California Lawmakers to Change Pet Rules for Landlords

by Chris on May 28, 2012

Landlords in California are on notice that they soon may be barred from requiring tenants with pets to declaw or devocalize the animals.

The legislature appears close to passing the new law which prohibits a landlord who allows tenants or occupants to have animals on the premises from advertising the property in a way that discourages individuals from applying because  their animal is not declawed or devocalized; refusing to allow, negotiate, or make the property available for occupancy because of a person’s refusal to declaw or  devocalize an animal; or, requiring a tenant or occupant to declaw or devocalize an animal that is allowed on the premises. 

This bill provides for prosecution of an offending landlord and a civil penalty of $1,000 per animal for every violation.

According to the bill’s author, Sen. Pavley, “There is an ongoing practice of some landlords conditioning occupancy of rental housing on the declawing of cats or the devocalizing of dogs.  Many rental listings in California show a number of properties with landlords and managers that require potential tenants to declaw or devocalize their pets as a condition of tenancy.  Declawing and devocalizing are permanent procedures and such procedures   run counter to the temporary nature of rental occupancy.”

The measure is supported by at least 21 animal rights groups, including The Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, which commented that the law will “protect tenants from being forced to choose between securing housing for their families and subjecting their pets to unnecessary, costly and life-altering medical procedures” 

Yet, one animal rights group opposes the measure, claiming that the bill attempts to eliminate otherwise lawful veterinary procedures unrelated to rental properties.  They claim that the language of the bill is too broad in that it includes all animals, where the group believes that only the devocalizing of dogs would be a realistic occurrence in rental occupancies.  “Unlike cats that would only damage the premises for which the tenant would be liable for repairs, other tenants and outside neighbors hear dogs’ noise and may be greatly  disturbed.  Such barking may or may not reach the threshold for legal action under local animal, noise or nuisance ordinance. Landlords have some legal liabilities in nuisances on their owned premises, so the prospect of legal enforcement arising from mention of   de-barking creates a disincentive to offer or negotiate pet tenancies, particularly if tenants will not mitigate barking or dispose of the animal. ”

The bill is proceeding through the legislature.  A proposed effective date has not yet been announced. 

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Disclaimer: The information provided in this post in not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.

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