California Mulls Ban on No-Pet Policies to Counter Housing Crisis

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In the Golden State, a struggle is underway: individuals seeking shelter wage war against archaic housing policies that render their furred, four-legged companions unwelcome. A proposed state legislation, however, ambitiously aims to address this issue, proposing a ban on antiquated no-pet policies and seeking to forbid landlords from levying additional fees for tenants with common pets such as cats and dogs.

With the bill recently passing a vital committee, stakeholders are hopeful. Advocates of this campaign assert that the dearth of pet-friendly housing is causing renters to abandon housing hunts altogether, surrender their cherished animals to already brimming shelters, or retreat deeper into the shadows with their ‘unapproved’ companions.

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Take the case of Andrea Amavisca, a renter from the city of Sacramento. Armed with perseverance, Andrea and her boyfriend embarked on a month-long exhaustive search for a pet-friendly place to call home for themselves and their 2-year-old cattle dog mix. Her attempts to connect with potential landlords diminished dramatically once they discovered the presence of a dog in her family. Despite the hardships, they finally secured a two-bedroom apartment—granted they paid an additional $500 as a security fee.

Landlord circles, however, bristle at the thought of such legislation. They argue about repair costs, possible liabilities from dog bites, and concerns over disturbing other tenants. Moreover, they advocate for state lawmakers to allow higher security deposits—capped at one month’s rent last year—to cover for possible pet-related damages.

Among those voicing their opinions is Russell Lowery, the executive director of the California Rental Housing Association. He contends, “There are bad people and there are bad dogs, and our job is to screen that and make sure that we’re providing a safe environment for everyone”.

The bill, drafted by Assemblymember Matt Haney—a San Francisco Democrat and chair of the renters’ caucus, does not demand that landlords universally accept pets. It suggests, however, that reasons for denying a pet should be based on solid grounds like public health concerns. Additionally, landlords would be prohibited from seeking information about existing or potential pets until after they have approved an applicant, who must inform the landlord about the pet at least three days before the lease agreement is signed.

Ivan Blackshear, a landlord who already rents to feline-friendly tenants at his triplex in Chico, feels that decisions regarding pet policies and deposits should be between the landlord and tenant, free from government intervention.

Assemblymember Isaac Bryan laments the barriers caused by pet restrictions, having himself faced challenges in finding a rental property because of his Great Dane, Darius. “This simple barrier of having a companion animal could lead directly to housing insecurity and homelessness, if not addressed,” he warns.

Support for the bill also comes from animal welfare groups. Ann Dunn, director of Oakland Animal Services, has observed a sharp uptick in pet abandonments since the city of Oakland’s eviction moratorium ended last summer.

Following a successful floor vote in the Assembly, the bill is on its way to the Senate for further consideration, demonstrating progress not merely for California’s citizens, but for their loyal animal companions as well.