Pets in the Apartment: How a Long Island Landlord Can Add a Pet Policy
For a Long Island residential landlord, pets are somewhat of a touchy subject. It is nearly impossible to make everyone in your building happy with a pet policy, including when that policy is a blanket ban on all pets. Restricting pets by weight or type has its own drawbacks, including issues with tenants that attempt to thwart the policy for a beloved animal. Given the discrepancy on this issue, what are a landlord’s options for creating a pet policy?
Include a Blanket Restriction on All Pets in the Premises
It isn’t uncommon for a Long Island landlord to create a pet policy that bans all pets from the premises. Why put in place a blanket restriction? It prevents tenants from trying to bypass the rules and keep a problem pet in their apartment or condo, it helps maintain the original quality and cleanliness of the apartment and property and prevents complaints from other people in the building.
If a Long Island landlord decides to ban all pets from the property, this blanket restriction must be in the lease agreement. This statement should be clear, concise, and unequivocal. Make it clear that having a pet in an apartment is a breach of the lease agreement and include language that gives the landlord the right to evict a tenant for failing to follow the pet restriction.
Creating a Pet-Friendly Building
A pet-friendly building has substantial benefits. Pets can raise morale and overall atmosphere in the building, and tenants tend to stay longer when their furry friend is welcome in the building. As well, many high-quality tenants are pet owners but are unlikely to leave their pet behind just to live in a specific building.
However, if you are going to allow pets under a residential lease, there should be some restrictions and qualifications. Landlords actually have a number of different ways they can approach a pet-friendly policy, some more restrictive and definite than others, but all striking a balance that ultimately benefits both landlord and tenant.
Option 1: Pets Subject to Landlord’s Approval
One way to create a pet policy in your lease is by requiring each tenant seek approval for each pet they want to have in the building. A landlord wants full discretion to accept or reject a proposed pet. This includes gathering information on the type of pet, the age of the pet, size, and the weight of the pet, and whether the pet has caused property damage in the past. Be certain the determination of the landlord is final.
As well, the lease should include means for the landlord to require or demand the removal of the pet, should there be a serious or repeated problem with the pet on the property. If you have questions about drafting this type of conditional pet policy, your best resource is a residential real property lawyer in Long Island.
Option 2: Limit the Approved Pets in the Lease
Other landlords create a pet-friendly property by stating in the lease the type of pets allowed and those that are forbidden. For example, the lease may state that dogs are allowed, provided they are under a certain weight and height. As well, cats may be allowed, provided they are indoor cats and have their front claws clipped. In this instance, a landlord can be as restrictive or lenient as desired.
The problem with a predetermined pet policy is it removes some control from the landlord. A tenant can make an objective argument to keep a specific pet because it is within the prescribed pet policy, and the landlord has less room to reject a pet it feels may become a problem later. This detriment is balanced by the fact that these policies require less work and oversight from the Long Island landlord, as well, there are fewer complaints that a landlord is subjective or biased when there is a set policy in place.
Option 3: Require a Pet Fee for All Pets
Finally, landlords have the option to allow some or all pets in exchange for an additional fee from the residential tenant. This fee can be a set amount, irrespective of the type or size of pet, or may fluctuate based on the pet’s characteristics. For example, a dog weighing 10 pounds is a lower fee than a dog weighing 90 pounds. If you require a pet fee, it should be provided and explained to a potential tenant before the lease is signed.
Pet fees have become increasingly popular in recent years because landlords can hold the funds for repairing damage caused by pets. This may include installation of new carpet between tenants, repainting walls, repairing built-in cabinets, and improving amenities. If you are interested in creating a fee structure for your tenants, contact an attorney familiar with pet policies and residential leases.
Language to Include in All Pet Policies
There are a few clauses that should be included in all Long Island pet policies. First, include language in the lease that requires all pets to have necessary vaccinations, applicable paperwork, and identification tags. In Long Island, there are various ordinances that require identification and registration of cats and dogs; you should require tenants to follow these rules.
Second, include a good deal of latitude for a landlord or building manager to request or demand the removal of a pet at a later date. While it’s incredibly helpful to limit the pets allowed in the building from the start, Long Island landlords encounter substantial issues when a pet causes damage, disrupts neighbors, or is aggressive after the lease is signed. You need resources to control and address pet problems throughout the lease term.
Third, the residential lease agreement or attached pet policy should clearly and definitely make tenants responsible for the behavior and actions of their pets. For example, if a pet causes serious damage to fixtures in a unit, repairing or replacing those fixtures is the tenant’s sole responsibility. Similarly, if the pet is a nuisance, the responsibility falls on the owner.
Finally, have a Long Island lawyer help with drafting and writing your building’s pet policy. You want to be certain a pet policy meets the needs of your tenants and conditions of the building – a real property lawyer can help by providing the overall structure of your pet policy and drafting the exact language.
To revamp your residential pet policy, contact the Law Office of Sami Perez in Long Island. Our office is always available by calling 516-216-5060.
The information in this blog post (“Post”) is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information contained in this Post should be construed as legal advice from The Law Office of Samilde Perez or the individual author, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter.