New Bill Will Eliminate Housing Barriers for Pet Owners In California

Nevena Nacic
by Nevena Nacic

California tenants with pets rejoice - a new bill that stops landlords from denying housing to pet owners is in the works!

The chair of the California Legislative Renters Caucus, Matt Haney, has introduced legislation that would compel landlords to accept tenants with pets. The bill, AB 2216, will insist that landlords have reasonable reason(s) for not allowing a pet in the rental unit. The biggest change, however, is that the bill prevents property owners from asking about pet ownership before the tenant’s application has been approved.

The new bill, which is sponsored by the Humane Society of the United States, aims to solve a big problem in the rental world - a surplus of tenants with pets and a lack of landlords willing to rent to them.

California has one of the highest number of tenants in the country, and close to 70% of them are pet owners. Alas, under current law, only around 30% of all rentals are pet-friendly. 

The lack of pet-friendly housing is causing almost a million tenants to keep pets in their rentals hidden from their landlords. This solves nothing. On one hand, landlords are left without adequate coverage for potential damages. On the other hand, pet owners are left living in constant fear of being kicked out of their homes. 

Andrea Amavisca, a senior legislative advocate at the California Immigration Policy Center, told the LA Times that she and her partner spent over a month looking for a two-bedroom rental in Sacramento that would allow for a small cattle dog mix.

Landlords that initially liked our application would suddenly stop answering our calls once they found out we had a dog. Or others would require a pet deposit close to $1,000 that would put the unit totally out of our budget.”

Amavisca added it felt unfair that almost every landlord had a different pet policy with varying fees they could change as they pleased. Some landlords charged only $20 a month while others asked for four-figure cleaning deposits. 

The new bill doesn’t address fees and doesn’t prevent landlords from excluding certain types of pets. Haney’s legislation defines a common household pet as a domesticated animal, such as a cat or dog, that is kept in the home for pleasure rather than commercial uses. 

While pet owners are relieved to hear about the legislation, property owners are already expressing their concerns. The biggest issue is that landlords will be forced to take on pets, and the increased risk of potential property damage that comes with pets, without a pet deposit as a safeguard. 

Haney explained that exceptions would be made for landlords with reasonable excuses for not allowing pets on their property. 

What we see too often is just these blanket prohibitions of pets with no good reason for it, with no required justification for it and no protection of pet owners, who represent the majority of California’s renters, to be able to access housing just like anyone else,” said Haney.

According to Jenny Berg, California director for the Humane Society of the United States, extra fees and bans add to the overcrowding crisis in animal shelters nationwide. 

One of the reasons why people relinquish their pets is because they can’t find affordable housing or housing at all that can accommodate their pets,” she said. 

Haney’s bill could make a massive change, as it would remove the barriers tenants face when looking for housing for them and their four-legged companions.

We want a renter to be considered first and decision made about whether they meet the requirements for the apartment,” said Haney. “And then, after that fact, they disclose that they have a pet. And only if there’s a reasonable rationale to deny them, that would be allowed.” 

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Nevena Nacic
Nevena Nacic

Nevena is a freelance writer and a proud mom of Teo, a 17-year-old poodle, and Bob, a rescued grey tabby cat. Since childhood, she had a habit of picking up strays and bringing them home (luckily, her parents didn't know how to say NO). When she's not writing for her fellow pet parents, Nevena can be found watching Teo sleep. To her defense, that's not as creepy as it sounds!

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