Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Pet Premium

A proposal that would allow San Francisco tenants to agree to pay landlords up to 5% of the rental value of an apartment to keep a pet is sparking a debate. Currently, most SF apartments are pet-free, and tenants and landlords cannot agree to bump up the rent in order to add a pet—this would run afoul of the City’s rent control ordinance.

Proponents say this proposal would allow more people to have pets, give landlords incentives to be pet-friendly, and improve quality of life. Opponents say it will lead to higher rents, especially where a tenant and landlord have a verbal agreement allowing a pet, and that landlords should simply be required to accept all pets.

This morning’s Forum on KQED featured some heated exchanges regarding this proposal (audio should be uploaded soon). See also the Examiner’s (cursory) discussion here, and a blogger’s thoughts here.

This is an issue because rent control places strictures on private freedom of contract. It shows that when landlords are limited to increasing rent by 1.5% annually, they will do what they can to reduce their potential costs, i.e. restrict tenants’ ability to have pets. This proposal gives tenants and landlords a way to escape some of the rigidity of the system.

However, this proposal also appears to accomplish an end-run around rent control. Would the increase, up to 5%, be permanent, or only contingent on the tenant staying and keeping the pet? If the doggie dies, does the rent decline? This much is not clear.

Finally, I don’t think it’s a good idea to require all landlords to accept pets into apartments. While pets improve quality of life, I see far less compelling reasons for this than for other measures, such as prohibiting discrimination based on race, age, religion, etc. There are good public health, safety, and aesthetic reasons not to mandate pet-friendliness. I am reminded of this every time I come home and my neighbor’s dog starts yapping. I haven’t yet figured out how to get my fuchsia to bark back.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regarding your last point, it doesn't seem that this law would require landlords to accept pets for a surcharge; it merely allows them to do so if they want. That seems fair enough - pets are a "luxury" and if people can and choose to pay extra to have this luxury, why not permit it where both parties to the agreement are willing?

3/27/2007 12:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of N&B's bloggers might consider posting about Above the Law's March Madness law school competition - I think the current brackets revolve around which law school is cooler. Right now, Boalt is in a bracket with Michigan, and it's mega close (49 to 51). Boalties should go to that website right now and vote Boalt; don't let Michigan win, particularly as this is about "coolness." If this were about something else, I might not post. But, come on, Boalt's coolness should be recognized at every possible opportunity.

Here's the link: http://www.abovethelaw.com/2007/03/atl_march_madness_law_schools_1.php

This is time sensitive. Polls close tomorrow (Wed. March 28) at 12 PM California time. So vote already. Go Boalt!

3/27/2007 12:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What's your reaction to the big news that we're tied with Michigan and ahead of UVa in the new USNWR rankings? We're 8. UVa is tied for 10. UCLA is 15. Texas plummets to 18. Davis 34. Hastings 36.

3/27/2007 2:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

12:26 PM - Thanks for the link. I just voted in the ATL poll. Boalt is most definitely cooler than Michigan and totally deserves to be in the final four. It's actually a pretty funny tournament. More Boalties should go to that link and express their opinion.

3/27/2007 2:29 PM  
Blogger Callagy said...

12:07--I agree. You're right that this is not part of the proposal; I was responding to the counter-proposal by tenants' rights advocates.

3/27/2007 2:45 PM  
Blogger Tom Fletcher said...

Put my vote down for the "just end rent control" proposal.

I mean, why 5%? What if it's a cheap apartment? Does that blanket 5% compensate for the hassle of a large dog? What if someone really wants a large pet, but 5% would be too little and the landlord says no? You can spend all day devising new tweaks to this system and hiring people to deal with landlord/tenant complaints stemming from it... or you can fix it at its root.

Let people price things honestly. That's my slogan -- "honest rents." Hopefully, one day enough people will make it through the most basic of economics classes and realize it's a good idea.

3/27/2007 3:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

2:24: where are these new USNWR rankings? I don't see them online.

3/27/2007 3:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

new rankings: http://www.usnews.com/usnews/edu/grad/rankings/law/brief/lawrank_brief.php

3/27/2007 3:45 PM  
Blogger Max Power said...

Sorry, but I can't take any ranking system that puts Penn in the top 10 seriously.

3/27/2007 4:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Those are not new rankings, they look the same as last year. I don't know what the above person is talking about when s/he cites changes.

3/27/2007 4:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oops. I thought they were the new rankings. I didn't know that stanford was #2 and that ucla was #15 last year. Btw, I'm not 2:24, so I don't know where 2:24 got his/her rankings.

3/27/2007 4:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not convinced the new USNWR rankings came out.

Anyway, I care more about the Abovethelaw "coolness" rankings. Go to AbovetheLaw.com and beat Michigan as coolest law school in the T14.

3/27/2007 4:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This appears to increase freedom of contract. Increased freedom of contract is generally good, so this is probably good. If they want to avoid it screwing over people who already have agreements to have pets, they just need to put in a grandfather clause saying that the 5% rent increase waiver does not apply to those apartment complexes where one or more tenants were already allowed to have pets, and that those who do not have pets can decline and not pay the 5%. (Although eliminating rent control would do a lot more to stabilize the out-of-whack SF housing / rental markets).

3/27/2007 5:26 PM  

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