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



On December 30, commenter sfboogie, referring to a proposal to require that landlords allow pets in their buildings in San Francisco (Prohibited Pets Could Put You In The Doghouse) asked:

Does the plan to forbid discrimination against dogs also include cats? And does it include regulations on the practice of charging more monthly rent for having a dog/cat- in addition to the additional deposit? I understand the additional deposit (which should be regulated) but what do they need more monthly rent for?

Garrison Keillor proposed a public option for pet health care a while back, “People love their animals, and if we could just agree that everybody in America should receive the same level of care enjoyed by an elderly golden retriever, we could be done with this and get ready for the World Series.” Stumble Upon currently records 1,251 views of “Prohibited Pets.” People sure do get worked up about their animals.

To answer your first question, how could you exclude Mr. Mittens, here, from any proposal requiring pets? The answer is unequivocally no, any ordinance of this sort could not exclude cats. In fact under the rubric of the Americans with Disabilities Act, a companion animal can be almost anything. We’ve argued for and received reasonable accommodations for bunnies, birds, cats and, of course, dogs. I don’t know if I’d try it for a companion Komodo Dragon, but who knows? A call to PAWS (Pets Are Wonderful Support should get you a good set of guidelines.

That is one of the problems of an ordinance requiring landlords to accept pets. What sort of pets? The other issues that are being hotly debated are: How does a landlord accommodate existing tenants with allergies or phobias? Landlord liability? (Although I think liability is a red herring. Remember that the landlords were informed and did nothing in the Diane Whipple case.)

It is also interesting to note that landlord groups did not seem to be opposed to a disastrous proposal by the Commission of Animal Control and Welfare that landlords would be allowed to jack up rents 5% to accept pets. See Commission meeting minutes of January 11, 2007. And that several of the commissioners supporting the idea found themselves out of a job by the meeting on June 14, 2007. Hopefully that answers your other questions. To clarify, you’ll have pull the Rent Ordinance from my and many, many other tenant advocates’ cold, dead hands before we will allow illegal rent increases to buy rights for tenants.

The scuttlebutt I hear is that the Animal Control and Welfare Commission and a progressive supervisor originally supportive of the proposal may be backing away from the current proposal because, even in the tenant community, the issue is not so clear cut.

A compromise that is currently being discussed is an amendment to the Rent Ordinance based on West Hollywood’s revision to its Rent Stabilization Ordinance and creating exceptions to limits on pet ownership for seniors, disabled and persons living with HIV/AIDS. While many would argue that it doesn’t go far enough, especially in light of local landlords’ flip-flopping when there’s no dough in it for them, it would address some very real tenant constituency concerns.

Tell the Commission what you think: City Hall, Attn: Commission of Animal Control & Welfare, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, Room 362, San Francisco, CA 94102, (415) 554-6074. Don’t forget to write your supervisor as well.

Dave Crow is an attorney who specializes in San Francisco landlord tenant law. However, the opinions expressed in these articles are those of the author, do not constitute legal advice, and the information is general in nature. Consult the advice of an attorney for any specific problem. You understand that no attorney-client relationship will exist with Dave Crow or his firm, Crow & Rose unless they have agreed to represent you. You should not respond to this site with any information that you believe is highly confidential.

the author

Dave Crow is an attorney who specializes in San Francisco landlord tenant law. However, the opinions expressed in these articles are those of the author, do not constitute legal advice, and the information is general in nature. Consult the advice of an attorney for any specific problem. You understand that no attorney-client relationship will exist with Dave Crow or his firm, Crow & Rose unless they have agreed to represent you. You should not respond to this site with any information that you believe is highly confidential.

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  • sfboogie

    Thank you for your response to my comments/questions. Very much appreciated!

    One question I should have been more clear on is the additional monthly rent for having a dog/cat. I was referring to a new rental agreement. I see numerous postings for apartments that allow dogs/cats, but they want you to pay up to $200/mo. more in rent- in addition to the extra pet deposit. This seems like a way for landlords to deter pet owners from renting their units and so I would think it would be illegal if the ordinance passes. I called the tenants union, but they were of no assistance and actually had not even heard of this practice. Yet it’s fairly prevalent in the postings on Craigslist. I’m curious what the additional monthly rent is for other than padding wallets. I asked a property manager if it had to do with increased insurance, but he told me that had nothing to do with it and couldn’t provide more insight.

  • sfboogie

    Thank you for your response to my comments/questions. Very much appreciated!

    One question I should have been more clear on is the additional monthly rent for having a dog/cat. I was referring to a new rental agreement. I see numerous postings for apartments that allow dogs/cats, but they want you to pay up to $200/mo. more in rent- in addition to the extra pet deposit. This seems like a way for landlords to deter pet owners from renting their units and so I would think it would be illegal if the ordinance passes. I called the tenants union, but they were of no assistance and actually had not even heard of this practice. Yet it’s fairly prevalent in the postings on Craigslist. I’m curious what the additional monthly rent is for other than padding wallets. I asked a property manager if it had to do with increased insurance, but he told me that had nothing to do with it and couldn’t provide more insight.

  • Dave Crow

    Yo sfboogie,

    Short answer. The increases that you see advertised are ploys to, you guessed it, pad landlords’ wallets. Remember though that the Rent Ordinance would not apply to setting the initial contract rent. In other words it’s take it or leave it. I say leave it.

  • Dave Crow

    Yo sfboogie,

    Short answer. The increases that you see advertised are ploys to, you guessed it, pad landlords’ wallets. Remember though that the Rent Ordinance would not apply to setting the initial contract rent. In other words it’s take it or leave it. I say leave it.

  • dogfella

    Cats purr, dogs no no.

    Let me start with I LOVE DOGS. My email address is dogfella@… I grew up with dogs, worked in an animal hospital through college, volunteered & regularly donate to the SPCA and I dream of someday having a dog.

    But as the owner 3 unit building where I rent out 2 units and live in 1, I won’t allow dogs based on my prior experiences with dog tenants.

    1st experience with a dog tenant – chow chow
    Chow chows are historically a fighting dog and some would say dangerously unpredictable. But as a dog lover I was OK with it and this one was sweet. The tenant understood that the condition for allowing the dog was that they had to keep the backyard spotless of feces. Needless to say, there was crap everywhere and their apartment was a hairy disaster.

    2nd experience with a dog tenant – pit bull
    Right after chow chow moved out, I let another dog tenant in. Again a sweet dog but a spaz. Barked like crazy, ran around tearing up with softwood floors and drove the downstairs / upstairs (me) neighbors crazy.

    Obviously there are many dogs and dog parents where this wouldn’t be an issue but it’s often too hard to tell until it’s too late.

    As much as I would love to get a dog, I won’t until I live in a single family home where my neighbors won’t have to deal with the issues that come with a dog.

  • dogfella

    Cats purr, dogs no no.

    Let me start with I LOVE DOGS. My email address is dogfella@… I grew up with dogs, worked in an animal hospital through college, volunteered & regularly donate to the SPCA and I dream of someday having a dog.

    But as the owner 3 unit building where I rent out 2 units and live in 1, I won’t allow dogs based on my prior experiences with dog tenants.

    1st experience with a dog tenant – chow chow
    Chow chows are historically a fighting dog and some would say dangerously unpredictable. But as a dog lover I was OK with it and this one was sweet. The tenant understood that the condition for allowing the dog was that they had to keep the backyard spotless of feces. Needless to say, there was crap everywhere and their apartment was a hairy disaster.

    2nd experience with a dog tenant – pit bull
    Right after chow chow moved out, I let another dog tenant in. Again a sweet dog but a spaz. Barked like crazy, ran around tearing up with softwood floors and drove the downstairs / upstairs (me) neighbors crazy.

    Obviously there are many dogs and dog parents where this wouldn’t be an issue but it’s often too hard to tell until it’s too late.

    As much as I would love to get a dog, I won’t until I live in a single family home where my neighbors won’t have to deal with the issues that come with a dog.