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When must a landlord waive a no-pets policy?

Landlords in New York generally include some language in tenant agreements that addresses the issue of pets. This language can be general or very specific. There are legal precedents, though, for a landlord being forced to waive a no-pets policy: namely, if a tenant has a service or support animal.

Still, court rulings in landlord-tenant disputes depend on details and proof, as was the case last month in a pet dispute in New York City Housing Court.

In some cases, a tenant without a proven physical disability can keep a pet, despite a no-pet policy, if the animal helps with maintaining the tenant's emotional health. That was the argument offered by a New York woman who had been served an eviction notice because of her pit bull.

However, the housing court judge ruled in favor of the landlord because the woman received her depression diagnosis after the landlord took legal action to evict her, and the woman had owned the dog for only about three months.

For contrast, consider another case involving a tenant who said her dog -- also a pit bull -- was needed for therapy reasons. In that case, the dog had actually bitten another tenant, but the New York Supreme Court decided that the tenant could keep her pet because the tenant was able to demonstrate that the animal was needed for therapy.

Clearly, pet-related disputes can vary in outcomes, depending on the tenant agreement and which party can prove what. Tenants and landlords alike will want to be aware of the available legal strategies for resolving such a dispute.

Source: Huffington Post, "Can My Evil Landlord Evict Fido and Fluffy?" Ann Margaret Carrozza, Oct. 31, 2013

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