Renters, no pets allowed

September 6, 2012


I read the rental ad and thought, “At last, just the apartment I’ve been looking for!” It was a guest house on a private estate and had it’s own patio and garden, plenty of light in all the rooms, and was located in an area I really like. Then I read the small but inevitable last line, “No Pets.”

This was one of many, many ads I had looked at with excitement, only to be hit over the head with a four by four board saying, we don’t want you because we don’t want your animal. Probably fish would be the exception but who knows.

On Craig’s List, on property management firm’s websites, in the newspaper, it’s all the same. I’d guess that 80 percent or more of rentals refuse to take pets.

I asked myself why since high pet deposits have become standard and since security deposits, also large, can be used to cover pet damage, so what is the issue? Pet pees on carpet— put in new carpet. Pet rips up carpet— replace carpet. Pet rubs off paint – repaint. Pet barks too much – muzzle pet, train pet, or ask renter and pet to leave.

If you ask a property owner or management firm the reason for excluding people with pets, they always say, “We’ve had bad experiences with dogs or cats or saber tooth tigers in the past and don’t want to risk it.

Of course, I always say “But I have a well behaved cat”, but that doesn’t cut it. So I have yet to discover the real reason for this pervasive policy unless it’s the hassle of dealing with the types of damage I mentioned

Yet the majority of Americans have pets. Possibly dogs outnumber cats but it’s close and I have seen a few ads that will take cats and not dogs but by and large, it’s all pets.

Why do we humans have pets? Companionship, we love animals, we inherited the pet, unconditional love that runs both ways, they’re cute or we need an excuse to walk (the dog made me do it). And pet owners can be poor, wealthy or in between, meaning that some of them cannot afford to buy their own homes where they can have any pet that isn’t illegal, even in one case I know of a seal that lives in the pool.

So what are we renters to do when excluded – actually, discriminated against, from rental housing? We could sneak in the pet and hope it will be quiet, well-behaved and unnoticed. We could bombard property management firms with emails and calls urging them to change the policy. Some property management firms say that the owners make the decision to exclude pets and others say it is their company’s policy. We can write letters to the editor and ask the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to lobby Congress or our state legislature

Or, the approach I favor, amend the United States or California Constitution so that the “make no exclusion based on” clause talking about race, national origin, gender, to add people possessing pets. As someone who used to volunteer for a fair housing organization in Los Angeles, I am serious here. The only solution that will work in the long run is to make it illegal to discriminate against people with pets, just as it is now illegal to discriminate against people with children.

So when your candidates debate in your community this fall, ask them, ” Are you willing to sponsor a law making it illegal to bar people from renting a property based upon their pet ownership?” Then you will know how to vote.

Judith Bernstein is a San Luis Obispo County animal lover.

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Becasue people say they will follow the rules and be responsible for their pets, and then they end up lying and you have to fight them over costs. People’s dishonesty makes it the way it is.

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