1. Can I refuse to allow a tenant who has pets?
In California, yes. It’s your property and if you don’t want pets, it’s your choice. However, that needs to be outlined in the lease agreement. This protects you and your property. By putting it in the lease agreement, you have the ability to refer back to the pet clause if the tenant decides to bring a pet into the home. You also have recourse if the tenant decides to violate that clause.
As a landlord, it is very, very important that you dot all your I’s and cross all your T’s. It is up to you, not the tenant, to follow the standard of the law.
2. Can I refuse emotional support pets?
While you are legally within your rights to refuse pets, emotional support animals are a different story. If you refuse someone who has a legally registered emotional support pet, then you are essentially discriminating against that person because of his or her disability.
According to the Federal Fair Housing Act (FHA), landlords need to make reasonable accommodation for assistance animals.
Here’s what the Humane Society says, “Assistance animals are in a different legal classification than pets who are not assistance animals, which is why pet restrictions and fees are waived for them. They are animals that work, assist and/or perform tasks and services for the benefit of a person with a disability or provide emotional support that improves the symptoms of a disability.”
3. Can I charge a pet security deposit as well?
You sure can. California’s security deposit law states that your total security deposit (including pet deposit) cannot be more than two months of rent if it is an unfurnished unit and three months of rent if the unit is furnished. So for an unfurnished rental, you can legally charge two months of security deposit.
Just remember this is a deposit, which means just like any other security deposit, it must be returned in full to the tenant within 21 days of move out, or there must be a certified letter sent to the tenant explaining why you kept part of or all of the security deposit.
4. If I do allow pets, am I liable if something bad happens?
Aside from the damage that a pet can cause to a property, a lot of landlords don’t want to allow pets because of liability concerns. The truth is, there are only a few instances where you as a landlord can be held liable for something a pet does.
According to the site NOLO, “It’s very rare, however, for a landlord to be found liable for injuries inflicted by a tenant's dog. Just leasing premises to a tenant with a dog isn't enough, by itself, to make a landlord legally responsible for a tenant's dog…In general, courts hold a landlord liable only if the landlord: knew the dog was dangerous and could have had the dog removed; or ‘harbored’ or ‘kept’ the tenant’s dog—that is, cared for or had some control over the dog.”
The bottom line is, not all pets are bad and it’s certainly up to you whether or not you want to allow them. There are ways that you can protect yourself and your property if you do allow pets. Know your local and state laws before you act.
If you have any questions or thoughts feel free to reach out at any time.