October – 2015

Items in red require registration or login

Assistive Animals – You Have Questions, We Have Answers
Tips for Dealing with Prospective Residents

View Newsletter »

Volume 16 • Issue 10 October 2015 Landlord News 3600 South Yosemite Street Suite 828, Denver, Colorado 80237 thsnews@thslawfirm.com www.thslawfirm.com Denver Phone 303.766.8004 FAX Completed Eviction Forms To: 303.766.1181 or 303.766.1819 Colorado Springs Phone 719.550.8004 FAX Completed Eviction Forms To: 719.227.1181 ASSISTIVE ANIMALS – YOU HAVE QUESTIONS, WE HAVE ANSWERS Since we receive so many calls about assistive animals, this month we answer the most common questions clients ask about assistive animals. Does a landlord have to allow assistive animals at no pet communities or no pet properties? Yes. Assistive animals are not pets. Assistive animals are necessary for a disabled tenant to use and enjoy the rental on the same basis as a non-disabled individual. Under fair housing laws, disabled tenants are entitled to an exception to any “no pet” policy if they meet the legal requirements. A disabled tenant’s legal right to have an assistive animal, to meet a disability related need, is called a reasonable accommodation. Failure to accommodate a qualified disabled tenant, by allowing an assistive animal at a no pet community, is housing discrimination and subjects the landlord to significant legal liability. If the tenant’s animal does not perform a service, do we still have to allow the animal? Yes, if the tenant meets legal requirements. While the rental industry consistently uses the term “service animal”, the proper term is “assistive animal”. An assistive animal is either a service animal or an emotional support animal, also known as a companion animal. Service animals perform a service for the tenant or provide a disability related benefit. An emotional support animal lessens a tenant’s disability related symptoms or provides other disability related benefits. Under fair housing laws, if a disabled tenant has a disability related need for an emotional support animal, you must accommodate the tenant by making an exception to your no pet policy, just as you would be required to continued on page 2 TIPS FOR DEALING WITH PROSPECTIVE RESIDENTS It is a demonstrable fact, based on research, that the first two minutes of interaction with a prospective resident can determine whether the sale is won or lost. Given the brief amount of time, it’s important that leasing professionals understand this and have a clear process to start strong. Five points you can incorporate into your process that will ensure conversations with prospects start strong and stay that way throughout the process are: (1) Best-Friends Conversation; (2) Assume Positive Outcomes; (3) Don’t Interrogate; (4) Take Control; (5) Make Them Feel Safe. Best-Friends Conversation embraces the principle that the first and most important rule in dealing with a prospective resident shouldn’t be for you to focus on making a sale. Instead, it should be to initiate a “bestfriends” conversation. What does this mean? This type of interaction is based on the premise that if an old friend came in knowing you have expertise about apartments and asked, “Where should I live?” you would not start marketing features and benefits. You would instead take time to catch up and learn what is important to them and advise them on what they should do. If their needs were a match with your community that would be great, but if not that would be okay too. Applying this tactic to a prospect, don’t start by trying to sell your property. Find out what is important to them and what they really need. Always be upfront and honest in your advice. Base it on their best interests not yours. Prospects, friend or stranger, can sense your intent. They know if you are not aligned with them, they instinctively will feel it. They may not express it but if they do not feel that you place their interests, first and foremost, it will have a material negative impact on the rest of the process. continued on page 2 ASSISTIVE ANIMALS – YOU HAVE QUESTIONS, WE HAVE ANSWERS continued from page 1 make such an exception for a disabled tenant requesting a service animal. What legal requirements must a tenant meet to have an assistive animal? A tenant must meet three requirements to be granted a reasonable accommodation (an exception to your pet policies). First, the tenant must be disabled as defined by fair housing laws. Generally, this means that the tenant must have a physical or mental impairment that substantially affects a major life activity. However, we advise some caution in basing reasonable accommodation decisions solely on this definition. Specifically, while not likely, a tenant can also be considered disabled under fair housing laws based on other tests. Second, the tenant must have a disability related need for the assistive animal. Generally, this means that there is a relationship between the tenant’s disability and the need for the animal, i.e. the animal will lessen the impact of the tenant’s disability. Third, the request must be reasonable. Whether a specific request for an assistive animal is reasonable can be extremely complicated, and should be left to the experts. Thus, you should never deny a tenant’s request for an assistive animal, because you believe the request is unreasonable, without consulting us. Can we require the tenant to provide documentation? Maybe. If the tenant’s disability and need for an assistive animal is obvious, then you may not require documentation. If the tenant’s disability and need for the assistive animal is not obvious, then you may require documentation. You should have well thought out and specifically defined policies for handling reasonable accommodation requests in general, and specifically for handling assistive animal requests made by tenants. You should also attend our fair housing classes. Our advanced fair housing class discusses how to properly handle reasonable accommodations in detail, including which forms to use when a tenant makes an assistive animal request. Is documentation provided by an Internet company sufficient documentation of a tenant’s disability and need for an assistive animal? Probably not. Under the law, a person providing documentation must be in a position to know that the tenant is disabled and has a disability related need for an assistive animal. Generally, a company that generates revenue by churning out assistive animal letters, based on ten minute phone calls, is not in a position to know whether or not a tenant is disabled or continued on page 3 TIPS FOR DEALING WITH PROSPECTIVE RESIDENTS continued from page 1 Assume Positive Outcomes Whenever you meet with someone, always assume that you can help them. You are the Apartment Professional so assume that they will value your opinion and your interaction with a prospective resident will go positively. This assumption creates a confidence that is attractive to prospects. Just as they can sense when you are not aligned with their best interests, your confidence will have a material impact on the outcome as well as the enjoyment of your sales effort. Don’t Interrogate Know the difference between asking good questions and interrogating the prospect. It is fundamentally true that the most powerful thing a salesperson or leasing associate can do is to ask good questions. However, it is critical that the conversation never feels like an interrogation to your prospect — knowing the difference between the two is a fine line. Questions should be conversational. Always keep them open-ended and ask follow-up questions. Use the “tell me more” technique to keep your prospect comfortable and sharing. Listen carefully and demonstrate that your focus is on them and their needs with your responses and follow-ups. Take Control You are the expert. You manage tens to hundreds of moves a year. Your prospect moves less than once a year. Relocating is one of the most stressful events in anyone’s life. Walking into a building to meet with a “salesperson or leasing associate” who is a stranger just adds to that stress. When people are nervous, they are looking for someone to guide and control the process. Controlling does not mean being a jerk or dominating the situation. Your prospect will respond positively and appreciatively if you guide them through the process in a confident professional manner focusing on them and their needs. Make Them Feel Safe A final point in the process of dealing with prospective residents is to always remember that finding a place to live is stressful. The best way to counteract this type of pressure is to create a feeling of safety. Empathizing with your prospect and removing judgments in conversing with the prospect are key to creating a welcoming environment where they would feel comfortable living. Incorporating these five points into your process of dealing with prospective residents will put you in a position of professional authority while also increasing your likeability factor. Respecting you and liking you, are two things that should result in increasing your positive results with prospective residents. 5555555 Landlord News October 2015 Page 2 ASSISTIVE ANIMALS – YOU HAVE QUESTIONS, WE HAVE ANSWERS continued from page 2 has a disability related need for an assistive animal. For an extended discussion of Internet assistive animal letter companies, see the Emotional Support Animal series published in previous editions of Landlord News. Can we deny the request if the assistive animal isn’t a dog or cat? No. While most assistive animals are dogs and cats, assistive animals can include other domesticated animals. Do assistive animals have to be specifically trained or certified? No. An assistive animal does not need any specific training or certification. However, specific training or certification doesn’t mean that a tenant automatically should be allowed an assistive animal. Specifically, more and more tenants request landlords to allow an animal because they obtained a certificate or ID Card on the Internet, or because the animal wears a tag, cape, or harness. These issues are all irrelevant. The tenant’s disability and disability related need for an assistive animal are the only relevant considerations. Can we deny the request based on the animals size or weight, or because the animal is on our restricted breed list? Probably not. Remember, a reasonable accommodation request asks for an exception to your rules and policies because of a disability related need. Thus, a disabled tenant may ask for an exception to your breed restrictions, size, or weight policies. In most cases, if the tenant is disabled, you will have to grant their request. Because exceptions to breed restrictions can be complicated requests for a reasonable accommodation, you should attend THS’s advanced fair housing class to explore this issue in more detail. Additionally, HUD has written a specific memo on this issue. Can we deny certain breeds based on insurance requirements? Maybe, but only after you have exercised due diligence in exploring all available insurance options. Similar to many other reasonable accommodation requests, clients often tell us that they can’t grant a certain request because of insurance requirements or limitations, or impose an insurance requirement on the tenant as a condition to granting a reasonable accommodation or a reasonable modification. Both HUD and the courts will view this as an attempt to impose barriers (deny the request) unless you have thoroughly evaluated the insurance issue. Specifically, you can’t request an insurance carrier to impose this limitation so that you can deny requests.    You must also determine whether other insurance carriers would provide insurance without the limitation, or whether your existing carrier would remove the limitation either upon request or upon the payment of additional premium. Can we require an assistive animal to be vaccinated and have applicable pet licenses? Yes. Can we require an assistive animal to be well groomed and housebroken? Yes. Can we charge pet deposits, pet fees, and pet rent for an assistive animal? No. Remember an assistive animal is not a pet. Can we require an assistive animal to comply with other community pet related policies? Yes, as long as any policy applies to all other animals at the community, and does not act as a barrier to prevent disabled tenants from having assistive animals. For example, you can require assistive animals to be leashed when outside of a tenant’s unit. As a condition to granting an assistive animal request, you can also require the disabled tenant to execute an Assistive Animal Addendum that spells out the tenant’s responsibilities with respect to the animal, such as picking up after the animal, and that the animal may not disturb or threaten other tenants. Because a typical Pet Addendum may contain provisions that are inapplicable to assistive animals and refers to assistive animals as pets, we advise against using a standard Pet Addendum for assistive animals. Instead, we recommend using the Assistive Animal Addendum drafted by THS. Landlord News October 2015 Page 3 IMPORTANT THS OCTOBER DATES October 10th AAMD Chili Cook-Off Redi Carpet Warehouse 14800 E. 35th Place Aurora, CO 80011 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. October 12th ALL COURTS CLOSED EXCEPT DENVER COLUMBUS DAY HOLIDAY October 14th Subsidized Evictions Workshop THS Lower Conference Center 8:30 a.m.- Noon 3600 S. Yosemite Street Denver, Colorado 80237 October 15th Colorado Springs Client Lunch 11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Ritz Grill – Elbo Room 15 S. Tejon St., Colorado Springs October 16th South Client Lunch Dave & Busters 2000 S. Colorado Blvd, Denver 11:15 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Landlord News October 2015 Page 4 AAMD Chili Cook-Off October 10 11:00 a.m – 3:00 p.m. Redi Carpet Warehouse 14800 E. 35th Place Aurora Don’t Miss Out On The Fun! Stop By the THS Booth For Chili And A Lot More HAPPY HALLOWEEN