How Do I Get My Landlord To Allow Me To Get A Dog?

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

I found a wonderful rescue dog. He’s already been potty trained and is very small (6 lbs.) I really want this little guy and if I don’t take him, he will be forced to go to animal control. How do I get my landlord to allow this pet? I emailed him to ask his permission to allow me to have the dog, but he refused. Is there anything I can do to persuade him? I want to do this legally so I do not get evicted (illegal pets — just cause).

About me: I live on the first floor, have lived in this apartment since Dec. 2007, pay market rate for rent (though I did negotiate it down $50/mo. when he was renting the same units for less, and paid a huge security deposit–$3000. Other residents in the building have animals. I have always paid my rent on time. We had one minor dispute about a repair but that was resolved and I paid it even after some unprofessional email exchanges on his part. When I moved in, though he listed the apartment for $1690 but made me pay $1800 since there was “such demand for the unit.” 1.5 years later, I negotiated the rent back down to $1750 as that is what he was listing the other units for. Unit is an old Victorian, hardwood floors, tile kitchen, though floors are not in good shape. I work at home with a stable job so will be here all the time to take care of this animal.

You know I’m a Gemini. I was ranting and raving last week, but I’m going to be very reasonable and businesslike today. Tell the heartless bastard if he doesn’t allow you to get your dog, you’ll have no choice but to tender your 30-day notice to vacate!

WTF!? That’s reasonable?! Sorry, still riffin’ on last week, but, indeed, this might be the way to go. Here’s why.

I am assuming that your lease probably has a standard “no pets” clause that requires the landlord’s written permission to have a pet. You tried to get permission and you failed.

I am also assuming (and this is the tricky part) that you may still be paying market rent for your unit. In your tenure at the building how long does it take to rent a vacant unit? If the units remain vacant for a month or more, you might convince the landlord that allowing your dog would be a good business decision on his part.

Start checking the rental market via Craigslist, etc. See if there are comparable units that you would consider renting. The news is full of articles about housing prices. Rents are rising, rents are dropping–I don’t know what to make of the reports. I tend to think that San Francisco rents haven’t dropped that much. I think there are many unreported vacancies in the City because there are still quite a few vacant buildings, cleared of tenants for TICs that never materialized. (I support efforts to squat those buildings, but that’s another column.)

Apartments in San Francisco are like diamonds. Rents are artificially high because the vacancies create a cartel-like price support. That said there are still a few deals out there.

Get out your calculator. If you move out, the landlord tries to rent the apartment for $1,800.00, and it’s vacant for just a month, it will take him 35 months, almost three years, to amortize the loss. If it takes him a month to rent the apartment at $1,750.00, he loses that amount forever.

It suddenly doesn’t seem like a great business decision to refuse your pet, given that the landlord already allows pets in the building. (I’m assuming he knows about them.)

I recommend that you ask the landlord to accept your pet one more time. Offer to increase your deposit significantly. Base your bottom line on what your move will cost you. Gently demonstrate that he may not be making the soundest business decision if you move.

If the landlord won’t budge and you’re secure about finding a new place, tell the heartless bastard if he doesn’t allow you to get your dog, you’ll have no choice but to tender your 30-day notice to vacate!

Whatever you do, don’t try to sneak the dog in and hide him. That’s a recipe for disaster.

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

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