New law aims to ensure that no family must choose between their pet and their home

By on September 7, 2022 with 5 Comments

Throughout the country, millions of people are experiencing a devastating housing crisis—and people with pets face special hardships when searching for a place to live. It’s still far too common that some rental properties have arbitrary restrictions about the allowed breeds or weight of companion animals, and some properties also impose exorbitant, often non-refundable fees on tenants with pets. These policies can have serious consequences. They can adversely affect a tenant’s ability to access housing, contribute to pet relinquishment and can act as a major barrier to people acquiring an affordable and stable place to live. This can leave families facing an unthinkable situation: having to choose between a roof over their heads and their beloved companion animals.

That is why it is so heartening that some states are taking action with laws that lessen the pressure on families with pets. Just last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom of California signed a bill into law that will require housing developments financed through the Department of Housing and Community Development and the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Program to allow residents to keep pets. It also directs these housing providers to implement pet-inclusive policies that are free from breed or weight restrictions and do not require tenants to pay monthly pet fees on top of regular monthly rent and security deposits. The law balances protections for property owners and imposes reasonable pet-keeping rules and regulations, while improving access to affordable rental housing for California’s low-income households with pets. This law was inspired by the groundwork laid by the Pet Friendly Housing Act of 2017, and we thank Sen. Josh Newman for taking up this urgent issue and partnering with us to ensure pets and families can stay together. We also appreciate the members of the California State Legislature who voted in support of this bill and Gov. Newsom for taking swift action to sign it into law.

California isn’t the only state that has gone the extra mile to recognize the importance of the human-animal bond and its relationship to the housing crisis. We also worked in Nevada and Illinois to increase the availability of affordable housing that accepts pets, and several other states have introduced legislation that has yet to pass. So, there has been a lot of positive progress, but there’s still work to be done.

What the research says

The term “pet-friendly housing” is supposed to describe rental housing that accommodates tenants with pets, but the truth is the majority of “pet-friendly” housing is rife with limitations and strict conditions. Instead of welcoming, it’s exclusionary.

A record number of U.S. households and nearly three-fourths of U.S. renters have pets. Most Americans think of their pets as members of the family, so when tenants have trouble finding housing that will accommodate their companion animals, it can create a crisis. Although 76% of owner/operators say their properties are pet-friendly, 72% of residents surveyed said that pet-friendly housing is hard to find and 59% say that truly pet-friendly housing is too expensive, according to findings from Michelson Found Animals and Human Animal Bond Research Institute. The research points to pet restrictions as the primary cause of this disconnect and a barrier for many in securing housing.

According to a recent analysis in the Frontiers in Veterinary Science Journal, pet fees beyond a security deposit add to the financial barriers that low-income tenants face when trying to find housing. The fact that pet rental fees and restrictive policies are onerous and contribute to housing insecurity is reflected in the numerous support programs and funding allocated to organizations charged with caring for individuals in need of assistance with pets.

A report from Best Friends Animal Society found that human reasons were three times as likely to drive relinquishment compared to issues related to the pets themselves. The most frequently cited reasons why people relinquish their pets were “too many animals,” at 16.1%, and “housing,” at 13.7%. This is why organizations like HEART LA, RedRover and others committed to keeping pets and their families together in times of crisis have their work cut out for them at the present time.

How you can help

The clear takeaway from this situation, as with so many others, is that animal and human welfare cannot be viewed independently. If we want to protect pets, we must protect the people who love them, and stronger protections for companion animals and their caretakers begin with local government. Being creative and educating yourself about the housing crisis this country is experiencing will help keep pets and their people together. You can join us in creating more humane, stably housed, pet-inclusive communities. I encourage you to build alliances, talk to your lawmakers and get engaged—our advocate toolkits are a great place to start.

Follow Kitty Block on Twitter @HSUSKittyBlock.

Categories
Companion Animals, Public Policy (Legal/Legislative)

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5 Comments

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  1. Alan Alejandro Maldonado Ortiz says:

    Ellos son parte de la familia y por lo tanto nos tienen que acompañar y seguir adónde vayamos

    • Steve Monahan says:

      Thank you for this thorough and thoughtful article. This is something close to our heart and the purpose in our creating Green Pets America Charities, 15 years ago. We will download your material. And contact our federal, state, county and city officials. Include you article and set up a personal face to face meeting with each .We have found them all supportive on our requests when presented with facts. Respect and a love for animals and how important they are to us, and we to them. Especially in these upside down times. Steven Monahan GPACHARITIES.org

  2. SUE ANNE BIASIZZO says:

    I have asked our Federal (HUD) housing authority to allow able-bodied, interested seniors to be allowed to foster animals if they do not wish to adopt. Our nousing board has turned it down. We do have a restrictive pet policy that our housing authority does not pay attention to so there are multiple cats and dogs living in the family units. neighbors have complained of dog fights, bites, etc.
    One thing I have noticed is that responsible shelters ask for a landlord’s permission in writing for the adoptee to adopt. In our case the landlord must respond in a letter with proper letterhead. But, I suspect that some people are given the animals from someone else and our housing authority does not follow up on complaints.

  3. Rebecca Wood-Salvi says:

    As a pet owner , I really wish landlords would be more lenient in allowing tenants to have pets. I never lived in a place that wouldn’t allow pets at the price of heavy add on fees. I hope more states will adopt housing and pet laws so owners don’t have to make the awful decision to relinquish animals to already overcrowded shelters and rescues

  4. Hannelore Gabriel says:

    I’m in a bad place also with y pet he’s 75 lbs and a mixed breed, any apartments that state we’re pet friend are pet selective pets are welcome if it’s up to 20 or 30 lbs. that really is not fair, yes you should have rules that need to be followed but to discriminate against size is wrong

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