Rent hike a lure for pet-friendly landlords

A proposed financial incentive for pet-friendly landlords in San Francisco will not come as a tax break, as initially conceived, but rather, if passed, will take the shape of an optional rent hike for landlords when renting to pet owners.

The proposal would amend The City’s rent control laws to allow a $25-per-month rent hike for tenants who wish to keep pets. According to a draft of the amendment, the hike would apply only to new tenancies and tenants who want new pets. It would not apply to tenants already keeping pets.

The concept was initially floated earlier this year, when pet activist Rex Reginald, who runs the pet advocacy group Star Universe, proposed to the San Francisco Animal Welfare commission that it work to create an incentive for landlords to be more pet-friendly. He proposed atax break of $200 per unit per year for landlords who allowed pets into rental units.

But state Proposition 13, which tightened controls on municipal property taxes, requires the state, not The City, to implement those tax breaks.

“They would need express statutory authority to be granted exclusion from the property tax,” said Betty Yee, San Francisco's representative to the California state Board of Equalization.

The new plan is to amend The City’s rent control laws, which are controlled on the municipal level. San Francisco Rent Board Executive Director Delene Wolf said The City would have to amend the rent ordinance for landlords to offer the incentive, otherwise the proposed rent increase would violate the rent-control laws.

On Tuesday, Animal Welfare Commission Chairman Richard Schulke met with the City Attorney’s Office to go over questions about the language in the proposed amendment.

“There are some potential litigation problems with the way the amendment is written right now. But they’re not insurmountable,” he said.

The legislation does not speak to the issue of consent by other tenants if a landlord decides to allow pets in a building where they were not previously allowed.

Schulke said the proposal is far from final, but that it is a good basis for legislation. The next step, he said, is to bring it before the Animal Welfare Commission as an action item in September. If the commission approves the amendment, it will recommend it to the Board of Supervisors. A supervisor would then have to sponsor it, then the board would have to vote for it.

“The change in the law would be up to the board itself. We don’t know how they would phrase it, but we think it would be possible to do this through the rent ordinance,” Schulke said.

amartin@examiner.com

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