CTRC Fact Sheet Index

TenantNet note: These Fact Sheets were published by CTRC in the mid-1990's. Some information will be out-of-date. As far as we know, there have been no updates to these fact sheets. While much of the information may still be valid, the reader should exercise caution.

CTRC Fact Sheets -- reproduced with permission.
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The Community Training Resource Center (CTRC) is a city-wide not-
for-profit organization that champions the rights of modest and
low-income tenants and promotes the preservation, improvement,
and expansion of affordable housing. CTRC provides training and
technical assistance for neighborhood housing groups, community
based organizations, legislative staffs and social service
providers.

CTRC produces fact sheets on tenants' rights, develops and
publishes research reports, and provides a written guide to New
York City government processes. CTRC advocates on budget policies
that affect housing and related services in low-income
neighborhoods. CTRC has led the campaign for the improvement and
expansion of the city's Housing Maintenance Code inspection and
enforcement services.
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CTRC Fact Sheet #007

TENANT'S RIGHT TO PETS

The right to keep a pet in New York City apartments was
strengthened with the enactment of Section 27-2009.1 of the
Housing Maintenance Code in 1983. The tenants to whom this
provision applies are:

o    Tenants in privately - owned multiple dwellings (three or
     more residential units)

o    Mitchell-Lama tenants

o    Tenants in city-owned (HPD) buildings

Tenants living in New York City Housing Authority buildings
(NYCHA), however, are not protected, although NYCHA regulations
have eased.


Reasons for the Law

The current law was enacted by the New York City Council
concerned that multiple dwelling leases prohibiting the keeping
of household pets had led to, "widespread abuses by building
owners or their agents, who knowing that a tenant has a pet for
an extended period of time, seek to evict the tenant and/or his
or her pet often for reasons unrelated to the creation of a
nuisance". The Council went on to declare, in the law, that pets
were kept for legitimate reasons of "safety and companionship"
and because of the continuing housing emergency it was "necessary
to protect pet owners from retaliatory eviction" by landlords
desiring possession of apartments. It concluded that enactment of
the provision was necessary "to prevent potential hardship and
dislocation of tenants within this city."


What the Law Says

Section 27-2009.1 states:

Where a tenant in a multiple dwelling openly and notoriously for
a period of three months or more following taking possession of a
unit, harbors or has harbored a household pet or pets, the
harboring of which is not prohibited by the multiple dwelling
law, the housing maintenance or the health codes of the city of
New York or any other applicable law, and the owner or his agent
has knowledge of this fact, and such owner fails within this
three month period to commence a summary proceeding or action to
enforce a lease provision prohibiting the keeping of such
household pets, such lease provision shall be waived.

Sometimes the law is called the "pet waiver law." It requires the
landlord to enforce any existing provision of a current lease
prohibiting pets within three months of the tenant's taking
possession of an apartment, or Obtaining a pet, or forever lose
the right to do so. In this context, "enforce" means the landlord
must start an eviction proceeding in Housing Court based on the
"no pets" clause in the lease. Failure to start such proceeding
would render the restrictive clause unenforceable.

Additionally, once a three-month waiver period is established,
the replacement of a pet who has died with another would not give
the landlord a new opportunity to object.


Exception

The waiver provision does not apply, however, if the household
pet causes damage to the dwelling unit or building, creates a
nuisance or "interferes substantially with the health, safety or
welfare of other tenants or occupants of the same or adjacent
building or structure."


Practical Tips

The law refers to the three month period as beginning with the
tenant taking possession of the unit. However, a tenant who moved
in without a pet would probably trigger the start of the three-
month period if they acquired a pet at a later date.

Since the provision requires keeping the pet "openly and
notoriously", overt acts by the tenant to hide the pet might be
self-defeating. Such acts might help the landlord prove that he
could not possibly have known about the pet and, therefore, did
not act. However, if it can be shown (by testimony of neighbors,
building personnel, etc.) that the tenant has kept the pet
openly, it is not necessary to show that the landlord knew about
the pet.

The "pet law" was intended to shift the burden of proving a
breach of the lease to the landlord and this, it seems, has been
accomplished. There have been very few pet-related evictions in
private housing since its enactment.

Moreover, the rare tenant who might lose a pet case is ultimately
protected from eviction by Section 753(4) of the Real Property
Law, which requires a judge rendering a judgment for possession
to a landlord to give the tenant an automatic ten days to "cure"
(dispose of the pet) and avoid eviction.

Of course, removing a pet would be a painful, if not impossible,
decision for many pet-owners. Fortunately, the law is interpreted
liberally by most judges, as it seems clear that its intent is to
protect tenants from having to face such an inhumane situation.

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These article are Copyright 1995 and 1996 by Community Training Resource
Center (CTRC) and reproduced by TenantNet. They may be freely
redistributed in their entirety provided they are reproduced exactly
as in the originals, including this copyright notice, the opening and
closing informational banners and any references to either CTRC
or TenantNet must be included.

These article are provided as is without any express or implied
warranty. While any information in these article is believed to be
correct at the time of writing, these articles are for educational
purposes only and do not purport to provide legal advice. If
you require legal advice, you should consult with a legal
practitioner licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.

Community Training Resource Center                (212)964-7200
47 Ann Street
New York, NY 10038

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