The Intersection of Pet Policies and Anti-Discrimination Laws in Real Estate

Andrew M. Lieb is the managing attorney of Lieb at Law in the New York metro area.

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Advising real estate owners on drafting and enforcing pet policies requires a comprehensive understanding of not only the interplay of contract and disability law but also the current state of knowledge in the health sciences. When this mixture is neglected or parties proceed in ill-advised manners, disputes about dogs, cats, and other creatures often land in court.

Many housing providers have pet policies contained within their leases and/or house rules. In fact, only around half of landlords surveyed in an Anthrozoös study offered pet-friendly housing.  See Carlisle-Frank, Frank and Nielsen: Companion animal renters and pet-friendly housing in the US, 18 Anthrozoös 1, 59–77 (2005). Additionally, of pet-friendly apartments surveyed, only 9 percent allowed a broad range of animals and placed no “significant limitations on size or type.” Moreover, of the tenants with animals surveyed, 82 percent “reported having trouble finding a rental unit that would take their pet(s).” Therefore, the issue of pets in housing has greatly impacted the availability of housing throughout the United States.

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