Prohibited Pets Could Put You In The Doghouse

A couple years ago I fell in love with my now 12 pound, somewhat disabled, dachshund-terrier and brought her home to my one bedroom apartment in the city. The problem is, it is clearly checked off on my lease ‘no pets’. She doesn’t make noise, never poops or pees (in the apartment), has never damaged any part of the apartment, and generally doesn’t bother anyone in the building. In fact, new tenants are often surprised there is a dog in the building when I leave to walk her sometimes.

My worry is that, if the landlord somehow finds out about her, can he evict me? Can he evict her?

I hope you didn’t name your dog I.P. Freely or Killer. It doesn’t seem that your dog is causing any damage or threatening the neighbors, but that is not the issue. The fact is that you are in breach of your lease and could be evicted for having your pooch because it seems like the lease has a clear “no pets” provision. Your landlord could serve you a 3-Day Notice to Cure or Quit. That is, get rid of your dog or move. If you do not comply, you could be served with an unlawful detainer (eviction) lawsuit alleging that you are in breach of your lease.

Sometimes we see cases where the landlord who lived in the building visited the tenant and even played with the pet. In one instance we heard from a tenant whose landlord illegally entered the unit to express the puppy’s anal glands! In those cases one can argue that the landlord waived the “no pets” provision in the lease. You imply that your landlord is unaware of your dog. That’s a problem.

If you live in a rent controlled apartment and your rent is lower than market rate, that’s another problem. You may have provided your landlord the perfect excuse to get rid of you in order to double the rent.

So what do you do now? You can ask your landlord to allow your dog to live in the premises. If the landlord agrees, you should ask him to put it in writing. As you can see this option is fraught with pitfalls because you have alerted the landlord to the fact that you have a dog. You should get as much information as you can before you talk or write to the landlord. For example, ask around the building to see if the landlord has permitted other tenants to have pets. You can also offer to increase your security deposit to take care of any damage that you dog may cause.

If you are disabled you can request that the landlord provide you a reasonable accommodation and allow you to keep the dog as a companion animal. This is a common and legal request that has been consistently supported by disability case law. Low income pets owners can get help from PAWS (Pets Are Wonderful Support).

Or you can do nothing. Sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn’t. If the landlord sells the building, it is common practice for new owners to ferret out tenants who are breaching their leases. Usually they want to increase their income and that’s a great way to do it. Beware of a pending sale and consult an experienced tenant counselor before you reveal that you have a pet to potential buyers in what is commonly called an estoppel certificate.

Interestingly there is a growing movement to forbid landlords from discriminating against pet owners. The San Francisco Animal Control and Welfare Commission is currently considering a resolution supporting the idea that could lead to a new ordinance. You should write them to support their efforts: City Hall, Attn: Commission of Animal Control & Welfare, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, Room 362, San Francisco, CA 94102, (415) 554-6074.

I unequivocally support these efforts, but I still need to berate you a little. As a lawyer, it is extremely frustrating to me to speak to tenants who have knowingly violated their leases by acquiring a pet and who are forced to either give up their cherished animal or face eviction. I don’t enjoy assuming the role of hard-hearted bastard to tell them their case is a loser. In general, if you have a clause in your lease prohibiting pets, don’t get one until you receive permission, in writing, from the landlord.

Crow & Rose's legal practice emphasizes eviction defense, wrongful eviction and other landlord tenant and real property matters.

4 Responses to Prohibited Pets Could Put You In The Doghouse

  1. I have a similar situation…, the difference is that I have in the “Contract to Lease” between both realtors that I would be bringing in 5 pets, 3 dogs and 2 cats. As part of the negotiation, and to avoid paying a pet deposit, we agreed that I pay a full year in advance and rental deposit along with her confirming that there were no liens and/or pending litigations. The owner/realtor accepted by initialing where “Pets are Allowed”, but on the actual “Contract” at the time of signing, she did not mark it down, and to top it off I had brought my 3lb Pomeranian with me on the walk thru where the owner was not present, but on her behalf was her daughter, son, and husband along with my realtor, m mortgage broker, my husband, myself and my Pom. (the dad & son were even playing with her and asked if she was one who would be living in the subject property and I responded, yes.) (He since then has come by to make 1/2 done repairs and has always seen them. But the minute I had to hire an attorney for non compliance of multiple repairs, which are still not completed, they read the contract and figured they can hit me up on this and try to process eviction in addition with threatening to keep my money and my deposit. My attorney just advised my to ride out the lease…, I want out!! There is mold and I have to kids with Asthma, but my 6yr old since we moved here aside from her allergies (not due to the pets) has had several respiratory problems and was admitted in Sept to the hospital. (The water heater was leaking since early Aug and was repaired the 2nd wk of Oct. My light bill & water bill were higher than normal, my light was OUTRAGEOUS, but they are very rude and that’s because I tried being sweet about it…. I too am a landlord) My attorney found out in Aug that the house is under foreclosure…. 🙁
    I’m so screwed, I need to get out, but she always has a stupid excuse that I am trying to break lease early and claimed she WILL NOT refund any of my moneys.

  2. “Could this dog thing fuck me up and get me evicted, even though there was a verbal consent over a year ago that a roommate and others heard and were privvy to?”

    The answer is yes. Landlords lie all the time, especially when money is at stake. You need to contact you roommate and anyone else who witnessed the landlord giving consent to your second dog. You may need them in the future.

  3. ps. the landlord in piedmont makes 400 thousand clams a year, and mentioned last month to landlord number 2 in the building to ask me if I would consider a buyout.
    I pay 969 for a 2 bedroom flat in the mission (yes, you heard that right) and I’ve lived there 9, maybe ten years.
    the tenants below me moved out last month (not a buyout) and the same exact apartment got jacked up to 3600.00 dollars a month. they want me out. i may be willing to take a buyout, but it would have to be a shitload of money for me to consider it. like a 100 grand to start negotiations.
    could this dog thing fuck me up and get me evicted, even though there was a verbal consent over a year ago that a roommate and others heard and were privvy to?
    thanks!

  4. Ok, so what if there are two landlords. One lives in a mansion in piedmont. The other in the unit next to me. The landlord next to me gave me a verbal agreement to my getting a dog. The other landlord was not told, and is never around the building. If my lease has a no dog clause, can I still be evicted if the one landlord told me I could have the dog? I have had the dog for over a year now, and everyone in the building loves her and knows I have her. I also have another dog, but that dog is my licensed service animal and it is fully documented on my lease.

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