The do’s and don’ts of service animals
July 4, 2016 — When a buyer turns out to be a cash buyer, that’s usually a plus in a transaction. At least, that’s what one Realtor thought when she started working with a buyer who had just completed a tour in the Army. The buyer had been injured in the line of duty and planned to live in the condo with Sam, his German Shepherd service animal.
The buyer’s offer, accepted by the seller, included a condominium rider that made the agreement contingent on the buyer receiving approval from the condominium association before closing. The buyer submitted an application and included the disclosure that Sam would live with him. The condominium association denied Sam’s application in writing, saying the association did not allow pets larger than 25 pounds. Both the seller and the buyer were upset and asked the Realtor if this was allowable.
The Realtor reminded both the seller and buyer that her real estate training did not extend to legal matters. However, she had recently attended a class in which the instructor stated that denying housing to someone as a result of the presence of a service animal is a violation of the federal Fair Housing laws.
According to federal law, it is discrimination for a landlord or an entity such as a condominium association to refuse “to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services, when such accommodations may be necessary to afford such person equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling.”
The buyer retained an attorney, who asked the condominium association to reconsider its decision based on the Fair Housing laws. The association agreed, but only if the buyer agreed to pay a large pet deposit to cover any impact the large dog might have on the premises. The attorney reminded the condominium association that under Fair Housing laws, a housing provider cannot require service animals to have any specific training, apply a blanket weight or breed restriction, require pet insurance or charge a pet deposit. The condominium association reconsidered and the buyer purchased the unit.
If you are ever involved in a situation like this, remember that while you are not a housing provider, if you represent one and intentionally participate in unlawful discrimination, you are also liable under the Fair Housing laws. If landlords ask you about exceptions to this law, refer them to an attorney.
For more information on service animals and the specific statute reference, please visit “Accommodations for Service Animals in Housing” on NAR’s website.
Rental properties and foreclosure
July 4, 2016 — Has one of the tenants you helped place in a rental received a notice of foreclosure? Do the tenants have to vacate the home they rented?
Assuming there was an actual judgment of foreclosure entered against the original homeowner, the tenants may have to leave — and sooner than was the case under prior law.
Previously, a federal law had granted tenants up to 90 days to move after a rental home was foreclosed. However, that temporary provision expired at the end of 2014. Under the current state law, the purchaser named in the certificate of title following foreclosure can provide a 30-day notice of termination. Assuming the notice complies with statutory requirements, the tenants then have to vacate the property by the termination date and pay any rent due for the time they remain in occupancy.
To protect yourself and your clients from being caught in a foreclosed rental, you should always ask the listing agent about the status of the owner’s property. Is the owner current on his mortgage? If not, have foreclosure proceedings started? The answers to these questions can help your tenant decide if he or she wants to rent the property.
If you work with landlords to place tenants, you should also ask these questions of the landlord before considering taking the listing. If an owner is either hesitant to answer these questions or claims not to know, you may want to contemplate not taking the listing.
The Florida Real Estate Commission has punished agents in the past for failing to disclose that a property offered for rental was in foreclosure or distress. It is legal for the owner of a distressed property to rent the property, and for a tenant enter into a rental agreement. However, real estate agents or property managers involved in the transaction should make sure that each side is fully informed of the status of the property before entering into a lease.