Opinion: The Hidden Costs of California’s Proposed Pet-Friendly Tenant Legislation

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San Diego is famous for its pet-friendly culture, with countless dog parks, beaches, and events for pets and their owners. But not everyone can be around animals. Some people have allergies, immune system issues, or trauma from past incidents. Others prefer peace and quiet, especially when working from home.

Even though some people prefer to live in animal-free homes, a new proposed law would force many people to live in communities where pets are allowed.

Sponsored by the Humane Society to ease overcrowded animal shelters, Assembly Bill 2216 has good intentions but would have serious consequences. It would force any multi-family building of 16 or more homes to accept pets -- disrupting the balance between pet lovers and those who need or prefer pet-free environments.

The charming neighborhoods of Southern California rely on landlords who provide diverse housing options. This legislation would prevent them from providing pet-free housing. This one-size-fits-all approach undermines property owners’ autonomy and creates significant challenges for both tenants and landlords.

Residents who need pet-free homes due to allergies, illnesses, trauma, or noise sensitivity would suffer. Many Californians would lose the opportunity to live in a suitable environment.

This legislation would take away options for renters. For many, living in a pet-free environment is a necessity due to health concerns. Pet allergies can lead to severe health issues, and individuals with traumatic experiences involving animals may suffer anxiety and stress around pets. Forcing these individuals to live with pets is deeply unfair and detrimental to their well-being.

Pets, especially dogs, can be noisy, disturbing other tenants. This is a major issue in urban areas where noise pollution is already a problem. Excessive noise can disrupt work-from-home situations, leading to stress and decreased productivity.

The legislation would also create financial risks for landlords -- especially the smaller, mom-and-pop owners. From dogs and cats to gerbils and lizards, it’s a fact that pets can damage homes, from scratched walls and aquarium leakage to urine-soaked floors and ripped screens. It also makes it harder and more expensive to provide a clean unit for the next tenant. 

While the current version of the bill would allow landlords to require tenants to have liability insurance, the fact remains that having pets in rental units also increases liability risks for property owners. For example, if a pet injures someone, the landlord could be held liable. Pet-related incidents could lead to higher insurance premiums or loss of coverage -- at a time when affordable insurance is already hard to find. 

California law already provides guidelines for pets in rental units. Why impose a new, stricter regulation that removes more autonomy and flexibility from both landlords and tenants?

Supporters of AB 2216 argue that the bill promotes inclusivity for pet owners, but the real-world implications are more complex. Instead of a blanket policy mandating landlords to accept pets, a more balanced approach would encourage tailored agreements between landlords and tenants.

As this bill moves closer to becoming law, it’s crucial to consider its wider implications. California thrives on diversity and choice; let’s not strip away small landlords’ ability to manage their properties or tenants’ rights to choose a living environment that suits their needs. 

We should aim for solutions that respect and address the needs of all Californians -- pet owners and non-pet owners alike.


Alan Pentico, CAE, is the executive director of the Southern California Rental Housing Association.