Animal Control Commission Wants to Raise Your Rent

by Tommi Avicolli Mecca on March 12, 2007

In San Francisco, where rents are already outrageously high, the Commission of Animal Control and Welfare voted on March 8 to make them even higher. In a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors, Commissioners are proposing a Rent Control waiver to allow landlords to raise the rent up to 5% if a tenant wants a pet and the lease does not permit it. The surcharge would apply to each pet a tenant has.

If one’s rent is $2,000 a month, that means $100 per pet, or $1,200 a year. If one has two dogs or cats, the rent could go up to $200/mo or $2,400 a year. If one is a subtenant in an apartment and paying $500 of the $2,000 total rent, the landlord could still charge that person $100 a month for a pet. San Francisco could become the costliest city in the country to have a furry companion. Of course, this would not affect persons with disabilities whose right to a pet are protected under federal law.

The Commission’s intention is obvious: To encourage more landlords to accept pets. It’s a noble cause. Far too many animals sit in shelters awaiting adoption. Those who aren’t lucky enough to find a home eventually end up euthanized.

The Commission’s proposal, however, won’t work. Only 50% of landlords surveyed by the Commission liked the idea. Tenants weren’t even asked their opinion. Even if 100% of landlords were crazy about the concept, the reality is that tenants simply won’t be able to afford pets. The price tag is too high. What the Commissioners don’t seem to understand is that many people in San Francisco already pay over half of their income on rent.

As Ted Gullicksen of the Tenants Union put it, “a 5% rent increase is huge–that’s about $125-a-month for the average apartment. The proposal will make it harder for tenants to have pets–especially seniors and tenants with moderate incomes, and will do nothing but enrich landlords.”

Phillip Gerrie, an animal rights activist, echoed Gullicksen’s sentiments: “There is no study that suggests that allowing landlords to surcharge for pets will increase pet ownership. Studies do suggest that landlords will pocket a large amount of money. Few pets do any damage beyond what tenants themselves do.”

Bill Hamilton, sponsor of the Commission proposal, did not respond to an e-mail from Beyond Chron.

If the Commission wanted San Francisco to be a model city in terms of animal adoptions, it should’ve recommended that the Board of Supervisors make it illegal for a landlord to refuse to rent to a tenant with pets or to withhold permission for a tenant to get one.

A landlord shouldn’t need an economic incentive. He or she already has a security deposit equal to two months rent. That should cover damages a pet may make to an apartment.

The Commission recommendation now goes to the Board of Supervisors. In order to become law, it would need to be drafted into legislation and introduced by a supervisor.

Hopefully, it’ll never get that far. It’s a bad idea. It’s wrong to make having a pet a luxury.

Tommi Avicolli Mecca is a radical, southern Italian, working-class queer performer, writer and activist whose work can be seen at By day, he works at the Housing Rights Committee of SF, a tenant’s rights organization.

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