You’ve moved into a new apartment with your furry best friend. It is your very first apartment, and you are giddy with excitement. You notice on the lease that you cannot have pets, but you do it anyway. You move in, with your dog (or cat). Uh-oh. Your landlord found out.
Can a Landlord kick you out for having a pet?
To put it bluntly, yes there is a good chance your landlord can move to have you evicted for having a pet. Especially if the no pet rule well-stated in your lease prior to you moving in.
What Are My Options?
There are several scenarios where you may not have to vacate at all. If you have an emotional support animal (ESA) or qualify for an ESA letter, your landlord cannot evict you or even charge you pet rental fees.
This could be worth looking into because by now, you probably have emotional problems with the stress of having a pet, and a landlord who has the power to take your home away.
I feel your pain!
The same runs true if you have a service dog that is trained to help with a disability. Service dogs are considered working partners for physical disabilities or debilitating psychiatric conditions.
Typically, when you are filling out a lease application, this is where you would present the necessary documentation on your pet certifications.
It may seem like an inconvenience, but there are times (most) that you need to prove that the animal is providing some sort of service.
A seeing-eye dog is pretty apparent, but not a child with a service dog that warns of impending seizures or some other invisible disability that is harder to prove.
So if you did not supply the documentation up front to miraculously turn your adorable fur baby into an Emotional Support or Service pet, your options just got limited big time.
From here, things can get tricky, if you have a single private landlord that you deal directly with, you will be at the mercy of pleading your case with him/her and hope for the best.
If you have been in his tenancy for many years and were unaware of his no pet policy (or simply forgot) and decided to get a pet, you might be able to get his approval since he knows you have been a great tenant trouble-free tenant.
Good tenants are hard to come by, so if you have a good relationship with your landlord you definitely have a much better chance of getting approved.
Of course, it helps that you are up to date with your rent, your pet is well behaved and not a nuisance. Your chances of keeping your furry BFF are greater if you are with a smaller mom-and-pop landlord. More significant buildings with outsourced professional management companies will have no mercy or room for negotiations.
They will want to stick with the script laid out and they definitely will be considered other tenants will see you are aloud a pet, but they are not.
There are also other tenants to consider. If your Landlord assured a tenant there were no dogs in the building, and suddenly yours appears, he will be responsible for making sure the situation is confronted.
So if you live in a one person rental, that is also a better scenario and your chances are higher of keeping your dog or cat if you can convince them.
Location Specific Scenario
Whether you live in a big city like New York City or a small city like Denver will also play a big part in landlord flexibility on pet policies. In Manhattan, for example, there are stringent pet policies in place for all buildings.
Can my landlord kick me out for having a pet if I live in Manhattan?
The majority of buildings in Manhattan have a strict no-pet policy.
Next on the list will be cats only; then small dogs up to a specific weight limit, and lastly, the few buildings that will allow any pets with no weight limits or breed restrictions.
This last category will end up costing you a bit of a premium in monthly rent, which is not reflected as pet rent, but you will see that these types of buildings will cost you more in monthly rent.
A New York City pet law states that if you live in a building with more than three units and your pet has been kept “open and notorious” for three months, you can keep it.
An open and notorious example would be a porter or door attendant who may have seen your pet walking through the lobby for the past three months and hasn’t reported it to management.
This law isn’t as cut and dry as it seems in NYC. This pet law varies from borough to borough but applies to co-ops throughout NYC, but not to condos in Manhattan.
Then you have other scenarios where you may be renting a sponsored unit in a cooperative building that is not subject to the rules and regulations of the condo board, but the owner will allow you to have a pet.
Another scenario would be you renting from a condo owner who doesn’t allow you to have a pet, but the building does.
NYC is probably the most complicated city to rent when you have a pet. It is very important to do your own research and seek legal advise if possible.
There are a lot of legal websites that can provide some information, and going directly to your local city Government website will be the best way to get accurate information based on your location.
What happens if your landlord finds out, can he kick me out for having a pet?
This question will depend on where you live, the community’s size, and if an outside source professionally manages it, or if you have a private landlord that you deal with directly. You could be evicted and your landlord could possibly sue you for the remaining lease amount.
My dog was kicked out when I moved back to Manhattan from Europe. I took a sublet for six weeks to shore up my new real estate brokerage home, wait for my 40-foot container to arrive, and give me time to look for a place to live.
Having lived in Manhattan previously and worked as a real estate broker, I understood the priority of finding a pet-friendly building.
I made sure to ask the guy I was doing a sublet from if pets were allowed. I specifically asked him four or five times.
Each time he said yes.
I arrived at my new sublet with my dog and an old friend who picked me up from the airport, and not even five minutes into entering the unit, we get a knock on the door. It was the superintendent of the building who lived directly in front of my door. He immediately notifies me that there are no pets allowed in the building.
And there was no way I could hide a 60-pound Rhodesian Ridgeback mix.
It gets better. The superintendent proceeds to ask me who I am, and I mentioned that I am subletting from Mr. X. He then says he is not allowed to sublet the unit. I was having a double dose of panic.
Thankfully my friend was there to take my dog home that same evening with him until I found a temporary solution for her as well as myself!
In the end, the super of the building allowed me to stay, but I had to wait six weeks until I could move into my new apartment with my dog to resume a normal life. Luckily for me, it was a temporary setback, and I didn’t pay a broker fee.
Manhattan broker fees are 15% of an annual rental contract. Imagine you just paid $5,400 in broker fees for a $3000/ month apartment; now you and your pet are being evicted.
There are only two ways this ends: you and your pet go and are forced to incur another set of moving costs and another hefty $5,400 fee, or your pet goes. Both are not happy endings.
Can a NEW landlord kick you out for having a pet? And can he change his mind on the pet policy?
The new landlord cannot make tenants get rid of their pets. They are grandfathered into the old policy. But if your pet dies and you decide to get a new one, the new pet will be subjected to the new landlord’s no-pet policy.
And yes, landlords can change their pet policy at any time. Unless—you are in a New York City cooperative building or co-op. This policy is subject to board approval. The NYC pet law was conceived with rental properties in mind, and since the proprietary leases in co-ops are similar to a renter/ landlord situation, it was ruthlessly adopted by most NYC co-ops.
Keep in mind that some landlords not only have pet weight limits, sometimes breed restrictions, and the number of pets allowed per unit. These guidelines are also included in landlord pet policies.
How to Avoid Getting into a No Pet Policy Jam
Since we have discerned that renting with pets differs from city to city, the first thing you will want to confirm, in any property you are interested in, in any town– is the pet policy.
Asking about the pet policy is a sure-fire way to make sure you don’t end up in a situation where you will be asked to relinquish your pet, or you both have to go.
If you choose to move to a complicated city like NYC, the first thing you will want to mention to your real estate broker is that you have a pet, what type of pet, and its weight if they are unfamiliar with your breed of dog.
Giving them the specifics will eliminate 80% of the inventory in Manhattan for your search and ensure you will not be denied tenancy or be evicted.
Some animal shelters in NYC call your landlord to ensure that you reside in a pet-friendly building.
This is probably a really good thing because it can help protect you too.
It is also wise to allow yourself a little more time in trying to find a pet-friendly building that fits your needs. If you want it to be near a dog park, dog run, or the building has a paw wash station, etc.
I know how important our pets are to us—they’re’ family. So, if you have a pet and are looking for a new place to rent, the first thing you will want to do is look for a pet-friendly appropriate building. This way, you will avoid any undue stress on yourself and your pet.
You can also read, 5 Cities That Love Dogs for an area of the country that will welcome you and your four-legged pal with open arms, and a high-paw.
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Jennifer is a licensed Manhattan real estate broker and appraiser with 20 years of experience. She writes professionally for all types of real estate professionals and businesses. She is a retired chef from the Culinary Institute of America and the CEO of Bark Avenue CBD dog treats, a Colorado company. Scarlett is Jennifer’s 8-year-old Muttigree rescue from North Shore Animal League in NY.