Staff in public transportation companies and housing rental offices are increasingly finding themselves challenged to sort through which types of service or support animals must be allowed by law. According to these companies, some individuals are cheating by introducing ordinary pets as doctor-prescribed “emotional support” animals in order to bring them into housing where pets are banned or to avoid fees such as pet deposits, pet rent or travel costs.
“I can’t go 30 minutes any time I’m around landlords without someone bringing up assistance animals,” said Paul Smith, executive director of the Utah Apartment Association, which advocates for landlords. “That’s the No. 1 issue for landlords. Landlords want to accommodate people with disability, but want to cut down on fraud.”
To legally gain accommodation for an emotional support animal requires an “impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities,” Smith said. “In addition, the animal has to be a medical necessity — it’s not just that having a cat makes me happy. Having the cat treats the medical condition. Our frustration is not that we don’t think there are people who genuinely need one. But under that definition, the animal has to be a medical necessity. We don’t think that definition is met most of the time.”
Landlords know that anyone can go online and buy a letter that “prescribes” an emotional support animal. The Deseret News set out to test how easy it was to obtain such a letter, and within a couple of hours had two in hand from separate sources — each for under $100 and each documenting the “need” for an emotional support animal. That ease of providing so-called proof, coupled with what Smith describes as a dramatic increase in renters saying they “must” have an emotional support animal, has fueled skepticism that could make it harder for those who really need emotional support animals to have them.
While landlords must trust that a letter from a doctor is valid, it’s an issue made more complicated by what Smith calls “online certification mills,” which sell letters prescribing an emotional support animal for a fee, no therapy needed.
The Deseret News decided to see how hard it would be to get an emotional support animal letter online without having a particular need (or even owning an animal). Reporter Erica Evans went after the cheapest option she could find easily: a website which offers airline and housing recommendation forms for $79.
The website advertises “Live and fly with your pet legally and hassle free,” and boasts 30,000 happy customers nationwide. She started filling out the form, but got interrupted after inputting only basic information, including her name and phone number. No worries; within a half hour the company called her, though she hadn’t completed the online intake.
Hat tip to Mark for sending in this conclusion to a previous story seen here:
CARLSBAD, Calif. (KGTV) – More than two and a half years after Team 10 first reported about a North County property management company accused of stealing money from clients, the victims are finally getting their money back.
Kelley Zaun owned Carousel Properties, a Carlsbad property management company. Victims first told Team 10 in 2016, they hired her to pay fees associated with their rentals. They said she did not pay those fees. She was accused of taking roughly $200,000 from victims, according to investigators.
In 2018, Zaun faced 29 felonies for embezzlement, according to Deputy District Attorney Anna Winn. Zaun entered into a plea deal and agreed to a year in custody. With the help of the DA’s office, Zaun’s former clients were able to get their money back through the Department of Real Estate’s Consumer Recovery Account.
Stephen Lerner, the Assistant Commissioner for Legal Affairs for the department, said so far, 23 victims have been reimbursed through the account. Other victims’ payments are still processing. They have been able to reimburse $172,084.68 thus far.
The Consumer Recover Account is an option for fraud victims when trying to recoup money from the person who took it from them. In order to utilize the fund, Lerner said there must be a criminal or civil court order for the defendant to pay back money he or she took. If victims cannot get refunded from the person who stole it, they can apply through the Department of Real Estate.
Winn said she volunteered to be the victims’ liaison with the DRE, as the process for reimbursement is lengthy and many of the victims were elderly. One of Zaun’s victims told Team 10 he is “extremely grateful” for the DA’s office work on this case.
Victims started receiving reimbursements within the past couple of weeks.
Money for the account comes from license fees. Lerner told Team 10 there are approximately 421,000 people with a license under their department, which includes broker and salesperson’s licenses. 12 percent of the license fee paid goes to the account.
Since 1964, the DRE has paid more than $61 million to victims. Approximately 54 percent of all applications are approved.
“Between 2007 and 2017, top-earning renters increased by 175%, while homeowners within the same income bracket exhibited a 67% growth rate,” a study from RentCafe.com revealed. “Out of the 43.3 million renters nationwide, 2.1 million are top earners according to the latest available U.S. Census data. Back in 2007, there were only 774,000 high-income renters.”
A 2018 study from the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University also found that high-earners were increasingly renting. The number of renters with incomes above $100,000 rose 5% in 2017, “bringing the cumulative increase in 2012–2017 to about 2.6 million,” the report revealed. Furthermore, the rentership rate in that income bracket hit an all-time high (19%) in 2017 with higher income households accounting “for the vast majority of renter growth over the past five years.”
Brava closed yesterday, after a whirlwind of activity – here are the MLS stats:
We received 13 cash offers, and went through five escrows to get one to stick. Each time one would fall out, I went back to all of the other contenders to give them another chance to buy it.
Buyers would say that they had reviewed what’s needed (new kitchen, 3 bathrooms, windows, flooring, etc.), and were comfortable with the project.
Of the four that cancelled, three dropped out altogether once they did more extensive research.
Only one tied up the property, and then, after a few days, tried to work me down on price. They are looking for the desperate sellers and agents, and hope to convince you to drop another $20,000+ just get it over with.
It was Mr. T who tried to get me to cave, and he had agreed to pay $665,000. After further review, he wanted to drop the price down to $645,000.
But instead of just taking it, I went back around to all the other contenders and offered them another opportunity.
A different buyer agreed to pay $655,000, and Mr. T. held his ground, and backed out. But then the $655,000 guy cancelled, and in the next round Mr. T wanted to drop again, this time down to $635,000.
I got another buyer to do better.
We closed at $650,000.
It’s more work to keep all the contenders engaged, and keep tempting them to buy the house during our five-week adventure. But this is what I do for my sellers – I’m going to everything I can to get you that extra $15,000.
If baby boomers have to sell their home because they need the money, this will be a great alternative – and could help to dry up the housing inventory, especially if you can build an ADU for less than $50,000. Homes with bigger yards would be more valuable too.
Today, Samara is announcing a new initiative called Backyard, “an endeavor to design and prototype new ways of building and sharing homes,” according to a press statement, with the first wave of test units going public in 2019.
It means Airbnb is planning to distribute prototype buildings next year.
The name “Backyard” might imply that Airbnb just wants to build Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), those small cottages that sit behind large suburban houses and are often rented on Airbnb. Gebbia clarifies that is not the case. “The project was born in a studio near Airbnb headquarters,” he says in an interview over email. “We always felt as if we were in Airbnb’s backyard–physically and conceptually–and started referring to the project as such.”
Backyard is poised to be much larger than ADUs, in Gebbia’s telling. Yes, small prefabricated dwellings could be in the roadmap, but so are green building materials, standalone houses, and multi-unit complexes. Think of Backyard as both a producer and a marketplace for selling major aspects of the home, in any shape it might come in.
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