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Paw-friendly? Proposed bill would prevent California landlords from banning pets in rentals

Kate Talerico, The Mercury News on

Published in Business News

In California’s tight rental market, apartment hunting is a daunting task. For pet owners, the options are even fewer.

But a bill proposed in the California State Assembly this year could make it easier for those with furry friends to find a place to rent.

The bill, AB 2216, would prohibit blanket bans of pets in rentals and allow landlords to ask about pet ownership only after a tenant’s application has been approved.

“Like it or not, humans have pets, they always have and they always will,” Assemblymember Matt Haney, a San Francisco Democrat who proposed the bill, said in a statement. “Blanket ‘no companion pet policies’ are causing landlords to miss out on good tenants who get rejected without even getting a chance to apply for a place to live. The current system is bad for everyone.”

About 57% of households in California own a pet, according to a 2019 survey by the American Veterinary Medical Association. Thousands more adopted pets during COVID. Yet in San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose, just one in five apartments currently on the market allows for large dogs, while about two in five allow for small dogs and cats, according to a review by this news organization of Zillow listings.

In Oakland, Nina Foo, 30, has been searching for six months for a one-bedroom apartment in the Rockridge neighborhood that will accept her mini goldendoodle, Poppy.

 

“It’s been impossible to find something,” she said, holding a shaking Poppy — who becomes nervous around strangers — in her arms.

As many reasons as there are to love pets, property owners have plenty of their own for banning them in their buildings. Barking dogs can be a nuisance to neighbors. Unclipped claws can damage wooden floors. Too many cats can leave lingering odors. Owners who don’t pick up after their pets’ messes create extra work for maintenance staff. Lingering pet dander in carpets can make a unit uninhabitable in the future for someone with severe allergies.

“When you try to mandate sweeping legislation for inclusion of pets in a community, you have to think of the whole of the community — and that includes other renters,” said Derek Barnes, executive director of the East Bay Rental Housing Association, which opposes the bill.

The full text of the bill is still in the works, and its chances of becoming law are unclear — but Haney has said landlords would be exempted from the ban if they provide a reason for excluding pets from their property, such as concerns over health or nuisances, so long as they can provide documentation to a rent board if a tenant pushes back.

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