No kitty in my new apartment!?!?
October 23, 2011 2:28 PM   Subscribe

Landlord says a fellow tenant's allergies mean no kitty for me. Is there anything I can do?

When my roommate and I were searching for an apartment, we specifically told the broker we planned to get a cat soon, and it was important that our apartment allowed said cat. For this apartment, we were told (by the broker, who rents all of the apartments for our landlord and seems to be fairly close with our landlord) that, while the lease said it was no pets, that was a standard clause, and the landlord would be fine discussing a pet later. After all, the couple living above us (in a 3-family walkup) have a cat!

Clearly, it was dumb to not confirm this with the landlord.

Fast-forward to now: I want to take in a kitten from a co-worker (his dog hates the cat). Like the good tenant I think I am, I called my landlord to let him know and see what kind of pet deposit—if any—he wanted. Little did I know that absolutely no cats! are allowed, because the landlord's daughter—who lives in the apartment below mine—has a cat allergy.

I think this is preposterous. Our apartments have hardwood floors, do not have vent heating, and the cat would not be allowed into the building hallway. It wouldn't be an outdoors cat. (And even if it was, our next-door neighbor's cat roams around our backyard all day! It's sitting outside my window right now!) I can't imagine that would affect her allergies.

(The cat on the third floor is allowed because it is presumably hypoallergenic.)

Obviously, I have no intentions of breaking my lease, going behind my landlord's back, or getting a cat if it truly will affect my neighbor. But I'd like to at least have a discussion with the daughter and her parents/my landlord to see if they'd be willing to work something out—even if it's just a temporary "let's see if this works and if not we'll get rid of the cat."

So, my question: Would a cat, kept on a separate floor and in a completely separate apartment with no vent connection between the apartments, affect my landlord's daughter's allergies? How can I best approach this without annoying or angering my landlord or his daughter? I've already baked cookies as a goodwill offering.

Normally I would just drop this, but I'd hate to let down my co-worker and potentially send the cute kitty to a shelter, and I've been planning long-term for a new cat (I've never lived without animals, so I already feel a little naked in this apartment) so suddenly being told it's not possible has sent me into a funk. I wouldn't have moved here if I'd known, and I'm upset with the broker for not being upfront with me. Help?

If it makes any difference, I'm in NYC/Queens.
posted by good day merlock to Pets & Animals (30 answers total)
the lease says no pets, the landlord is a parent protecting their daughter. sadly, i think this means no matter how right you may be, you don't get a cat while living here.
posted by nadawi at 2:35 PM on October 23, 2011 [14 favorites]

Response by poster: It may be irrelevant but the daughter is in her mid-30s—hardly "just moved out of college" or anything. But it might not be important.
posted by good day merlock at 2:37 PM on October 23, 2011

What possible reason do they have to say yes to you? The worst case scenarios are obvious: daughter gets sick, cat causes problems, etc, and there's absolutely zero upside: your lease already says no cats, and they obviously don't like cats. Unless you can come up with any reason that they would want to say yes to you, I don't see that you have any chance.
posted by brainmouse at 2:37 PM on October 23, 2011 [3 favorites]

It is irrelevent whether the cat would affect your landlord or his daughter. He has every right, and has explicitly taken every right, to ban pets from the apartment.

Sorry, you made a mistake in not getting a lease that allows pets. Deal with it or move.
posted by saeculorum at 2:39 PM on October 23, 2011 [5 favorites]

even if it's just a temporary "let's see if this works and if not we'll get rid of the cat."

Do not propose this, even if they might agree. Do NOT do this to the cat.
posted by sweetkid at 2:42 PM on October 23, 2011 [21 favorites]

I feel your pain, and one of my missions in life is to make landlords more tolerant of pets.

However, you're SOL here. Your lease says no pets, and there's a family allergy. You aren't getting a cat while you live there, sorry.

I realize your question is more about the effect of your cat on the allergies, but in the end, it really doesn't matter, and you're fighting a losing battle. Even if you did get the cat on a trial basis and the daughter's allergies were still affected, now you have to give up the kitten or move, which isn't fair to the cat (never might the daughter). Kittens are much more likely to be adopted while they're still cute little kittens.

Chalk this up to a life lesson (it's one I've also learned the hard way) and next time get the pets into the lease up front.
posted by cgg at 2:45 PM on October 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Seconding sweetkid - cats are very sensitive to changes in their environment and moving a kitten around from house to house will be really traumatic for him.

I've had cats my whole life and I can tell you that their hair migrates in amazing ways. Mine have never been outside my house, but I would be willing to bet severely cat-allergic people would sneeze in my car or even my office. I know it's sad that you can't have a cat, but I do think there's a chance that the woman could be affected if she's directly beneath you.
posted by something something at 2:45 PM on October 23, 2011

I think your broker let you down, not the landlord. Even if the LL's daughter can deal with the "cat waft through the floor" issue, it will still be a hot button issue in the future. No need to start a little spat between you and your LL.

Let this one go and chalk it up to this lesson learned - never fully trust a broker.

Also, resist the urge to compare yourself to the upstairs neighbor. They may have a totally different situation with the LL. Deal with this on your terms.

And take a pee on that broker's foot if the opportunity presents itself. Tell them you are just channeling a frustrated cat.
posted by lampshade at 2:46 PM on October 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm sorry, but the lease says no pets. If it was that important to you, you probably should have talked to the landlord before signing the lease. Even if the cat could live in your apartment without actually affecting the daughter's allergies, I don't see any way around this one -- they said no, which they have every right to do, and you should not have assumed (even under the poor guidance of the broker) that an exception would be made for a pet later when the lease flat out said no pets.
posted by katy song at 2:48 PM on October 23, 2011

her age is of no importance. the parents will side with their child. she could be 60 and it would still be the same.
posted by nadawi at 2:48 PM on October 23, 2011 [3 favorites]

If you really want to be around cats, and you can't have one at home, look into volunteering at your local animal shelter. They always need volunteers to play with the animals, clean the cages, and the like. Then, you get your necessary cat contact, and they don't get allergic reactions.
posted by spinifex23 at 2:53 PM on October 23, 2011

Response by poster: I'm already signed up as a volunteer and it's lovely. Not a perfect substitution but it helps. :)
posted by good day merlock at 2:54 PM on October 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

There are other reasons to not want a cat in the building. For instance, if the daughter wanted to move into your apartment later on and there was cat-dander residue, that might make it hard. I understand the landlord's point of view, and you should never believe a broker or realtor. They just tell you what they think you want to hear.
posted by rikschell at 2:55 PM on October 23, 2011

I love cats. I would love to own one. But I became allergic to them as an adult and can't which makes me very sad. I can't tell you if cat dander would be a problem for your neighbor in your specific situation. But I can tell you that in a similar situation, when our neighbor across the hall got a cat, it definitely effected my husbands allergies.
posted by bq at 3:30 PM on October 23, 2011

How long is your lease? Usually leases are 12 months - I've never heard of a lease being for a term of years. I would look into moving as soon as my lease was up - and next time I would deal with my future landlord in person; I've never had to use a broker and see no reason why most people should. Craigslist is your friend.

While you are still living where you are, I second the idea to volunteer at your local animal shelter. Work at a no-kill if you can't stand the idea of euthanasia (and most people can't, I know I can't). This is not the time or place for you to get a cat, because "my daughter has allergies" will cause your landlord to take a much harder line than vague "well they might damage the blinds" reasons for not having a cat.

If you want to help out your co-worker's kitten, why don't you help him/her place it? Best Friends, a pet rescue/sanctuary, has publications on how to find a home for a pet. You can also put the kitten's bio and picture up on Petfinder. (Note - do not offer the kitten for free; charge a nominal fee or ask for a donation to a rescue organization. This weeds out the people who take kittens for nefarious purposes.)
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 3:33 PM on October 23, 2011

If your neighbour is allowed a cat because it's hypoallergenic, why can't you have a hypoallergenic cat too? I know you want THIS kitten, but any cat is better than no cat, right?
posted by lollusc at 3:45 PM on October 23, 2011

I think the best way to approach it is by being really clear that you know you're asking for a favor, and by being gracious when they say no. I'd also explain the problem with the broker, without seeming like you're blaming the landlord.

If it's incredibly important to you to get a cat soon, ask if you can break the lease in light of the misunderstanding.
posted by Mavri at 3:49 PM on October 23, 2011

As someone with a severe cat allergy, I would just like to chime in and say there is a very real possibility that a cat living on a separate floor could make this woman sick. I love cats, but I can't even really be in buildings where cats have recently lived without being affected. It's a really unfortunate allergy. Best of luck.
posted by faeuboulanger at 4:43 PM on October 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Adding to what faeuboulanger said - having had moderate allergies to catsmy whole life and living with them my whole adult life, I never understood how someone could get rid of a cat due to allergies. Then I developed severe allergies to my rabbit, including adult onset asthma, and I totally understand now why some people will not tolerate pets and severe allergies. It's not just the sniffles, it can be potentially life threatening. I'm a bit of an oddball, and my rabbit is old so I've opted to keep her with my husband attending to her needs now, but if I was alone, she was younger, or I slightly less stubborn about animal responsibility, she'd be rehomed.

With that said, I wouldn't expect the landlord to change their mind.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 5:14 PM on October 23, 2011

Also, resist the urge to compare yourself to the upstairs neighbor. They may have a totally different situation with the LL. Deal with this on your terms

I feel compelled to push back a little on this, sympathize with the poster's legitimate question. If it's possible to broach the subject without causing any rifts the potential gain is very great for both the poster and the cat. None of us want you to compromise your standing with your LL, but you have the leverage of what you were told by your broker to at least open the door a little. If LL slams it in your face s/he is saying more about them than they are about you.

Maybe you could inquire of upstairs neighbor what kind of cat they have to see what you can learn of their "arrangement.?"
posted by R2WeTwo at 5:34 PM on October 23, 2011

Lease says no cats. End of story. IAALL
posted by cmoj at 5:43 PM on October 23, 2011

My understanding from a relative who lives in NYC is that NYC's tenant laws are similar to those in Ontario: Even if a lease says 'no pets', that clause may have no legal weight at all. You may want to look into it further.
posted by Jairus at 5:51 PM on October 23, 2011

I hesitated to mention this because the poster says she doesn't want to breach the lease, but all the comments saying, essentially, "the lease is the last word," along with Jairus's response makes me think it needs to be said. NYC has a pet law, which says that if you keep a pet in violation of your lease, openly and notoriously, for three months, and your landlord doesn't bring an eviction proceeding, then the landlord has waived its right to enforce the no-pet clause.

I don't recommend relying on the pet law if you can help it, especially for cats, because proving the necessary time period and "openly and notoriously" can be difficult. IAAL, but not yours, and this isn't legal advice.

In my experience as a tenant and a New Yorker, NYC landlords don't negotiate (unless maybe you're in a much much higher income bracket than I have experience with). They use the form lease, and if you don't sign, there are plenty of people who will. I don't know about dogs, but my sense is that the no-pet clause is just routinely ignored for cats. So, people saying the poster should have negotiated a different lease are perhaps not familiar with NYC.
posted by Mavri at 6:09 PM on October 23, 2011

If it's possible to broach the subject without causing any rifts the potential gain is very great for both the poster and the cat.

That is a very reasonable approach and probably in any sane part of the world, it would be worth pursuing. But the OP is in NYC which means reason, good sense and everything that is right gets thrown out the window when dealing with a LL.

Ok...that is a little harsh, but my experiences in NYC (and others' too) were almost always exercises in futility when dealing with the LL gauntlet.
posted by lampshade at 6:24 PM on October 23, 2011

I live in Toronto. If a lease says "No pets" on it, that part of the lease is void because it is not legal for a landlord to restrict a tenant from having a pet... unless a neighbor has allergies. It's the only exception. So, if it won't fly in a city with pretty good tenant-rights, it ain't gonna fly in NYC.
posted by dobbs at 8:58 PM on October 23, 2011

NYC has a lot of tenant rights, actually. I do think it's possible to negotiate this with the landlord, or at least try to, but as I said before, just don't offer some sort of "trial period" option.
posted by sweetkid at 9:11 PM on October 23, 2011

Without addressing the lease issue, only speaking to the allergy issue:

I used to have two cats. During that time, I was in a mall once and ran into a friend. I did not touch the friend at all, but stood about two feet from her, talking, and she very quickly started getting itchy and sneezy. So, even existing in the same common areas might do it.
posted by Pax at 8:43 AM on October 24, 2011

I have found that brokers will say almost anything in order to get a lease signed.
posted by noxetlux at 10:53 AM on October 24, 2011

Response by poster: Hey all—thanks for the response.

As a quick update: I ran into the daughter last night and asked her about it (we've been rather friendly during our time here). She responded with a laugh and a "Gosh, I haven't been seriously allergic to cats since I was a kid." But based on your responses, I'm gonna let this particular cat go (crossing my fingers someone takes this kitty and it isn't resigned to the pound—anyone in NYC want a cute tabby kitty? :) until I can talk further about it with the daughter and maybe see if they would consider granting an exception.

I realize that, when dealing with apartments outside of NYC, no pets often means NO PETS, but most of the people I know here with pets are actually on no pets leases—and aren't hiding the pets. Some are using the three-month clause, but many others just have written permission from their landlords and potentially paid a pet deposit. Hence why I didn't doubt anything when I signed the lease—although I've definitely learned to confirm everything with my landlord and never trust brokers!

And I would love to try to aim for the three-month "if you keep your pets this long you can keep them forever!" clause, but I actually really like my landlords, outside of this particular incident, and don't want to do anything to infuriate them.

P.S. I would never suggest a "trial period" for any other cat—the only reason I would now is because, if I can't take it, it's probably going to the pound. I'd rather give it a chance than just punt it there immediately
posted by good day merlock at 12:04 PM on October 24, 2011

good day merlock, try reaching out to adoption advocacy centers -- Ollie's Place is a good one -- and ask them what they would recommend you try to keep lil kitto from going to the shelter. I'll also look up the place that adopted me my most recent lil orange guy -- they scoop em up from shelters and do adoption events outside pet stores.
posted by sweetkid at 12:23 PM on October 24, 2011

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