person should need something more than a Skype conversation with a doctor in Cali before it is declared that the tenant should have the right to a dog, cat or 20′ python.  Breed should matter, an 80# pit bull “comfort animal” in a complex doesn’t sound like it would be very comforting to the rest of the tenants.  In a single family home I doubt it would be comforting to the neighbors.

Also, what about the rights of others.  My wife has severe allergies to dogs and cats.  A companion animal on a flight we were on that gave her such a bad reaction that they almost landed the plane in Cincinnati.  A flight a month later ended with her leaving the plane on a stretcher after being given an Epipen and oxygen.  While there was no dogs on that flight, the airline confirmed  there was a dog on the flight just prior to ours.  We have not flown since.  I was at the Wall-Mart a couple of months ago a a scraggly animal wearing a “service animal” vest was basically running loose on a 10′ leash.  It walked up and sniffed my leg, which was annoying.  A short time later it licked a baby across the face.  The mom was so angry that I thought the animal owner was going to leave the store in a condition that would require a real service animal. There are valid reasons that owners exclude pets.

Let me be clear that I am talking about people who are using this as a loophole to get around no pet policies and not legitimate trained service animals.  A true service animal is better behaved than most tenants.  The true service animals need to be accepted.

Jan 05

If you read part one, you know owners must accept emotional support animals, or comfort animals as many owners call them if the pet owner has a prescription.  Airlines must also accommodate these animals and let them ride in the cabin uncaged.

But what about the rights of other tenants and plane passengers who are allergic to fury critters?  Once you allow cats and dogs into units you probably need to disclose to prospective tenants that fact as many may be allergic to pet fur and dander.

My wife developed sudden and severe allergies a year and a half ago.  Put her next to a cat or dog and she gets allergic asthma sometimes called occupational asthma.  This is so severe that she carries an Epipen and rescue inhaler everywhere she goes.

Screen Shot 2014-01-02 at 11.01.20 AM

This past week when we were flying back from spending the holidays with our children and grandkids,  lo and behold a dog wearing a cute little vest that suggested it was a working animal gets seated behind us. Clearly this was not a Service Animal.

Sitting near the dog caused my wife to have a severe asthma attack.

For a while it looked like our flight was going to land someplace like Cleveland with all 162 passengers and one dog aboard so that Carmen could get emergency medical attention due to this dog induced asthma attack.  The airline, which I’m not naming as it was not their fault,  was great and moved us to the back of the plane, away from the pooch. But it was still a terrible flight as I spent the entire time worried that Carmen would need immediate and unavailable medical attention. She used the rescue inhaler twice, took Benadryl and was still wheezing the entire flight.

So whose rights are paramount in such cases, the person with the need for emotional support animals or the persons who are severely allergic to fur and dander?

I would argue the latter, not only because of my wife’s condition, but also because the fur and dander remain long after the pet has left the area.  I also believe there are more people that have allergies to pets than those who medically need their pets.

We did learn one thing.  If you are allergic to animals or peanuts for that matter,  you should list that in the box marked special needs or special accommodations.  The airline then will not allow animals in the cabin, but give the animal owner the option of flying on a different flight or putting the animal in the cargo hold.

Jan 03

Back in April HUD provided Fair Housing guidance on emotional support animals. These rights supercede any no pet policy and apply to untrained pets in addition to highly trained service animals such as seeing eye dogs. You also cannot refuse the companion animal based on a blanket policy against certain breeds such as pit bulls.

Reading the HUD docs and comments on the emotional support animals I erroneously believed that the companion animal has to comply with local codes that prohibit certain animals, but recently there have been a rash of cases across the county where people are winning the “right” to have farm animals such as pigs and chickens living in their urban homes, condos and apartments. After reading of these cases I jokingly say I’m getting a python because I need a big hug after work.

Kidding aside, tread carefully when making decisions. Basically if the tenant or prospective tenant has a doctor’s prescription for the pet you must allow it.

There is however a whole industry that has sprung up selling vests proclaiming an animal to be a support dog or worse a service dog.  Remember service animals have many thousands of dollars in specialized training. A vest alone is not proof of anything other than the pet owner had the $40 to buy one.

There are even doctors who prescribe emotional support animals over the phone to people who live even thousands of miles away.  Just give them  $99 and away you go.  I believe that you must accept the prescription from an out of state internet doc. Perhaps these docs could improve their bottom line by also writing excuses the next time there are protests at our state capitol building.

Note: I fully support the laws that require acceptance of true service animals, such as seeing eye dogs. If you knowingly reject a service animal you probably deserve whatever legal consequences  you receive.  I also believe in some circumstances that companion animals are legitimate.  The kid with the chicken in the link above is probably one example.  I do however object to circumventing no pet policies in housing and air travel with fake documentation proclaiming a pet to be a service animal and the industry that has sprung up to sell those documents.

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