What is New York City’s pet law?

Imagine you have rented an apartment in the east village for 10 years in the 1980s, difficult times for the neighborhood. You have a dog and a cat, though your lease prohibits both. You have a professional but not friendly relationship with your landlord, who visits the building at least once a month.

As the area starts to clean up and housing prices start to go up, you notice your landlord around more often. He hires a crew to re-tile the entryway, repaint the front door, and fix the cracked concrete stoop. Then he sends you an eviction notice, with the cause being that you are harboring pets that are prohibited by your lease.

Really, he’s just trying to get rid of you so he can rent your apartment for more money. Lucky for you, there’s a law that says he can’t.

In 1983, New York City passed a law to protect tenants from exactly this scenario. The law states that any tenant who lives openly with a pet for 90 days, regardless of what’s in the lease, can not be evicted for that reason. If the landlord knows you have a dog and chooses to do nothing about it, he can’t suddenly turn around and kick you out.

That same law applies to our coop, and is a major reason why, even though we have a strict no-pet policy in our proprietary lease and house rules, there are still so many dogs (and cats, and fish) living at East River. Management needs to take action within 90 days of a tenant bringing home a pet or else lose the authority to do anything about it.

In fact, one of the important cases strengthening New York’s pet law was one that involved Seward Park. In 2002, a dog-owner facing eviction challenged management and won, with the appellate court saying that if porters, security guards, and other coop employees are aware of a pet’s presence, the managing agent does not need to personally be notified within 90 days.

At the time, Seward Park’s no-pet policy was exactly the same as ours is now.