Asked in Landlord - Tenant for Virginia

Q: Do I have to allow an ESA as an owner of one SFH?

Tenant signed no-pet lease with two other co-tenants and all parents. I found out the tenant had a dog and served her with a notice to get rid of the dog within 10 days per the lease or she would be evicted. Tenant then provided a letter from a family nurse practitioner that she recommended a dog for her medical treatment and tenant claimed the dog is ESA, but the letter doesn’t specify the name, breed, description, etc of the support animal. This is the only rental I own and it’s a single family home. Can I still evict if she insists on keeping the dog? Other two roommates were unaware of her “need” for the dog and the letter from the doctor is dated after she signed the lease.my understanding is ADA dies not apply to emotional support animals. In fact, it specifically states that they are not considered service animals.

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2 Lawyer Answers
F. Paul Maloof
F. Paul Maloof
Answered
  • Landlord Tenant Lawyer
  • Alexandria, VA
  • Licensed in Virginia

A: I regret that I do not handle matters that involve The Americans with Disabilities Act as it applies to service dogs/animals or comfort dogs/animals in a landlord-tenant case. Sorry.

Ross Cameron Hart
Ross Cameron Hart
Answered
  • Landlord Tenant Lawyer
  • Salem, VA
  • Licensed in Virginia

A: This will confirm your call to my office where you provided some additional information. I advised you to see a landlord tenant lawyer in your area and suggested you call rental firms and large apartment complexes to see who they use.

There are very few guidelines on 'emotional support animals' and it is abused widely. You say the tenant has a letter from a health person saying she needs one; that letter, by itself, is not admissible in court as it is hearsay - the tenant will have to subpoena the author of the letter so they can testify as to the background and why the ESA is needed. And you need a lawyer to help you on that.

I also reminded you that (1) you need to write the tenant a letter that she is in breach of the lease and the dog must go within 21 days, or her lease will end at least 30 days from the date of the letter. (hint: write it this week and have the move out the last day of September). Also when the tenant pays rent immediately send a letter that you are receiving the rent WITH RESERVATION OF YOUR RIGHTS to evict her for having a dog in violation of the lease. If you don't reserve your rights, you will lose them.

I also told you that because I no longer appear in landlord-tenant cases and am too far away, I cannot represent you.

Good luck.

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