Q: My wife and I have rented an apartment in a three-family house in Queens, NY for the past ten years. When our son is on rotation in the US military, we sit on his golden retriever. Our original lease gave us permission to do this, but it expired years ago and we’ve been on a month-to-month deal ever since. We are now dog sitters again. Recently, the landlord told me that the building only allowed dogs under 20lbs, even though our original lease had no weight restrictions. (Other tenants in the building have dogs, although theirs are smaller than ours.) The landlord then told me we could move anytime. Can he really turn us off?
A: Your position is precarious because you live on a month-to-month lease. Your landlord can decide to end it at any time — with appropriate notice — as long as his actions aren’t discriminatory. In your case, he can terminate the lease with 90 days’ notice, under New York law. So if he decides he’s had enough of bigger dogs in the building, even if the original lease allows pets, you could lose the apartment, according to Darryl M. Vernon, a real estate attorney who represents people with companion animals.
But hope is not lost. Your landlord allows dogs under certain conditions. “Maybe they can fix this,” Mr. Vernon said.
If size is the issue, the landlord may be concerned about safety. Since this particular dog has lived in the building from time to time (presumably without incident), you can speak from experience about his behavior and temperament.
Ask your landlord to have a conversation about the dog and your rental terms. Explain that your son will be absent from the military for a while and that the dog has been well behaved in the past. Address size concerns directly and ask how you can mitigate the landlord’s concerns. For example, you can agree to keep your distance from other tenants and pets. If you can get the landlord to agree, ask for a new one or two year lease that includes these terms.
But if the landlord doesn’t give in, your son may have to make other arrangements for his dog, or you and your wife may risk losing the apartment.
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