Pets as Tenants, What is happening in Oregon?
In 2009 Oregon legislative session tenant advocates were able to limit the number and extent of fees that are charged by landlords. These fee modifications took effect on the 1st of January 2010.
One of the fee’s that was eliminated was the pet fee. In response to this fee change, landlords reviewed their policies and made adjustments to offset the costs involved with renting to tenants with pets.
Landlords continue to charge security deposits (to allow pets) as well as non compliance fees of up to $50 for a tenant’s failure to clean up pet waste from premises (other than dwelling unit). These fees and deposits as well as the rent (tenant and pet) must now be provided (in writing) by the landlord to a potential applicant, before landlord enters into new written rental agreement with an applicant or accepts any payment from an applicant (ORS 90.300 – 302).
Pets, who wants them?
More and more tenants have pets, and not just goldfish. Most companies limit the weight, breed and kind of pets to protect themselves from extensive property damage as well as animals that might potentially attack other tenants.
They will charge a pet deposit and potentially pet rent; in addition to having the tenants sign a pet agreement that clearly delineates tenant and landlord responsibilities.
As vacancies have increased with the lack of jobs, and the outflow of illegal and undocumented tenants has increased, landlords have been digging deeper and deeper into their tool bag to keep apartments and rental homes full. One of the tools has been allowing tenants to rent with their pets.
Do Landlords have to rent to pets if they don’t want to?
Landlords who live in a rental property with 4 or fewer units or own 3 houses (and manage themselves) are exempt from fair housing rules that apply to all other Landlords. Those Landlords with five or more units must rent to tenants that have service animals.
Service animals are defined by the Department of Urban Development as follows:
“Service animals that assist persons with disabilities are considered to be auxiliary aids and are exempt from pet policies and from refundable pet deposits. Examples include guide dogs for persons with vision impairments, hearing dogs for persons with hearing impairments, and emotional assistance animals for persons with chronic mental illness” (from 1983 HUD internal regulations, Occupancy Requirements of subsidized Multifamily Housing Programs, HUD NO.4350.3, 4-13(b)(1998). A letter from an appropriate professional, such as a therapist or a physician can be required by the Landlord.
Tenants are responsible for the care, feeding and clean up of the animals they own. If there is a concern that the assistance animal might be particularly disruptive or the tenant fails to take proper measures to ensure that the animal does not bother other tenants, the landlord may be justified in denying accommodation or file for an eviction. In the case of Woodside Village v Herzmark, FH-FL Rptr PP18,129(Conn.Sup.CT.1993) the court found that a federally assisted housing complex did not violate the fair housing statues by evicting a mentally ill resident, because of his failure to walk his dog in designated areas and chose not use a pooper – scooper. (From the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, www.bazelon.org/issues/housing/infosheetsfhinfosheet6.)
Landlords may exclude any animal, including service animals from their rental property, when the animals’ behavior poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others. For example, a service animal that displays vicious behavior towards others may be excluded. Unfortunately with service animals you cannot make assumptions, regarding how a particular animal is likely to behave, based on previous experience. Each situation must be considered on an individual basis. If a service animal is disruptive or dangerous, you can ask the owner of the animal to remove the animal, but you must remember the tenant cannot be asked to leave unless they are part of the disruptive behavior.
In summary, as noted on the survey chart below, we are seeing owners and property managers consistently charging pet deposits and excluding potentially violent or loud dogs. We are also seeing a slow increase in the number of property managers and owners who are charging pet rent.
Some landlords still do not rent to tenants with pets; others have decided that having units rented instead of vacant is more important. Once the economy rebounds we may see fewer landlords taking pets, with the exception of the pets they are required to take by federal law. In the meantime remember that no pet fees are allowed in Oregon as of 1 January 2010.
P.S. For those Landlords that have not seen an updated pet agreement we have attached one with this article.