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California proposes landlords must accept pets, experts warn rents will rise

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(The Center Square) – California is proposing that landlords accept pets for tenant residencies, a change that landlords warn will result in higher rents required to offset the cost of pet damages and limits on security deposits to one month’s rent.

AB 2216 was introduced by Assemblymember Matt Haney, D-San Francisco as a spot bill with limited information to be fleshed out later on in the legislative process. While the bill itself only says “it is the intent of the Legislature to enact legislation related to a landlord’s ability to prohibit common household pets in residential tenancies,” Haney’s statement on the bill outlines his intent.

Haney’s office describes AB 2216 as a measure that “prohibits blanket pet bans in rental units, and requires “landlords to have reasonable reason(s) for not allowing a pet in a rental unit and only allows landlords to ask about pet ownership after a tenant’s application has been approved.”

Last year, Haney introduced a bill signed into law that limits security deposits to one month’s rent. Landlord groups warn that if the bill passes, this limitation on security deposits, combined with the high cost of pet damages, will lead landlords to increase rents.

“There’d be higher rents because you’re not going to be able to collect this damage through a security deposit,” said Debra Carlton, Executive Vice President State Government Affairs at the California Apartment Association, to The Center Square. “Security deposits can be used for the last month’s rent so you’re going to have nothing left for damages.”

Others warned of nuisances to other tenants, and the risk that certain dog breeds would pose to property owners’ ability to get property insurance.

“Other residents at a property may have been exposed to a bite incident and scared to be near animals while others may be highly allergic,” said Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles Executive Director Daniel Yukelson to The Center Square. “Some insurance companies discriminate against dog breeds, which will make obtaining liability insurance more challenging and more expensive in an insurance market that is currently in crisis in California.”

According to a Forbes analysis, all home insurance companies ban pitbulls, Rottweilers, and Dobermanns. Pitbulls are less than 6% of dogs but are responsible for 66% of dog bite fatalities.

On the other hand, Haney’s staff claim 70% of renters are pet owners, while just 30% of rentals in a given city tend to be pet-friendly, a situation that Haney’s office says “leaves landlords without adequate coverage for potential damages” as tenants bring in pets without landlords’ knowledge.

“Like it or not humans have pets, they always have and they always will,” said Haney in a statement. “Blanket no companion pet policies are causing landlords to miss out on good tenants who get rejected without even getting a chance to apply for a place to live. The current system is bad for everyone.”

Haney’s release describes landlords as being able to have “reasonable” pet restrictions, though without more information in his bill it is difficult to ascertain what “reasonable” entails and who will get to decide what is “reasonable.”

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