Renters, no pets allowed

September 6, 2012

OPINION By JUDITH BERNSTEIN

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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mseditor

I was hoping to find a room-mate or rental (with fenced yard) where I could spend 1-2 months every summer. SLO county.

I have a pointer, but she’s crated when I’m not around, and I’d be bringing her collapsible crate..

What are my (our) chances of finding a place? I’ll be driving from (hotter-than-hell) Texas every summer. On the other hand, I’d be leaving my Texas home vacant (except for neighbors who check the house daily). I’d be afraid to rent to anyone with pets and would rather leave it vacant. Double-standard, I know.


givemeabreak

Would rather rent to people with pets then kids.


Kidholm

Really? How many rental properties do you own?


jamber

As the writer of the opnion piece, I thank you all for the comments, although I think labeling people right or left wingers is not helpful, to say the least. I am really sorry so many owners and landlords have been burned by pet owners. You may be surprised to learn that I was one of them. I rented to a woman with a cat. After 6 months I began to smell something. When I went into the apartment, she had about 30 large garbage bags full of cat litter sitting in the leaving room. Seeing was believing! Why hadn’t she moved them? They were too heavy to lift. Why didn’t she ask for help? Didn’t like to bother me!!! Anyhow, I rented again to a person with one pet, a decent pet deposit, and the understanding that I had the right to check up on how the property was doing. Granted, it is hard to evict someone on the basis on pet damage, but I thought that as a pet owner myself, it would be hypocritical to tell the tenant downstairs she could not have a pet.

By the way, for all those who advised “just buy a house”: not all of us have the means to do that. That among other reasons is why we are renters.


Black_Copter_Pilot

Judith


You state you rent to others, yet cannot afford a home?


Go figure


celeryclown

Hi Judith, I am an animal lover myself, with two rescue dogs and a history of wonderful cats. However, I would NEVER rent to someone with pets unless I knew that person. A few years back, I was able to rent out the house I’m in now to someone who I knew as a slight acquaintance. She told me she had five cats and couldn’t find a place to live with them. Being naive about the whole thing, I rented out the house to her–and her cats promptly described my pond out back. Still, it takes me a while to leave the fair, and when that renter left, I rented to someone who told me she had three very old dogs. Well, little did I know that after those dogs passed, she began FOSTERING dogs. This time, when this renter left, my yard was DESTROYED and there were multiple grooves and holes in my hardwood floors. Unfortunately, a couple of “I promise there will be no problems w/ my pets” renters destroyed any thought of ever renting to someone with pets again.


Strider

I own some rentals and agree with all the comments from other land owners. I have rarely rented to someone with a dog or cat and been glad I did.

And I would do it again, in a heartbeat. I believe companion animals are critical to healthy life and though the vast majority or renters with pets are irresponsible I feel it is critical to have these critters with us. I just wish those with them would be more responsible.

I have had all kinds of dogs and cats-they live with love, freedom-and discipline. They must behave, not bark (dogs), no killing wildlife (for the cats) and be an asset to the home and wherever they go. There is no damage to my home in any way, all bad behavior is discouraged immediately-what’s so difficult about that? If more renters created this situation then the problem would subside somewhat for them.

What we all need to do is discuss this sensibly and see if there is a way around the limitations on us set by law (such as maximum deposit etc). A bad renter combined with a bad pet can almost ruin a property owner-where is our protection when we can’t even charge (or get) more security deposit?


SLOBIRD

And if anyone has been a landlord the pain to remove a tenant in addition to the damage doesn’t even begin to cover the charges. We have been bit too many times: two adults and no pets and even that is a gamble,


This lady is really wack ado if she has worked in housing issues and can’t see her unreason logic.


shelworth

That really is a funny idea, what’s next, barring landlords from discriminating against people who have no money? Wait, I better not give them any ideas! Nevermind!


racket

The landlords I know are in it for the money. They are not putting up with us, and gambling their kids inheritance, for fun.


The smart money doesn’t have pets in the house. The liability and costs are too dear for any premium that could be charged. It’s that simple.


We can not like it, and we can use our capitalistic might to harm them by refusing to rent their properties. But we cannot ask the government to intercede.


OsborneCox

This blog’s posts get stranger every day!