Tenants and Pet Ownership in West Hollywood
A tenant's lease or rental agreement usually determines whether a tenant may keep pets in their unit and what sorts of pets. If the lease or rental agreement contains a "no pets" clause or limits the number and type of pet that may be kept in the unit, the tenant is generally obligated to abide by such conditions of the lease. Violating the condition may create grounds for the landlord to evict the tenant. Thus, new tenants who own a pet(s) should check any agreement before signing it and renting an apartment. Tenants already living in a unit should check their existing agreement's terms before obtaining a pet.
The City of West Hollywood understands the benefits of pet ownership and aims to support residents' desire to have pets. For this reason, the City requires that landlords allow tenants to replace permitted pets after their loss. The City has revised the Rent Stabilization Ordinance and created exceptions to limits on pet ownership for seniors, disabled and persons living with HIV/AIDS. The City has also revised the security deposit section of the Ordinance to make it easier for landlords to consider allowing pets for other tenants. At the same time, the City expects pet owners to keep their animals in such a way that they do not cause a nuisance to the surrounding neighborhood.
Seniors, Disabled and Persons Living With AIDS/HIV
The City of West Hollywood has recognized the therapeutic benefit of animal companionship for seniors who are 62 years or older, for the disabled and for persons living with HIV/AIDS. These persons may keep up to 2 pets despite any prohibition in the lease or rental agreement under the following conditions:
- the tenant owning the pet(s) is more than 62 years of age, or is disabled, or is living with HIV/AIDS;
- the tenant does not reside in a condominium;
- the pet or pets are domesticated dogs, cats or birds weighing not more than 35 pounds;
- the pet does not interfere with other persons' quiet enjoyment of the premises or otherwise constitute a nuisance, a threat to health, safety or welfare of other persons on the premises;
- if licensed physician has prescribed a companion pet as necessary for the patient's welfare or treatment, the landlord may not charge any security deposit. Otherwise, the landlord may require an increase in the security deposit of not more than 25% of the existing deposit, but in no event an amount that brings the total deposit to more than allowed by the California Civil Code.
It is important to remember: Condominium tenants are not exempted from the terms of their rental contracts under this provision. Nonprofit accommodations are also not covered by this provision and can enforce no pet clauses in their leases even for seniors, disabled tenants and tenants living with HIV/AIDS.
Replacing a Permitted Pet
The Rent Stabilization Ordinance's eviction code also allows tenants who already have pets to replace them with pets of the same type and number as have been permitted at any time during the tenancy. Thus, if a tenant has had a small dog at some time during the tenancy with the landlord's permission, and the tenant loses the pet, they may replace it with another small dog. This replacement is allowed even if the landlord invokes an existing no-pet clause in the lease or has changed terms of tenancy, creating a no-pet policy in the meantime. A tenant may not replace one type of animal with another (a cat instead of a dog), or one size with another (large dog for small dog).
If the landlord disputes that the pet was permitted and denies knowledge of the pet, the tenant will be responsible for bringing proof that the landlord permitted the pet ownership through receipts for pet deposit, mention of pet in the lease or addendum, written note from landlord concerning the pet, evidence that the on-site manager has known of the pet's presence for some years, etc. If the tenant cannot prove that the landlord actively permitted the pet's permission or knew of its existence and continued to accept rent, replacing a pet against a landlord's permission may result in eviction. A tenant should be careful to document permission to own a pet.
Obtaining Permission to Have a Pet
If a tenant is not 62 years or older, not disabled and not living with HIV/AIDS, and if there is a "no-pet" clause or other limit on pets in the rental contract, and they would like to get a pet, they need the landlord's permission (for exceptions for seniors, disabled and persons living with AIDs/ HIV please see above).
Landlords often refuse to grant permission to get a pet unless the tenant pays a "pet deposit" to cover any damage caused by the pet. Generally, in West Hollywood, deposits cannot be increased after a tenancy has begun. However, the City has created an exception for pet deposits if a landlord is going to allow a tenant to get a pet that is currently prohibited by the lease or rental agreement. The landlord can ask for a pet deposit of up to one month's rent, not to exceed the limit set by California state law on all deposits held by the landlord until a tenant moves out.
If a tenant is considering getting a pet and has a "no pet" clause in the rental contract or is considering getting a pet other than those allowed in the rental contract, they should remember: the landlord may be able to evict the tenant for violating the contract unless tenant and landlord agree to change the terms of tenancy. Trying to hide an animal's presence may result in a 3-day notice to perform or quit if the animal is discovered. A tenant may not be able to find a home for a pet in just 3 days and should consider the consequences of this for the pet before violating the lease.
Noise and Unattended Animal Complaints
If tenants' pets cause noise that disturbs other tenants' peaceful enjoyment of their dwelling units, the tenant may be cited by animal regulation and/or be evicted for causing a nuisance. Tenants may also not let pets roam the property unattended if it violates the lease or if the animals interfere with the safety of other tenants or damage property; Even if the pet is permitted in the lease.
Neighboring tenants should speak to the tenant who owns the pets and contact the landlord in writing to request help in dealing with problems caused by pets. They can also contact Dispute Resolution Services and ask for a neighbor-to-neighbor mediation to resolve the problem. Dispute Resolution Services may be contacted at (323) 876-2747.
If speaking to the neighbor, to the landlord or trying mediation does not help, neighbors may need to file a complaint with appropriate authorities about the animal's behavior. For information about filing noise complaints or complaints about animals that are threatening the safety of other persons on the property, contact the City's Animal Services line (323) 848-6396. They will be able to refer you to the appropriate agency to file a complaint.
If the tenant does not correct the problems, the landlord may have to take steps toward eviction for nuisances or code violations caused by the tenant's pet on the property.
Keeping It Clean
Tenants are also expected to clean up after their pets on the property and in the surrounding neighborhood. If waste from your pet accumulates on the property, you are creating a health violation. You may be cited by the Health Department and/or evicted for creation of a nuisance even if your pet is permitted by the lease.
Tenants whose neighbors are not removing animal waste from their pets, should contact the pet owners and ask them to remove it. If the pet owners refuse, the tenants should contact the landlord and ask him to deal with the accumulation of animal waste on the property. The tenants may also request an inspection by the Health Department if the waste is not removed. The Health Department may be contacted at (310) 665-8484.
Tenants may also try to resolve the problem through neighbor-to-neighbor mediation by Dispute Resolution Services before calling the Health Department. Dispute Resolution can be reached at (323) 876-2747.