A blog by spcaLA president, Madeline Bernstein

Oct 2, 2011

Landlords - Stop Gouging Pet Owners!

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When the going gets tough, the tough gouge the vulnerable. In this case, the vulnerable are pet owners seeking to rent or lease homes and apartments. The trend is to charge pet owners extra rent in addition to a non-refundable pet security deposit over and above a standard security deposit. People are put in the untenable position of either choosing between a home and a beloved family pet or paying substantially extra to have both. Thus, the landlord benefits from the "haves" who can afford the inflated rates and the "have nots" who will sacrifice other needs so as not to rip a pet from the arms of a crying child. 

At a time when unemployment is raging and homes are being foreclosed in record numbers, this trend is particularly unconscionable and the pain caused is particularly acute. It further victimizes those already suffering severe blows to their lifestyle, but it also contributes to more pets being turned into shelters at a time when shelters are also struggling with a decrease in funding. In California, so many animals were simply abandoned in foreclosed homes that a law had to be passed to instruct and mandate realtors to arrange for those animals to be rescued. 

Notwithstanding the fact that in some states, like California, a non-refundable deposit is actually illegal, and the amount of a legal deposit is limited to twice or thrice the amount of a month's rent, the homeless apartment seeker or lessee often lacks the time and wherewithal to litigate the issue either at the beginning or end of the rental or lease period.

Additionally, pet owners who are willing to add to a legal, refundable security deposit should damage, beyond reasonable wear and tear, occur as a result of a pet, are being told that it is not enough despite the fact that such is the stated purpose of such a deposit. Likewise, where the free market would support a legal, higher "pet rent", landlords are still requiring additional "pet security deposits". 
Squeezing both a rent surcharge and an extra deposit from a tenant is simply gouging as it holds the pet owner hostage until a ransom is paid.

There is no shortage of this type of opportunistic pricing that occurs during disasters, crises, or when a fellow human being is in a bind. During fires we see cheap motels asking $600 a night to shelter those whose homes were destroyed, and a radio battery or a bottle of water sold to the highest bidder. And, now, we see landlords doing the same to pet owners, as they have realized that to many, giving up a pet is tantamount to a disaster.

I would remind the landlords that karma can be a bitch - no pun is intended.

Article first published as Landlords are Gouging Pet Owners on Technorati

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