R.S. from St. Johns County, Florida writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
There is a renter who likely has a fake “support dog” that tried to attack me 5 times. Our HOA says no pets for renters thus the fake need for a support dog. We hired an attorney to demand the renter prove he has professional medical need for the “support” dog – there is no visible disability – plus the renter screams at older women calling them degrading names whenever he wants to. The HOA did not respond to my lawyer; the Community Association Manager did not respond; the home owner did not respond; the police say it’s an HOA matter; animal control will not act. My wife and I are retired and both of us are a wreck and anxious all the time. What do we do? We need a new lawyer too because he doesn’t know what to do either. Please, please help! thank you.
Mister Condo replies:
R.S., Emotional Support Animals (ESA) are a source of anxiety and problems in many condominiums, apartments, and really any place where people live close to each other. There has been and continues to be great controversy over what, exactly, is an ESA. As you have seen first-hand, a “no pets” rule is completely ineffective against preventing a resident, even a renter, from having as ESA because an ESA is not a pet. Additionally, you cannot ask for “professional” proof that an ESA is needed without risking a lawsuit from the resident. A letter from a friend or relative satisfies the “proof” that an ESA is needed. I suspect that is why you aren’t satisfied with the answers you are getting from those who you think can help you. An animal attacking you is a different matter. If you or your spouse have been attacked, your attorney should be able to bring a civil suit against the ESA’s owner. I am not an attorney and offer no legal advice in this column but I do know that ESA or not, the owner is responsible for the ESA’s behavior. Approach the problem from that angle and see if you don’t get a better outcome. Don’t expect the HOA to do too much as their hands are tied. This is a civil matter between you and the resident. All the best!