This week had an interesting  news story about a North Hollywood landlord who requires all of her residents to have a pet if they want to live in her apartment building. Most landlords would scoff at the idea of requiring a pet as many landlords prohibits pets outright. However, if a landlord is planning to have a pet policy that may also include allowing pets on the property, a well written pet policy can save a landlord additional hassles if there is a dispute during the tenancy.

Include a Pet Clause or Separate Pet Agreement in Your Rental Agreement

A separate pet clause or “pet agreement” should be included in your rental agreement if you agree to allow pets. You can include where pets can be on the property, the removal of a pet’s droppings, and the number and type of pets allowed in the building.

Restricting Types of Animals, Breeds, Sizes

A landlord can restrict the type of animals that is allowed to live in the building, the breeds of animals that are allowed to live in the building, and the size of those animals. An agreement should include the animals that are allowed and the ones that expressly prohibited. For example, many landlords restrict dogs but allow hamsters. Some landlords do not allow large fish tanks.

Second, a landlord can restrict the type of dog breeds allowed. Many landlords prohibit pit bulls and rottweilers because many consider them to be “dangerous” dog breeds. You may also want to contact your insurance company because many insurance companies are prohibiting certain dog breeds or will require additional premiums for certain dog breeds.

Third, a landlord can impose a weight restriction the animals allowed. A weight restriction can be done in lieu of the breed restriction or in addition to the breed restriction.

Who’s Pets Are Allowed?

You should restrict pets to only those owned by the tenant in order to stop tenants from taking in additional animals. You can also add to the lease agreement the number of animals allowed.

“Pet Deposit”

Many landlords charge a “pet deposit” in their rental agreements. Instead of charging a separate “pet deposit,” it is better for a landlord to have two deposit amounts: one for a tenant without a pet and one for a tenant with a pet. The problem with a separate “pet deposit” is that the pet deposit could plausibly only be used for damage caused by the pet, while if you just charge a higher deposit amount, the deposit could later be used for any reason allowed under California law. In California, a landlord can only charge two times the amount of monthly rent for a security deposit if the unit is unfurnished and three times the amount of monthly rent for a furnished unit.

A landlord can also charge an additional amount of rent for allowing pets. For example, a landlord can advertise one rate for tenants without pets and another rate for tenants with pets.

Other Requirements

A landlord can impose other requirements if they want to allow tenants to have pets. For example, a landlord can and should require a tenant with a pet to have a renter’s insurance policy. A renter’s insurance policy could be used if a tenant’s pet causes injury to another person. A landlord can also require that a pet be licensed pursuant to local laws.

However, California law prohibits a landlord from requiring a tenant to declaw (typically cats) or devocalize (typically dogs) a pet.

Americans with Disabilities Act

My next post will discuss how a landlord will need to make a “reasonable accommodation” to a no pets policy if a tenant claims a disability and requires a pet (i.e., a seeing eye dog or a companion animal) More on that later.