Asymmetric pet policy?
September 30, 2009 7:18 PM   Subscribe

Is it legal for a landlord to allow a cat in one half of a duplex but not the other?

We're trying to sort out what our next step will be.

The lease says no pets. We asked our landlord for permission to get a cat, following suggestions from this post and other similar ones. We offered one month's rent as a pet deposit ($475) and invited him over for a pre-cat inspection at a time of his choosing to see how clean we keep the place. When he turned that down, saying that pets have cost him quite a bit in the past, we offered him $1000 as a deposit. He turned that down as well, and said that there was no way we could convince him to allow a pet.

We are experienced pet owners and are certain that there would be minimal, if any, damage. (My cat died in Jan at the age of 18, otherwise we'd have had a cat when we signed the lease). Our half of the duplex has carpet without pads under it, and the carpet is quite stained already from the previous tenant's children and/or pets. We have no children and do not smoke.

The neighbor in the other half of the duplex has had a secret cat for almost a year now. She got the cat after she moved in but before she signed the lease; our landlord is rather lazy and didn't get her to sign a lease for 5 months. He discovered her cat recently (after our cat request), and told her that either she goes or the cat goes. She didn't care and asked for 30 days to find a new place. The next day, he asked her for a pet deposit and said her cat could stay.

We are confused, dissapointed, and very tempted to just get a cat anyway. If he forced the issue, do we have any options other than finding a new place? We wouldn't abandon a family pet if it came to that; cats stay with you for 10+ years, and we only plan to stay in this area for one more year.

Location is in rural NE Texas.
posted by WowLookStars to Pets & Animals (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
its his house, he can do whatever he wants. Your lease says no pets...
posted by outsider at 7:19 PM on September 30, 2009


Unless Texas is even stranger than I imagine, there's no law that applies here. It's a private rental agreement: he can make leases as he wishes, and enforce or ignore their terms as he wishes.

If you're willing to risk eviction, get the cat, and if he finds it say "Okay, evict us."
posted by rokusan at 7:27 PM on September 30, 2009


Well, I don't know about the law. But you could find out how much deposit the neighbor paid, mail him a check for that amount, and write "Cat deposit." If he cashes it, then problem solved, right?

Can't say it would work for sure, but you might prevail upon his sense of fairness and/or unwillingness to lose a tenant.
posted by drjimmy11 at 7:42 PM on September 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Your options are limited none. If you signed a lease that says "no pets," it means "no pets." Unfortunately, I've run into the same problem you have when trying to find a rental place in north Texas. It seems a lot of landlords around here have been burned by dog owners (at least, that's what a real estate agent said to me) so several have instituted a blanket no pets rule. Other landlords follow what "the market" is doing and also say no pets, so the trend continues. My biggest pet peeve are these astronomical pet "deposits" of $500 or more, where half or more is non-refundable, on top of $10-20/month "pet rent."

But, again, if you signed a no pets lease--especially in Texas, which has very little in the way of renter protection--you're out of luck. I don't think there's any state that makes exception for non-assistance animals in relation to a lease, but it takes comparatively little time here to evict you, so you should tread lightly.
posted by fireoyster at 7:42 PM on September 30, 2009


He discovered her cat recently (after our cat request), and told her that either she goes or the cat goes. She didn't care and asked for 30 days to find a new place. The next day, he asked her for a pet deposit and said her cat could stay.

This tells me that the owner doesn't want a cat, but wants to lose tenants even less. Call his bluff, he'll cave.
posted by orthogonality at 7:44 PM on September 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


What orthogonality said. I think your best option is to look for a new place. Tell your landlord, "Gee, we want a cat, so we're moving out in a month." Maybe you'll find a better place, maybe he'll cave, either way you get a cat.
posted by hattifattener at 7:50 PM on September 30, 2009


cats stay with you for 10+ years, and we only plan to stay in this area for one more year.

Then what's the rush? After a year, move and then get a cat. I'm pretty sure there's not much else you can do without risking your ability to live there.
posted by Houstonian at 8:00 PM on September 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


But you could find out how much deposit the neighbor paid, mail him a check for that amount, and write "Cat deposit." If he cashes it, then problem solved, right?

If the problem that needs solving is the landlord needing free money, sure.

You live in a place that does not allow cats. Perhaps the landlord likes the other family more. Maybe he doesn't like you. Maybe he's just a hypocrite. You can violate your contract with him, if you wish to deal with the repercussions of this - Eviction, lawsuit, possibility of not being able to get a reference for future rentals from them.

Have fun.
posted by Rendus at 8:08 PM on September 30, 2009


The Houstonian is correct. This isn't worth the trouble if your time there is only one more year.

Yes, your landlord is an ass, but you signed a contract. You negotiated in good faith, he declined.

If owning a pet is really important to you, maybe consider ways you can shorten your 1 year remaining in the area.
posted by device55 at 8:25 PM on September 30, 2009


It seems a lot of landlords around here have been burned by dog owners (at least, that's what a real estate agent said to me) so several have instituted a blanket no pets rule. Other landlords follow what "the market" is doing and also say no pets, so the trend continues. My biggest pet peeve are these astronomical pet "deposits" of $500 or more, where half or more is non-refundable, on top of $10-20/month "pet rent."

As a (pet-owning) landlord, it's not capricious. It's that many renters* will refuse to take a place that has any noticeable pet hair or odor. And no matter how hard the tenants clean up and we steam-vac or whatever, it's still there. That's not even counting the occasional accident. Same as smoking hotel rooms, basically.

The deposit is there in case the place needs new carpet.
posted by dhartung at 8:28 PM on September 30, 2009


Unless Texas is even stranger than I imagine, there's no law that applies here.

Do you imagine or do you have some actual information? "No pets" clauses are illegal in Ontario, and while that ain't Texas, it's not the moon, either.

It's clear that your landlord would rather allow a pet than have to find a new tenant. He knows your neighbour will leave instead of get rid of her cat, while you'll probably simply remain catless. You could approach him from the standpoint that you were honest and upfront and it bothers you that your neighbour is getting her pet only because she employed subterfuge while you tried to work with him, and could he cut you some slack, but if that doesn't work, when does your lease end? Just make it clear that you're leaving, and leaving because he won't let you have a cat, and see where it goes from there.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:54 PM on September 30, 2009


> Do you imagine or do you have some actual information? "No pets" clauses are illegal in Ontario, and while that ain't Texas

The difference between Texas and Ontario are vast.

Nth-ing that you have no legal recourse here. You can call his bluff, move, or wait it out. Obviously these all have pros/cons, so you have to decide for yourself which outweigh the others. Personally I would just wait if it's about getting a new cat, and not sign the lease in the first place if it were an existing pet.

A couple other points about him being an "ass." 1. You signed a contractual agreement that said "no pets" and now wish to break it. 2. "But the other people get to!" is a weak argument in pretty much every circumstance (exception made for basic human rights). Obviously losing that tenant was enough to break him on this point, but that doesn't make it right to twist his arm so you can renege on an agreement.

I'm of the mind that with a large enough deposit to cover damages, disallowing pets is not entirely reasonable, but it's his house. Maybe it's not just about money but the hassle of having to deal with the damage.
posted by cj_ at 10:37 PM on September 30, 2009


Do you imagine or do you have some actual information? "No pets" clauses are illegal in Ontario, and while that ain't Texas, it's not the moon, either.

I think they're pretty common in the United States, so it's actually surprising to hear that somewhere they're illegal. (I've had to deal with them in Arkansas and Missouri, and know they're in Virginia).

With regard to the question, I would re-approach the landlord and have in your possession a check written out to the amount that your neighbor paid for a pet deposit. Lay it down in front of them and ask again, "So X was able to pay a deposit, we'd like to pay the same amount, as well." Heck, even write the check a little higher. Make the fellow choose over actually turning away money in hand, versus just dismissing the question outright.

Otherwise, suck it up and wait the year through.
posted by Atreides at 5:44 AM on October 1, 2009


It is not at all unusual for rental agreements to have a "no pets" clause in Texas. The only exception is for guide dogs (working animals that assist the blind and so on). Frankly, I'm surprised that in Ontario the law forces a property owner to accept pets in their rental property (and that's how it would be perceived here).
posted by Houstonian at 5:56 AM on October 1, 2009


It's not unusual for rental agreements to have 'no pets' clauses in Ontario, either -- but they're not legal or enforceable. I do get that there's a vast difference between Ontario and Texas and it's probably that Texas does allow them, but there were a lot of people who seemed to be just making assumptions with no apparent actual knowledge of Texas rental laws, and I just wanted them to clarify whether they actually knew or were just making assumptions.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:07 AM on October 1, 2009


I don't know what to say. I'd eat my hat if there were any laws in Texas protecting pet owners. I'd frankly be surprised if there were any laws whatsoever in Texas protecting renters, outside of Federal discrimination laws.

I live in California, the capital of pro-renter protection, and disallowing pets is fine. The idea that Texas would have a law like Ontario does is, frankly, absurd. Sorry. Some assumptions are safe bets.
posted by cj_ at 6:35 AM on October 1, 2009


If you're interested in the pet laws, you can look at this book, which is about real estate laws in Texas. Page 422 gives a sample legal Residential Lease Agreement. On it, #9 addresses "No Pets". This part of the legal sample agreement says:
Pets: There will be no pets, unless authorized by a separate written pet agreements. Tenants must not permit any pet, including mammals, reptiles, birds, fish, rodents, or insects on the Property, even temporarily, unless otherwise agreed by a separate written pet agreement. If Tenant violates the pet restrictions of this Lease, Tenant will pay Landlord a fee of _____ per day per pet for each day Tenant violates the pet restrictions as additional rent for any unauthorized pet. Landlord may remove or cause to be removed any unauthorized pet and deliver it to appropriate local authorities by providing at least 24-hour written notice to Tenant of Landlord's intention to remove the unauthorized pet...."
My point is, it's even on the sample agreements available as legal documents for people to use and modify. Probably, this was somewhat addressed by whatever lawsuits have helped us form the Texas Fair Housing Act (which allows people working animals such as guide dogs, among many other things) because that law is one that says in part, basically, it's ok to have a rule about "no pets" except when they are not pets, but working animals, who are needed to help the disabled.
posted by Houstonian at 6:39 AM on October 1, 2009


Thanks for all the answers. I guess I was just looking for some perspective; the situation is very frustrating to me. We were planning on just waiting the year until he allowed her cat - that brought all my kitty-loneliness feelings right back. So I guess the upshot is that yeah, life isn't fair. Oh well.
posted by WowLookStars at 4:34 AM on October 2, 2009


An update! We decided to do the sane thing and just wait for kitties at some point in the future. Today, our landlord shows up unannounced in the pouring rain and says he's changed his mind: all we need to do is give a pet deposit and we can get a cat. Awesome! :D
posted by WowLookStars at 7:19 PM on October 6, 2009


Excellent! Wonderful news!
posted by Atreides at 5:16 AM on October 7, 2009


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