All dogs may go to heaven, but California landlords aren’t as accommodating.

Pet owners can have a tougher time finding apartments because of the surfeit of landlords who don’t allow dogs, cats or other animals in their buildings. A new bill, however, seeks to open more apartments to renters with pets.

The legislation, in fact, would allow landlords to ask about pet ownership only after a tenant’s application has been approved, says Assemblymember Matt Haney (D-San Francisco), author of the bill.

Haney’s proposal would end blanket bans on specific pets, he said, adding that the measure would help ease California’s housing crisis.

Haney introduced Assembly Bill 2216 earlier this month, which he said in a news release requires landlords to “have a reasonable reason[s] for not allowing a pet in a rental unit.”

“I’ve heard from many constituents about the incredible hurdles and challenges they faced in finding homes simply because they own pets,” Haney told The Times on Wednesday. “They’ve been repeatedly denied because they have a dog — even if their dog is an emotional support animal — and they need accommodations.”

Haney said he found inspiration from a British bill introduced in Parliament in May that makes pet ownership “an implied term of an assured tenancy,” unless “the landlord reasonably refuses.”

Haney said that landlords’ restrictions on pets are crippling for the majority of California renters.

He noted that nearly 70% of the state’s 17 million renting families are pet owners and, of those, nearly 3 million live in Los Angeles County.

Statistics on pet ownership vary.

The American Veterinary Medical Assn. said that, in 2020, 45% of all U.S. households owned dogs and 26% owned cats. Among those, 39% of all renters favored canines and 29% preferred felines.

A widely cited 2014 survey placed pet ownership among renters at 72%. The Humane Society also lists 72% of renters as pet owners.

What is indisputable, Haney said, is the low number of rentals in California that say they are “pet friendly.” His staff identified daily listings over the course of a week on real estate website Zillow that showed 21% of available rentals in San Francisco allowed pets, and 26% in Los Angeles.

“California pet owners are over two-thirds of renters, and they’re excluded from units,” Haney said. “I’m a huge supporter of building access to housing, and this is a housing issue.”

Andrea Amavisca, a senior legislative advocate at the California Immigration Policy Center, said she and her partner spent more than a month trying to find a two-bedroom rental unit in Sacramento that permitted their small mixed-breed dog.

“Landlords that initially liked our application would suddenly stop answering our calls once they found out we had a dog,” Amavisca said in a statement. “Or others would require a pet deposit close to $1,000 that would put the unit totally out of our budget.”

Amavisca said it was unfair that nearly every landlord “had a different pet policy with fees that varied based on discretion,” meaning they could charge what they pleased. Some charged only $20 a month, while others asked for $100 and some wanted four-figure cleaning deposits.

Haney’s bill does not address fees, and the legislation wouldn’t bar landlords from excluding certain types of pets.

“We’re not saying every landlord should have to accept every animal,” Haney said.

Haney’s bill defines “a common household pet” as “a domesticated animal, including a dog or cat, that is commonly kept in the home for pleasure rather than for commercial purposes.”

When asked if boa constrictors, lizards, fish or other legally acquired pets met the definition, Haney said the bill was centered on “companion animals” such as dogs or cats.

Calls and emails to the California Apartment Assn. and the Apartment Assn. of California Southern Cities seeking comment on this bill were not returned.

California Oaks Property Management, which manages residential and commercial properties in Ventura County, listed a series of cons regarding pet ownership in a 2023 post to landlords that included property damage, noise complaints and liability issues from possible animal attacks.

California Oaks recommended that landlords charge an added deposit of $250 to $500 depending on breed.

Haney said he expected to receive some pushback from landlords.

“I understand some will be concerned about the potential of taking on renters with pets that do damage in ways they want to avoid,” he said. “I’m open to dialogue.”

Haney said his bill would also help bring roughly 829,000 tenants who are hiding pets from landlords into the sunshine.

The bill is in its infancy and has yet to be referred to an Assembly committee, according to state legislative records, although it may come up for a hearing March 9.

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