The New York City Pet Law
The Three Month Law
If you find yourself at odds with your building’s pet policy, there’s a law on the books in New York City that could help you. It’s called the New York City Pet Law or “The Three Month Law.” It’s a law that applies to co-ops in the five boroughs and also applies to condos in Brooklyn, Staten Island, and Queens. Its status regarding condos in Manhattan is not the same as the other parts of the city because a different path through the court system affected the outcome of the law there.
Here is the relevant passage of the law from the Administrative Code of the City of New York in its entirety.
§ 27-2009.1 Rights and responsibilities of owners and tenants in relation to pets.
a. Legislative declaration. The council hereby finds that the enforcement of covenants contained in multiple dwelling leases which prohibit the harboring of household pets has led to widespread abuses by building owners or their agents, who knowing that a tenant has a pet for an extended period of time, seek to evict the tenant and/or his or her pet often for reasons unrelated to the creation of a nuisance. Because household pets are kept for reasons of safety and companionship and under the existence of a continuing housing emergency it is necessary to protect pet owners from retaliatory eviction and to safeguard the health, safety and welfare of tenants who harbor pets under the circumstances provided herein, it is hereby found that the enactment of the provisions of this section is necessary to prevent potential hardship and dislocation of tenants within this city.
b. Where a tenant in a multiple dwelling openly and notoriously for a period of three months or more following taking possession of a unit, harbors or has harbored a household pet or pets, the harboring of which is not prohibited by the multiple dwelling law, the housing maintenance or the health codes of the city of New York or any other applicable law, and the owner or his or her agent has knowledge of this fact, and such owner fails within this three month period to commence a summary proceeding or action to enforce a lease provision prohibiting the keeping of such household pets, such lease provision shall be deemed waived.
c. It shall be unlawful for an owner or his or her agent, by express Terms or otherwise, to restrict a tenant’s rights as provided in this Section. Any such restriction shall be unenforceable and deemed void as against public policy.
d. The waiver provision of this section shall not apply where the harboring of a household pet causes damage to the subject premise, creates a nuisance or interferes substantially with the health, safety or welfare of other tenants or occupants of the same or adjacent building or structure.
e. The New York City housing authority shall be exempt from the provisions of this section.
Don’t get hung up on the phrase “openly and notoriously.” It’s legal jargon for “all the world to see.” It doesn’t mean anything bad.
I am certainly not a lawyer and it’s not my place to offer legal advice on this topic — but if you do find yourself in a position in which you think the New York City Pet Law might be applicable to you — research it and get in touch with a reputable real estate attorney with experience in this area. Here’s a link to a New York City Bar Association PDF discussing the law.