One of the most common real estate questions I receive every year concerns residential tenants and pets. It’s becoming more difficult to find a landlord who will allow four-legged pets in their rentals – most commonly dogs and cats. This week’s question addresses this issue.
This week’s question: Landlord’s Ability to Restrict Pets
“Is it OK for me to restrict or forbid pets in my rental? It’s a single family home.” N.S., Vallejo, CA
Yes, landlords are generally allowed to restrict pets in rental properties in California. Pets can be altogether banned, or they can be limited based on size. For dogs, certain breeds that are generally considered aggressive and a potential threat to the property or to tenants and neighbors may also be restricted. Fish tanks that hold more than a certain number of gallons of water may also be restricted. Endangered species or animals that require a special permit to keep in a home (e.g. elephants and lions) are also easy to restrict.
Notwithstanding the above, landlords may have to allow pets if their presence is protected under the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). There are two general types of animals that qualify – service animals that perform specific functions for a disabled person and emotional support animals. Sometimes a single animal serves both functions, though a tenant may require multiple pets for multiple functions.
Doctors often provide disabled persons with documentation that verifies their need for the animal. However, some disabled tenants simply claim they need their animal even though they don’t have a doctor’s written recommendation. Landlords may either accept the tenant’s undocumented explanation or reject it. Since rejecting an ADA-based claim of need made by an applicant or by a tenant is a legal issue, I recommend that landlords consult with an attorney before challenging any ADA claim or implementing a restriction.
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NOTE: Real estate questions are answered within the scope of real estate broker expertise and are not intended to offer legal or tax advice. Contact a qualified legal or tax professional for questions regarding those specialties.
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