Tenants’ Rights Regarding Pets And Service Animals
NYC pet lovers are often unaware of their rights regarding pet ownership in rental units and may feel discouraged when they can’t find housing that accepts pets. However, under certain circumstances, you can have a pet, even if the lease says otherwise.
New York City’s Pet Law and the 3-Month Rule
NYC’s Pet Law, under the Administrative Code, gives tenants the right to keep a pet, even if there is a no-pet policy in their rental complex. Under the law, no-pet policies or lease clauses are unenforceable under certain conditions, often referred to as the 3-Month Rule. The rule came about in response to abuses of no-pet policies. Prior to the rule, there were many instances of landlords taking no action against pets on the premises, despite having a no-pet policy, until suddenly after an extended period of time, the pet was used as an excuse to try to evict a tenant. The city found it necessary to protect tenants in these types of situations and enacted the 3-Month Rule.
The 3-Month Rule allows that if you openly keep a pet in your unit for three months and the landlord knows about it but take no action to enforce the no-pets rule, he or she has essentially waived their right to enforce the rule against you at a later time. This does not mean the landlord has gotten rid of the no-pets policy, it simply means he or she has chosen not to enforce it as far as you and your pet are concerned.
There is nothing underhanded or sneaky about this rule or your actions as long as you are not actively hiding that you have a pet. It is up to the landlord to decide whether or not to take action. In some ways, it can be considered earning the right to keep a pet since during this time you’ll be actively demonstrating to the landlord that you are a responsible pet owner and that your pet poses no threat to the unit or other people.
In order to qualify for the 3-Month Rule exception to a no-pets clause the following must happen:
1. The pet must be kept in the building/your unit for at least 3 months. Landlords must let you know within these 3 months if the pet must go.
2. The landlord must be able to know about/discover your pet. That means you cannot keep the pet hidden from the landlord. To meet the exception, you must keep the pet openly.
3. The pet must not create a nuisance. There cannot be any property damage or threats to others health and safety.
4. You cannot be renting from the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA). The law exempts the NYCHA from this rule.
Service and Companion Animals
Service animals are a different situation. There are protections at the federal, state, and city level that allow disabled persons to have service animals in their home. To deny this is a violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act, the Fair Housing Act, and the New York Human Rights Law. These laws override any lease clauses or no-pet policies that may seem to prevent you from having a pet. Under these laws, landlords are required to make reasonable accommodations for individuals with actual or perceived disabilities. Tenants who are blind or deaf are permitted to have guide dogs or service animals regardless of a no-pet clause in the lease.
Companion animals fall under the same category but it may be a little more difficult to prove a need. In many cases you will need a health care provider to attest to your need for a companion animal for physical or emotional reasons before an accommodation can be made. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, emotional support animals are generally not considered a reasonable accommodation as they are excluded by lack of training from the definition of service animal. In this situation, a landlord might require a pet deposit for an emotional support animal.
Finding Pet-Friendly Rentals
No-pet policies are the purview of the landlord. Pets are often banned because the landlord doesn’t want to deal with property damage caused by pets or open themselves up to liability if the pet injures someone. In some cases, pets may be allowed on a case-by-case basis with the landlord requiring the would-be tenant to provide a higher security deposit and sign a pet agreement as part of the lease. This agreement will spell out the requirements for keeping a pet in the unit, which may be as simple as cleaning up after the pet to as restrictive as stating which breeds of animal are allowed as pets.
Of course, if you already have a pet, service or companion animal, it makes sense to start your search for units that allow pets. This will make the entire process easier and create less animosity between you and the landlord or other renters, all of whom may be unaware of these laws.
In general, pet-friendly rentals attract more interest, giving landlords a larger pool of renters to draw from, so it’s not uncommon to see listings that indicate the propertyis pet-friendly. If you are a pet owner, be upfront about it with the landlord or broker. You will save time looking at rentals that won’t accept pets and you will know what restrictions or additional charges you will face.
When Legal Advice Becomes Necessary
If you have been keeping a pet openly for three months and the landlord suddenly decides to enforce the no-pets clause, or if you have a disability and feel that you have been discriminated against because of your pet, contact a tenant law attorney at Brasch Legal. We can help you defend your right to keep your pet and your home.
Contact us at 212-267-2500 for a personal consultation.
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