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How Do I Ask For Permission To Get A Dog?

Dave’s here to answer your questions every Wednesday, so send them to him at tenant@sfappeal.com

I’ve been living in a fourplex since December 2005. I’d really like to get a small dog, but I don’t know how to go about asking my landlord. Cats were negotiable, and I know that my neighbor has two cats. My lease states: “No pets of any kind shall be kept on the premises without the prior written consent of the Owners. If such consent has been established, the Tenants agree to the following rules:” And then there’s a lengthy paragraph about keeping cat litter a certain way, bird cages, cats being spayed and neutered, but nothing about dogs.

So my question is: how can I ask my landlord for permission to have a dog, without getting rejected?

Fear of rejection…a huge factor in the human condition. Because I have recently bleached my hair, I’m feeling it. Will she think I’m attractive? Will I lose credibility with my clients, or worse, the judge? Why did I let Laura, my hairdresser, convince me to do it? Now do I look like an over-the-hill Billy Idol? Will anyone say Yes! to me ever again?

As the old saw goes, life carries with it few guarantees. Maybe that’s why many of us are so attracted to dogs. They usually offer unconditional love, unlike landlords.

First, I have to say that you are approaching this issue correctly from a legal standpoint. As I have said several times in these columns, you don’t want to get a pet without permission and, after you’re threatened with eviction for breach of the lease, have to send it to the pound or move out. For purposes of this column I’ll assume that you have no disability issues and cannot request a dog as a reasonable accommodation.

I’m also going to assume that you’re rent is below market rate because you’ve lived in the unit for almost five years. Unfortunately, then, you likely don’t have the leverage of threatening to move if the landlord denies your request.

We know the landlord in your case isn’t completely opposed to pets. That’s a good thing. But cats don’t dig and chew and bark. Maybe your landlord is a cat person. That could be a problem.

Before you ask for permission to get a dog, try to anticipate the landlord’s objections. Be ready to explain your concept of a “small dog.” If you get an adult dog, rather than a puppy, you have some good built-in arguments. You already know the adult size of the dog. The dog might be housebroken and not so inclined to chew up the landlord’s precious 1898 door jambs. Be ready to answer the question, “What if the dog gets lonely and barks all day while you’re at work?” Ask the other tenants how they feel about a dog on the premises. If they’re okay with a new dog, that could go a long way in assuaging the landlord’s fears of potential liability.

SF Appeal readers, please share your experiences about this.

There’s an old Butthole Surfers song called “Sweat Loaf” that starts with a question:

Child: Daddy?
Father: Yes, son.
Child: What does regret mean?
Father: Well, son a funny thing about regret is that it’s better to regret something that you have done than to regret something you haven’t done…

The point here is that there is no perfect way to ask your landlord for permission to get a dog. You may be rejected, but you gotta ask.

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

I do not provide legal advice in the comments section. Please feel free to contact me directly if you have a legal question.

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