May 24, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
May 24, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Why Is It So Hard to Find a Landlord Who Loves My Dog as Much as I Do?

Several years ago, a fine gentleman whom I had placed in a co-op sublet decided that he wanted to buy a co-op apartment of his own. We found the perfect place: a lovely, large Jr. 4 apartment in a doorman building, complete with terrace and great views. “I want to bid on this!” he exclaimed. “My dog and I will just love it here.” “What did you say? You have a dog? When did this happen?” I asked, envisioning the sale going down the tubes and all because the co-op board had reversed its once dog-friendly policy. But all was not lost. My customer, who was otherwise superbly qualified to pass the co-op board, had recently endured two traumatic experiences in his life, had gone into therapy and his psychiatrist had prescribed that my customer adopt a dog. The dog therapy had worked and now all that we had to do was to convince the co-op board that the dog was vital to my customer’s emotional well-being. We accomplished this by getting a letter from his psychiatrist and by introducing the dog to the members of the co-op’s interview committee.

Unfortunately, not every prospective co-op shareholder, apartment tenant or condo owner is so fortunate. Many apartment leases specifically prohibit dogs and/or certain breeds and sizes of dogs. Landlords fear that dogs will cause damage by urinating and defecating in the building’s public places such as elevators, lobbies and lawns. Some dogs are noisy and prone to barking if left alone in the apartment for too long during the day or they bark when someone approaches their apartment door. Some breeds frighten people, especially the very old and the very young. Some dogs can’t be controlled by their owners so they jump on people or nip their ankles. Other tenants may have allergies or pet phobias. Landlords fear that if a tenant’s dog harms someone then the landlord may be sued as well as the tenant. Therefore, a landlord may require dog owners to purchase renter’s insurance to provide protection against property damage and liability protection in case the pet causes injury to someone. Some landlords complain that dogs that are not housebroken damage wooden floors and carpets and that even tenants’ security deposits are insufficient to repair the damage when the dog and tenant vacate.

Finding dog-friendly housing in the tri-state area has become increasingly difficult. Even buildings that advertise themselves as “pet-friendly” may impose strict requirements such as requiring dog owners to use certain exits, entrances and elevators. Dogs may be restricted as to size and breed. Even though tenants are permitted to have dogs, subtenants may not be allowed the same privilege. Some buildings do not allow tenants to have more than one or two dogs per apartment. Some currently pet-friendly buildings may change their policy and if a tenant’s dog dies then the dog cannot be replaced with a new dog.

Dog owners have developed strategies to induce landlords to accept them and their dogs as tenants. They offer to pay deposits to clean or replace carpets and to repair scratched flooring that has been damaged by pets. They agree to monthly surcharges in addition to their base rents. They produce letters from former landlords that vouch for their performance as responsible pet owners. They bring vaccination certificates and proof of neutering or spaying from their veterinarians and proof of dog licensing. They prove that their dogs receive monthly flea and tick medications. They bring a certificate that shows that Fido has successfully completed obedience training. They bring their dogs to meet the landlord. Fortunately for these pet parents, some landlords realize that responsible pet owners make responsible tenants.

In the search for pet-friendly housing, sometimes market factors work in the dog owner’s favor. In markets where there are more empty apartments than tenants, landlords may be more willing to accept dogs. In any market, savvy landlords realize that landlords who accept pets have a larger universe of prospective tenants. Many landlords discriminate in favor of certain breeds and if you are fortunate to have one of these then your job of finding housing will be easier. If you are lucky enough to find a landlord who accepts dogs then make certain that your lease permits your particular breed and size of pet; if the lease does not specify your dog, then put acceptance of your particular dog in the rider, especially if the landlord has agreed to make an exception for your particular dog.

Dog owners should know that if a lease does not specifically mention pets then they are typically allowed to keep one. If you have signed such a lease, or a lease that permits you to keep a pet, and the landlord suddenly decides that pets are not allowed, know that a lease is a contract and that it cannot be changed without the agreement of both parties. In federal law, the Federal Fair Housing Act requires reasonable accommodations for assistance animals such as emotional support or therapy animals and that this requirement is enforced by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. If a disability is not evident as it is in the case of blindness, for example, then the landlord can request medical evidence that the prospective tenant is indeed disabled and also demand proof that he or she is in need of the animal. Tenants without special dog needs who sign leases with no-pet clauses and who nevertheless harbor pets run risks. The landlord may evict them while requiring that they pay rent until the end of their contractual lease term. They may be fined. The landlord may keep their security deposit and bill them for damages.

If you do not yet own a dog and are thinking of acquiring one and living in an apartment, consider that certain breeds are better suited to apartment living than other breeds. Most of them require little or moderate amounts of exercise and they have good temperaments. Think of gentle greyhounds, Boston terriers and bulldogs; little Yorkies and Pomeranians; great companion dogs such as the Shih Tzu and the dachshund and the affectionate French bulldog.

When you become a dog-owning tenant, be a good citizen: Clean up public messes, keep your dog on a leash at all times in the public spaces, don’t track dirt into the building, keep your dog away from people who do not like/are afraid of/are allergic to dogs and consult a dog trainer if you are having problems with your dog.

By Vivian J. Oleen, Associate Broker, Sopher Realty

 

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles