The information provided refers primarily to New York laws and is not intended, nor should it be construed, as legal advice. Do not rely or act upon any information below without seeking the advice of an attorney in your state regarding the facts of your specific situation.
Rights depend on a variety of factors, including, for example, lease language, laws, the type of housing (such as public, private, rent regulated), and whether the animal is an assistance animal (such as a service or an emotional support animal).
While many leases contain no-pet provisions, not all do. Therefore, it is important for people to carefully read their leases and housing rules and regulations. Even tenants with no-pet lease clauses may have the right to keep pets. In New York City and Westchester County, for example, there are laws which limit the right of landlords, co-ops, and some condos to enforce no-pet lease provisions. The laws essentially provide that if a tenant in a multiple dwelling keeps a pet or pets openly with the knowledge of the landlord (owner) or owner’s agent (that could include security personnel, doormen, porters, supers, etc.) and the owner does not commence a legal proceeding to enforce the no-pet lease provision within three months, the provision is deemed waived for that particular animal. See NYC Administrative Code, 27-2009.1; Westchester County Code, Part IV, Article 695. Courts have interpreted the law to allow landlords this three month period each time a tenant gets a new pet.
Also important to note is that tenants living in rent controlled or rent stabilized apartments generally have greater lease renewal rights than tenants living in unregulated housing and that could affect the way a tenant may choose to handle eviction threats based on the keeping of an animal.
The NYC and Westchester no-pet lease clause waiver laws do not apply to public housing. Under federal law, tenants in public housing can have one or more pets but the law allows public housing authorities to set “reasonable” requirements for the keeping of pets, including, for example, the payment of a nominal pet deposit, limitations on the number of animals in a unit, and prohibitions based on size and weight. See 42 USC 1437z-3; 12 USC 1701r-1.
Very important to note is that individuals with physical or emotional disabilities have additional rights in most housing. Pursuant to the Federal Fair Housing Act and other laws, persons with disabilities may not be denied the right to keep emotional support or service animalz regardless of the animals' breed or weight and may not be charged an extra fee to keep the animalz. There are very limited exceptions to this right, such as if the animal poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others that cannot be reduced or eliminated to an acceptable level (HUD Notice: FHEO-2020-01, Issued January 28, 2020). Therefore, individuals with physical or emotional disabilities may be able to keep their animals even if their lease or house rules ban pets or limit the size or breed of animals allowed to be harbored.
Sometimes a letter from a health care professional stating that the individual has a disability and that a support animal is needed to help the individual with major life activities, to enable the individual to better deal with his/her limitations, to more fully enjoy his/her dwelling unit, and to improve his/her daily functioning, will resolve a housing dispute about the keeping of the animal. Complaints regarding discrimination in housing may be made to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD):
Consulting with an attorney first can be helpful.
Individuals with legal issues concerning animals in housing should consult immediately with an attorney if at all possible. People should NOT assume that they have no rights simply because they signed a no-pet lease or their co-op or condo has rules prohibiting or restricting pets.