Both landlord and tenant attorneys say this document, which prospective renters at 60 Sycamore St. must sign, is in violation of state and even federal laws.

A Mission district landlord has included a clause in a rental application that lawyers say discriminates against applicants with disabilities — likely in violation of both state and federal law.

In order to apply to a two-bedroom, one-bathroom unit at 60 Sycamore St., landlords Kevin and Maria Simmonite are requiring would-be tenants to disclose information about their mental health.

“I certify that I do not have any emotional or psychological issues that would necessitate getting an Emotional Support Animal,” the application reads.

This document must be signed before prospective tenants’ applications will be processed, according to the apartment’s Craigslist listing: “Incomplete docs will not be considered.”

“I just think it’s a straight-up Unruh Act violation,” said tenants rights lawyer Aaron Darsky.

The Unruh Civil Rights Act is a state law that provides protection from business establishments in California, including rental housing; California Civil Code 51(b) clarifies that Californians are protected on the basis of both “disability” and “medical condition.”

The federal Fair Housing Acts also apply to tenancy in California and contain similar provisions. These laws forbid landlords from asking whether an applicant has a disability, and requires that disabled applicants be treated the same way as applicants without a disability.

“Patently absurd and illegal,” San Francisco Rent Board Commissioner and landlord attorney David Wasserman said when informed of the rental application. “That’s not right.”

Landlord Maria Simmonite confirmed to Mission Local that there was a clause asking about applicants’ “emotional or psychological issues” in the 60 Sycamore St. application. She defended her inclusion of the clause.

“That’s not illegal, to specify that no pets are allowed in this building,” Maria Simmonite said.

But Darsky points out that emotional support animals are not legally classified as “pets.” 

He says that not only is inquiring about a prospective tenant’s disability status illegal, so is discriminating against a tenant with an emotional support animal.

When asked how long the Simmonites had included the “emotional or psychological issues” clause in their rental applications, Maria Simmonite refused to answer. “I don’t have to tell you that,” she said, before getting off the phone.

“Landlords can put whatever they want in the lease. It’s not enforceable,” said Darsky. “A tenant could sign that and still have the right to get an emotional support animal.”

Wasserman, who has many landlord clients, says landlords need to “get over” their aversion to emotional support animals. He makes a point of reminding the landlords he represents that tenants do not need to disclose that they have a disability or an assistive animal on their rental application.

Though Maria Simmonite told Mission Local on the phone that 60 Sycamore St. was the only building the Simmonites operate, city property records reveal multiple buildings deeded to them — and state court records document a lengthy litigious history.

Going back to 1993, Kevin Simmonite has filed at least 26 eviction lawsuits in court, naming 48 unique tenants. The lawsuits were brought against tenants living in six separate buildings, all of which were owned and operated by Maria and Kevin Simmonite at the time.

According to city records, five of the buildings mentioned in these lawsuits are still owned by the Simmonites — 60 Sycamore St., 1022 Shotwell St., 1849 Oak St., 1717 Fulton St, and 55 Boardman Pl

A two-bedroom one-bathroom unit at the Simmonite’s property at 55 Boardman Place was listed for rent on hotpads.com as recently as February.

As of Wednesday morning, the 60 Sycamore St. listing is still listed on Craigslist and Zumper. The two-bedroom one-bathroom is listed for $3,595 per month.

In a neighborhood where the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment hovers around $4,200 per month, even a tenant aware of the landlords’ past behavior might just take the apartment anyway.

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41 Comments

  1. That’s because tenants lie, get some BS certificate online that says their mangey dog is an “emotional support animal” to scam the system.

    1. @Just Orietta: There is no “system” to scam. There is no official certification for Emotional Support Animals, because ESAs are no different than pets as far as the ADA is concerned.

      1. Well I had someone that had an emotional support Pitbull that bit my maintenance guy 26 times until a police officer shot it. Its ridiculous putting people at risk.

        1. I don’t think it’s ADA either. In Washington state, ESAs are distinct legally from trained service animals, and there is now a $500 fine for misrepresenting an ESA as a service animal. What this means in practice is that it’s a long time since I’ve seen a dog with a vest, but on any given day, I’ll see a dozen dogs in the coffee shop or grocery store – everyone’s just like, “Cute dog,” and no one has to pretend.

          https://www.washingtonlawhelp.org/resource/change-in-washington-law-about-service-animals-starting-january-1-2019

          On the flip side, tenants have more ESA rights:
          https://www.hud.gov/program_offices/fair_housing_equal_opp/assistance_animals

    2. So darned unfair. Basic rights and protections for tenants. There oughta be a law to protect landlords against such abusive ideas.

    3. Exactly…while there are certainly bad landlords out there the perception in SF is that landlords have an unfair advantage and so it’s ok to cheat.

      The reality is that the ones with the advantage are those (owners, landlords and tenants) who have been in their home the longest. We have so many policies to prevent discrimination but somehow this one gets overlooked and mostly reinforced. People new to the area often have to work and sacrifice much more than those with local ties.

      1. The perception is that landlords have an advantage? You’ve either never managed property in San Francisco, or you’re talking about a DIFFERENT San Francisco.

    4. I have a service seizure dog and an emotional support cat. I’ve been given shit everywhere I’ve tried to live until now.I finally found a good place, within my price range, in a good safe area, that allows my SERVICE ANIMALS. I just turned 30, I’ve been on my own since 15. That’s a lot of apartments. I’ve always had animals. My first seizure dog was not certified, he just learned from watching me I guess. I had him certified as an emotional support animal because I couldn’t afford to put him through the 25000 dollar training course. When I come out of a bad seizure nowadays and don’t know where I am,or who I’m with, this cat and dog are the only things that stops me from full blown panic attacks in my post seizure states. You know what happens if I have a panic attack right after a seizure!? ANOTHER SEIZURE..Further more, the only thing stopping me from killing myself at my lowest moments has been my animals…
      Do you know what it’s like to live with chronic debilitating conditions!? No? Than don’t speak about it!
      Emotional support animals are very important and deserve their protected placement in our laws. Just like with anything there will be people who abuse the system, that doesn’t mean everyone who has emotional support animals is gaming the system, yet that is exactly how we are treated. Of course they don’t tell you they went with someone else because of your animals, but we all know. What these landlords did is absolutely wrong, they need to be made a lesson of. Perhaps it will teach them empathy.

      1. The issues you live with sound incredibly hard, and I’m glad you have your service animal to help you. I suspect this landlord is trying to prevent a tenant who doesn’t have a disability, but wants to be able to get an apartment with their pets, who then gets their doctor to sign a piece of paper saying their non-service-animal pets are “emotional support animals” to get around the landlord’s “no pets” rule. I have personally known people who have done this, and they chuckle about it, about how the landlord can’t do anything about it because of the ADA. As a wheelchair user, that really bothers me. And it bothers me when I’m in the grocery store and there’s someone in there with their “emotional support dog” who growls and lunges at me, which is terrifying when you’re in a wheelchair and can’t run away!

        The bottom line is that it would help everyone if there was a more standardized certification for service animal and ESAs. It should be a nominal fee, or even free, so that it doesn’t unduly impact someone already living with disability. And it should protect both those who need these animals and those who are trying to protect their businesses from destruction/vicious dogs.

      2. Well as a 30yr manager with much compassion not everyone is you. 75% of the people out there lie. We eat sleep and breathe it daily. You are 1 out of thousands we have to deal with everyday. Landlords should have a right not just to protect their property but their residents. I feel for you but unfortunately other people ruin it for the good ones. Glad your happy where you are. I say this respectfully.

      3. I know what you’re going through with awful seizures. None of my pets have ever reacted to my seizures and I’ve heard that the wait list for certified seizure dogs is $everal year$. I’m really glad you found one! I hope you’ve found an epilepsy support group near you to befriend others who go through the same troubles.

      4. Ok, the dog provides a service. What does the cat do? Why are you so special that the cat needs to be considered?

        1. He’s literally an emotional support animal. When I have a seizure, when it’s over, my cat Spork lays on my chest and starts purring. When I wake up, I might not know where I’m at, but with a dog next to me and a cat purring on me, I stay down and calm until my head clears. My cat also lays on my chest and purrs at night as I fall asleep. If this doesn’t happen, I focus on my pain and take forever to actually get to sleep. I actually don’t have to take sleeping pills anymore. However, those things aside, even if he did none of those things, I would still need an emotional support animal. When you deal with constant pain and sickness (I also have Lupus sle, and tailbone deformity causing me to walk with crutches) you end up isolated. Sometimes I only leave my home 4 times in a month. Twice for shopping, twice for doctors. Sometimes I go months with a visit from a friend. Sometimes I feel like my only purpose is to care for my animals and my only reason to keep living is them. Thus, the emotional support animal, gives me emotional support.

    5. Tenants have way too many rights. They lie, create damage, fail to pay and then rely on liberal courts to steal money and time from landlords who have to go to court to kick them out.

  2. Does it really matter? Rental agreements and leases are all but completely pointless in San Francisco. You could agree to and sign anything you want as a renter and it wouldn’t matter…you don’t have to hold up your end of the agreement.

    After 30-days you pretty much have free reign over the property. Why even have leases and rental agreements at all? Who knows.

  3. Why do you hate disabled people so much? Do you just assume people are lying if their disability isn’t visible or obviously serious enough to pass your unprofessuonal litmus test for what qualifies as a disability? Someday, if you’re ever unfortunate to suffer a disability, you’ll regret you cruel words

    1. The problem isn’t the 5% of people who really need an Emotional Support Animal (ESA), but the fact that the bar is set so low for “qualifying,” that most people just use it as an excuse to take their pets into places they don’t belong (restaurants, public transportation, and… apartments with no-pets policies, for example). A quick google search results in quite a few ads selling ESA qualification certificates you can get online.

      Apparently, restaurant and store employees aren’t even allowed to ask about it or it’s a violation of the ADA rules. The ADA is far too strict.

      And the number of fake ESA’s has exploded in recent years:

      https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2019/aug/12/fake-emotional-support-animals-service-dogs

        1. I’ve worked in food service and kitchens my entire career, the sheer number of people bringing dogs that are “service animals” that try and get into kitchens, bite people, bark and climb all over shit is the problem.

          Service animals are real, and they provide valuable help to people who need them. They’re well trained and taught to behave, not bark unless there’s a problem, not bite and not freak out around other dogs. I welcome them in places I work, but people who just want to be able to bring their pets everywhere are a legitimate real problem.

          Most people with real service animals also are very against these people with untrained animals because it means the real service animals arent trusted and are sometimes even attacked by fake service animals who dont know how to conduct themselves.

        2. I’m sorry — what exactly is hateful and ignorant about the comment? I’m referencing an article in the Guardian about the abuse of Emotional Support Animals by people who are not qualified for them.

    2. Most people claiming they need an ESA are outright lying. You know it. They just want to have a pet and think lying to be able to have one is just fine.

  4. Having experienced how much property damage an animal can cause, I sympathize that the Simmonite’s are trying limit damage to their rental. At issue, is that they are apparently attempting to skirt the ADA laws. Seems that there should be a way to not rent to pet owners without invading their privacy.

  5. Huh, I am pretty sure people can become disabled after the fact. So I can move in and then lose my sight due to an accident or need emotional support due to depression.
    Landlord would have to boil that contract and drink it’s content.

  6. First, service animals by law do not include emotional support animals. The two are distinct by law and have different rights to access. Those with disabilities who try to lump them together are harming the disability community. Just because you feel you benefit from both a traditional service animal and an emotional support animal does not change the law. You are free to lobby the ADA to re-write current law, but not free to present the law as something it’s not, unless you are willing to accept loss of credibility for your disability.

    Emotional support animals have become very abused, especially in housing, due to the attractive perks, no pet fees, access to non pet housing units, etc. The laws are written to tie the hands of those being taken advantage of, landlords, fellow neighbors who thought they were living in a pet free building, flight passenger who has face ripped off at the mercy of the “emotional support animal”. It’s really become a mess. This doesn’t even consider the service dogs whose jobs are made more difficult by emotional support animals being places they should not.

    For obvious reasons, those abusing the system don’t want abuse stamped out. But, I can not understand why someone with an actual disability wouldn’t also recognize some changes need to be made to restore credibility and return the run away ship back to port. Yet many come on these posts like these whine and complain about the public not believing them, and can’t figure out why. It’s a consider me, while I don’t consider you attitude.

    I have a couple visually impaired family members, one having had a guidIng eye dog, and also a family member with cerebral palsy. None of them are opposed to having to “prove” they have a disability. It’s required for driving vs. ID, health insurance, disability benefits, accommodations for school or work. In all parts of life, there will be measures in place to identify disability. Except when it comes to animals, then we can tote them everywhere, and no one can ask a dang thing except two questions that require nothing greater than to just lie. Makes total sense (sarcasm inserted).

  7. I have a radical idea. In that it’s radically simple but would take political will to implement. So, you are aware of the Mayor’s Office of Housing and the BMR (Below Market Rate) program I am sure. At least it’s a program that exists in San Francisco, where I live. However, people have to run through a gauntlet of qualifying events to land a home through the BMR program to purchase.
    So just imagine, if you had to apply that same principle to rentals. We have tens of thousands of rentals that are frozen into ‘rent controlled’ units for ‘legacy’ tenants. There are hundreds of these ‘legacy’ tenants who are well able to afford to pay market rate rents. Why are these well heeled people squatting in homes, refusing to budge, and keeping them from being made available to those who earn less?
    For example, I personally know at least two dozen people who are fairly well off and who are paying, in some instances, $1000 or less for a two bed two bath home in San Francisco. You’d pay more than that in rent in Stockton! I mean, these are not people who are hurting for cash, they can well afford to pay the $4000/month that unit should or would cost at market rate. Why can’t those rents be frozen in place and made available to folks who really need it? Why are we pandering to this greed? There are also instances of people living in a ‘rent controlled’ unit in SF and then either renting or owning units in Berkeley/Oakland/Palo Alto.. It’s runaway robbery that can be stemmed.
    If all renters who are living in these legacy units were required to prove their need worthiness to be living in those units, just like you would have to if you wanted to purchase a BMR unit.. you would free up hundreds of units and make them available for the less deep pocketed amongst us. It is outright greed that is letting people sit unmoved in digs that should rightfully be occupied by people who are genuinely in need.

    I am a retired substitute teacher with SFUSD. I had colleagues who would drive into work all the way from Vallejo, Sacramento, as they were pushed out of housing in SF. Why can’t those units be made available to those like them?

    I mean, this is an addressable problem, if we only had the will. If my plan seems unclear, please let me know and I will try to explain myself further.

    1. You are utterly clueless about the reality of the rental housing situation in San Francisco, but of course YOU have all the “answers.”! First, rent control in San Francisco only applies to buildings constructed before 1978. There was no rent control for buildings built after 1978. Second, because of the established political power of owners here, new apartment construction was often strangled by the city’s nightmare of permitting requirements, which did not apply to older construction. Third, not everyone living in a rent-controlled building is jumping for joy, having screwed their landlord. Anytime a tenant leaves a rent-controlled unit, the landlord can legally increase the rent to current market rate for a new tenant. The current market price for a 1-bedroom is $3,400/month. That is an average; many neighborhoods have prices higher than that. Fourth, many long-term tenants have been squeezed out of their rent-controlled units by methods that violate eviction law, including intimidation, never fixing problems, or by deliberately extending upgrades for a year or longer to force tenants out. Try living in a building with frequent, unannounced shutdowns of electricity, or elevators “out of order” forever. There are even cases where the landlord has called the utility company and had all gas and electric services shut off in the building. Sure there are legal remedies, if you don’t mind spending a great deal of time and cost hiring a lawyer and dealing with the delaying tactics of the owner’s attorney in the courts. Fifth, the huge influx of young, well-paid techies into San Francisco’s already strained housing situation has increased the rents to astronomical amounts for EVERYONE. Sixth, just because you live in a rent-controlled unit doesn’t mean your rent stays fixed forever. City law allows annual increases based on a variety of factors up to a fixed maximum percentage. Plus the cost of any improvements to an older building can legally be passed on to the tenants by monthly increases in their rent over an extended period of time.

      If you think getting rid of rent-controlled tenants will “open up” units for people like your schoolteacher friend or others, you are sadly mistaken. Landlords here will gladly and legally increase the rents for those units to the same astronomical prices, because there is population growth on top of a limited housing problem.

      Finally, your “plan” for a lottery system is laughable. We live in a capitalist society that staunchly protects property rights, so you can’t force landlords to adopt any form of lottery. San Francisco is landlocked – and only 7 miles by 7 miles. The City already requires a small number of units in new apartment buildings built to be “affordable”, but the demand for those units is much larger than the small number of units available. Developers will agree to a small number of total affordable units because they can charge even higher rents for the rest of the units in the building. In actuality their prospective tenants are the upper middle class tech newbies to San Francisco who can pay the higher rents to live in a modern building with modern electricity, plumbing and conveniences most existing apartment buildings don’t offer.

  8. A lot of haters are leaving comments in support of a discriminatory application process that is clearly illegal. What is up, San Francisco?! If a service animal damages a unit, the owner is responsible. Landlords are getting $30-40,000 per year for an apartment. They should be held to the letter of the law and treat tenants and prospective tenants with respect.

  9. Ya the landlords coming on here to vent just come off as spoiled, rich people with problems that aren’t. Boo hoo, I can’t hike the rent of an apartment by 500% because people like their rent controlled apartment. Market rate and fair pricing are two completely different things.
    Also, I have a trained service animal and I hate the people who fake their ESAs especially when they put them in service dog vests, but the amount of issues I’ve had from stores and landlords (even friends/family who “knowingly” say “Oh, your dog is a SERVICE animal” with a wink because I have no desire to share my disability or medical conditions with them) is infuriating. Discrimination is discrimination, and oh btw it’s illegal. These landlords should be sued by all of their tenants for requiring them to sign this discriminatory document.

  10. Holy shit!! I can’t believe what I am reading. My eye balls are bleeding. What the fuck? Greedy tennats??? Are you kidding me? Get a new line of work if you hate people so much. Here’s a crazy idea? Stop having blanket, “no pets allowed rules”. Instead of refusing ALLLLLL pets, refuse pets who are not vaccinated. Ask for shot records. Ask to speak to people’s vets. Responsible pet owners take their pets to the vet AT LEAST, annually for their check ups and rabies/distemper shots. They pets are well groomed and clean. Why don’t landlords let anyone have a pet? There’s no laws against people bringing their children to live with them. Not everyone likes children. Some children are very misbehaved, unsanitary, ill mannored. The run around, yelling, crying, pooping in nice restaurants. They run into me in the grocery store and bite me. It’s very scary. And what are you supposed to do? Kids are GUARANTEED to destroy property, while only irresponsible pet owners have destructive pets. I’m really unclear how having kids isn’t a scam but having an emotional support animal is. What exactly makes humans more valuable than animals? Stupid, “no pets allowed” laws are the reason so many pets are abandoned illegally or in animal shelters. Let’s not even get into why the hell someone here thinks $1000 is cheap for rent on a 2br 2bath… WHAT THE FUCK??? Jesus. Who the hell is scamming who? I’m pretty sure it’s the greedy land horders. Why should anyone more than one house?

    1. OMG wow …. So now were comparing pets to children … I DO NOT HAVE PETS …I DO HAVE CHILDREN . and a DISABILITY. One bad apple spoils the bunch … We should take ALL laws away because if theres a law someone will break it or cheat it.. So people with disabilities are discriminated against …. People justify there actions for inhumanity…. Kids or pets they are both loud annoying and distructive. Funny how people get so mad about pets… Iagree that land lords shouldn’t be able to discriminate against anybody or anything …. Pets or kids … Whats funny tho is people on disability with or without service animals have a solid gauranteed income ….. People working do not .they can be fired for almost anything at anytime and dont let them live in an at will state … So you discriminate against the obvious rent payers because they have a service animal but rent to the people with no animals and a part time job ….. Oh how predudices are still around its no longer BLACK AND WHITE …… ITS PETS AND KIDS. OH YEAH IF IM IN PUBLIC WITH A 6 MNTH OLD AND THEY CRY OR SCREAM OR POOP. ( EVERYONE POOPS ) I WISH SOMEONE TO TELL ME TO CONTROL MY KID …. CAUSE IMMA BE LOUDER AND MORE AGRESSIVE THEN ANY KID EVER . YOU STUPID PEOPLE WHO DONT HAVE KIDS FOR WHATEVER REASON BUT WANNA JUDGE PEOPLE WITH KIDS YOUR STUPID ASS DOG AINT GOT SHIT ON KIDS IF YOUR DOG DIES NO ONES GOING TO A FUNERAL OR QUESTIONS ON WHAT HAPPEND … GUESS WHY? ITS A DOG!!!!!! KIDS ARE MORE THEN POTTY TRAINING AND WALK ON A LEASH … KIDS NEEDS TEACHING AND LOVE AND CONSIQUESES AND MORE ATTENTION YOUR DOG WILL EVER NEED IN A LIFE TIME … AND SCHOOL AND FRIENDS AND DOCTORS AND OH THE AMOUNT OF CLOTHES AND SHOES AND SOX AMD UNDERWEAR…… PRETTY MUCH YOUR DOG AINT SHIT COMPARED TO ANY CHILD ….. A LIFE IS A LIFE BUT A DOG IS A PET KIDS ARE NOT PETS … THIS NEW BS THESE KIDS HAVE GOING ONTODAY … NO LIFE EXPERIENCE BUT ALL THE OPINIONS …..WHY CANT WE STOP PLACING BLAME ON EVERYONE ELSE FOR OUR ACTIONS (i cant accept dogs cause people cheat the system) just because you justify your ignorance doesnt make it right ….. Im sure that bank robber can justify robbing that bank cause his kids are hungry….that doesnt make it right…. AND YES I USED CAPS FOR THE REASON INTENDED AND IM NOT FIXING MY OBVIOUS TYPOS …… CAUSE WHO NEEDS CORRECTIONS ILL JUSTIFY THEM CAUSE THESE IGNORANT PEOPLE ANNOYED ME !!!! SEE. … SEE HOW IDIOTIC THAT SOUNDS. BUT IMMA STICK WITH IT ……..
      .

      1. Oh man, it sucks hearing that you have kids and then reading that absolute nonsensical misspelled nonsense. Kids are more work and more important than dogs, which is why they should be raised by people who can write several paragraphs that arent nonsense.

  11. I have lived in San Francisco for 51 years and have always been a renter. In my experience, only two owners were reasonable, considerate persons. They weren’t pushovers, they were just reasonable people. Landlords here have always had the advantage because of the limited availability, and rents were always significantly higher in San Francisco than Los Angeles or any other city in California, despite the fact buildings here have the highest percentage of old construction in the state. By old I mean more than 50 years, and in some cases 100 years or more. In most cities in the U.S., buildings like that would have been torn down and replaced by newer apartment structures, but not here. Yet many landlords here demand top of the market rental rates, for units with now-substandard wiring and plumbing. And most are reactive instead of proactive about problems. You the tenant can suffer with unit problems until they become REAL PROBLEMS and the owner has to take action. If they make any significant upgrades to the building, they are legally entitled to pass the cost through to the tenants by monthly increases.

    A large percentage of rental housing in San Francisco has been family-owned for several generations. There are very few with mortgages – unless used as collateral to buy even more rental properties. These older apartment buildings have been cash cows for a long time, never more so than in the last 20 years.

    Small wonder the majority of landlords are not well thought of in San Francisco! And yes, they have to deal with tenant problems occasionally, but the vast majority of tenants are not problems at all. Landlords expect you to pay the rent every month, not bother them with any requests however minimal, and never be bothered with the very few tenants that are a problem. That they may have to ever, no matter how few in number they really are, creates an unbelievable howl. I say try working for a living and see how the rest of us live! Yes, even being a landlord can have problems, but then you’re making a lot more money than your tenants are, and even if you own 30 units, you’re pulling in over $100,000 a month. Many multi-generational family-owned landlords here own multiple apartment buildings totaling much more than 30 units. Even new corporately-owned apartment buildings built here ride the
    ridiculously high rent crest at the top, as they are charging even higher rents to live in units that actually have modern plumbing, wiring and conveniences the majority of older apartment buildings in San Francisco don’t have.

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