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Rest Assured: Pets Have Squatter Rights in NYC

If you’re like many New Yorkers, you probably own at least one pet. While there are numerous pet-friendly buildings around NYC, there are still those that are anti-animal. But thanks to New York City’s little known pet law, rest assured your pet has rights too.

The law – a part of the city’s Administrative Code – makes an exception that allows tenants to keep their pets regardless of what their lease or landlord says.


Generally speaking, landlords are free to decide whether a tenant can keep pets in their apartments. And while there are many pet-friendly apartments available in New York City, not all landlords pro-pets.

Landlords tend to ban pets from their buildings due to potential property damage or liability issues – if a pet harms or annoys other tenants or guests, for example.

The landlords that do allow pets in their buildings typically do so only if the tenant signs a pet agreement, which is often part of the lease. The majority of pet agreements also require tenants to pay an often non-refundable deposit to help cover the damage pets might cause.

And, depending on the agreement, the landlord may also require you to keep your dog leashed while in common areas or the hallway, clean up after your pet, or that your pet be spayed or neutered.

For non-pet-friendly buildings, NYC’s pet law has an exception that may just allow you to keep your furry friend – despite the rules.

According to the exception, you are allowed to keep your pet “if you openly keep a pet in your building for three months, your landlord finds out (or should have found out) about the pet during this time, and your landlord takes no action to enforce the no-pets rule.”

The exception is not mean to trick or deceive your landlord, it’s more about earning the right to keep your pet after your landlord knows and decides not to enforce the no-pets rule.

NYC Dog from The Gogist
NYC Dog from The Dogist

Essentially, the law prohibits landlords from unexpectedly deciding to enforce the no-pets rule and evict an unwanted tenant.

Officially known as a “waiver”, the exception doesn’t mean the landlord has to change a non-pets rule, it simply means you will be waived from the rule.

Below are some basic posts to help you determine whether you are part of the exception:

  1. You must have your pet in the building for at least three months. While landlords don’t have to immediately take action on the rule, if they don’t want you to keep your pet, they have to let you know prior to three months after they first spot them.
  2. Your landlord must be able to know about your pet. If you keep your furry friend hidden, you increase your chances the landlord will not learn about your noncompliance to the no-pets rule. So, to be part of the exception, your pet has to be out in the open.
  3. Landlords don’t have to take personal action. In fact, employees or other agents of the landlord can enforce the no-pets rule on the landlord’s behalf.
  4. Your pet can’t be a bother to others, damage property, or be a serious threat to any tenant’s health and safety.
  5. And lastly, the landlord cannot be the New York City Housing Authority. The NYCHA is not part of this law.

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Do you have pets? What do you think of this exemption? Let us know in the comments below!