New Hampshire Lawmakers are considering a bill that would end rental discrimination against pet owners in the state, essentially making it illegal for landlords to enact a “no pets” policy.
Any pet owner that prefers to rent their home understands the challenges faced when trying to find suitable housing.
House Bill 1391, proposed by Representative Ellen Read (D), would make it illegal for landlords or those selling or leasing homes to prohibit pet owners from renting or buying, with some exceptions.
As its written, the bill would prohibit landlords from inquiring about the pets of any person” looking to rent or buy. Additionally, it would ban “no-pets” policies on rental listings and halt evictions because of pet ownership.
The law would also prohibit discrimination against pets based on breed, size, or appearance. But, it would allow landlords to establish mandatory pet deposits in amounts of their own choosing. Pet owners could still potentially be out-priced in their quest to find housing if landlords impose unreasonably high pet deposits. But, this further raises the question, how would they impose pet deposits if they’re aren’t legally permitted to ask if a potential renter has pets?
Landlords could also require that pets be spayed or neutered, and impose rules regarding waste pickup and removal, noise, and safety.
The New Hampshire Humane Society supports the bill, citing the high cost of rent and a tight housing market. “We support any legislation that helps keep pets in homes,” Julia Seeley, New Hampshire state director of the Humane Society, told the Concord Monitor. “We just strongly believe that a family should not be torn apart simply over housing.” Approximately 70% of renters across the state have pets, meaning the impact on their ability to find housing would be substantial.
However, landlords in the state have several objections to the proposed bill. In addition to concerns about protecting their property against the potential for unsanitary or unhealthy conditions from pet owners with untrained animals or those that don’t properly clean up after their animals, landlords worry about future use of the property by tenants with pet allergies. They also believe that prohibiting a landlord from inquiring about pets infringes on their First Amendment rights.
One New Hampshire landlord weighed in with this comment: “As a landlord who has traditionally accepted all pets, and have changed our policy in recent years, I’d like to tell you why. Not only is the barking an issue while the owner isn’t home, but renters are not great at cleaning up dog poop in the yard. We’ve had some very loving dog owners who care for their puppies well, and without fail the owners (us) are picking up poop before mowing… almost every time. Complaints also exist when someone’s child finds / gets into dog poop in the yard. Larger dogs in a small space have also tended to put more wear and tear on the rental home that a simple pet deposit wouldn’t cover, as the damages can be extensive. As an animal lover, I appreciate your noble intentions. As a landlord, I believe this bill infringes on the rights of other tenants to quiet enjoyment and landlords to gauge their own risk tolerance when renting.”
The bill is under review by the House Judiciary Committee and will be considered in a January 30 hearing.
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