In light of the fact that new rent regulations seem to be announced in another locale every day, there will soon be a real problem for residents who have pets. While rent regulations don’t outlaw pets per se, they often render it illegal for property owners to charge a pet deposit.
In past years, owners would usually take an extra half or one month’s rent from residents who had pets, but now they are unable to continue this practice. This extra money is needed to ensure that the building quality isn’t diminished due to damage caused by pets. Going forward, it seems that most owners will either waive their no-pets policy entirely or go fully in the opposite direction and ban pets under all circumstances. Personally, I think that many owners will just increase the base rent in order to cover any damage caused. Not only will this make it more difficult for owners to rent their units, but it’s not ideal for residents either as increased rent is money that they will never see again vs. a deposit that is often returned at the conclusion of the lease.
In the cases of rental buildings that are entirely pet-friendly, it’s usually due in large part to the fact that each apartment is going for a higher rent than a comparable unit that doesn’t allow pets at all. Due to new rent regulation laws being passed in cities across the country, my guess is that one-third or more of the pet-friendly buildings within the housing stock will close their doors entirely to pet owners.
From a property owner’s point of view, pets are generally uncontrollable and, therefore, pose a huge risk to properties. Although you can check a prospective tenant’s credit history and employment status before admitting them into your building, these factors do not guarantee that someone is a responsible pet owner. Furthermore, in a building with multiple dogs, it’s often difficult, if not impossible, to determine which dog may have caused damage to a common area.
In some cases, property owners will set weight restrictions, such as a policy stipulating that no dogs are allowed who weigh more than 50 pounds. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that when someone acquires a new puppy, they are often uncertain as to how large their dog will ultimately become. Furthermore, even the smallest dogs are capable of causing massive disturbances by excessively barking.
Pet deposits and higher rents help to ensure that any damage caused by pets can be effectively managed. If a dog urinates in the hallway, money from a pet deposit will ensure that a maintenance crew is available to clean it immediately and replace the carpet if need be. From a property owner’s point of view, it would be irresponsible, not to mention unnecessary, to simply hope for the best in terms of pets not damaging one’s building when a higher rent or pet deposit could be charged.
Oftentimes, individuals will ask for exceptions to no-pet policies and owners should examine these circumstances on a case-by-case basis. For instance, if someone has an apartment that spans an entire floor of a building, their pet is far less likely to disturb other residents than a dog in an apartment that’s close to the neighboring unit and only separated by a thin wall.
Ultimately, it’s quite unlikely that many people will give up their pets in order to rent a certain apartment. My guess is that in cities where pet deposits are now forbidden, pet owners will agree to pay higher rents to have their pets live with them. It will certainly become more difficult to find apartments though as many buildings will institute no-pet policies. Unfortunately, this serves as yet another example of how rent regulations hurt both owners and residents alike.
Adam Frisch is managing principal of Lee & Associates Residential NYC.