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Unique “Pets Only” landlord keeps quality renters

Judy Guth has a unique rental requirement.
Judy Guth has a unique rental requirement.

Judy Guth owns a 12 unit apartment house in North Hollywood, CA, on the Los Angeles outskirts. That is nothing unusual, but her rental policy is on one specific way. To be considered as a tenant, potential renters must own a pet. Guth doesn’t care if you have great references, pay your rent on time, or are as quiet as a mouse. Without a dog or cat, you’re not getting one of her cherished apartments.

Most of Judy’s tenants in her 12-unit apartment house have lived there over a decade — a few more than two. If a pet dies, she takes the tenant to the animal shelter to adopt a new one No pet, no apartment. Those are the ground rules at Judy’s place.

“This is the first I’ve heard of a landlord renting to only people with pets,” says Terri Shea, operations manager of the 3,000-member Apartment Association of Southern California Cities, based in Long Beach.

People have accused her of discrimination, and maybe she is biased, Judy says. But she doesn’t care.

“My experience has told me you get people with a lot of love in their hearts when you get pet owners,” she says.
A spokesperson for the L.A. City Attorney’s Office says there is nothing in the law that prohibits someone from refusing to rent to people with or without pets.

The Federal Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, familial status, and disability, but pets are given a pass.

It’s really a no-brainer. More landlords should wise up about pets, Judy says. If you want people with a lot of love in their heart, who pay their rent on time and seldom move, make sure they’re carrying a leash or bag of cat litter under their arm.

“I’ve talked to other rental property owners about it, but they just laugh,” she says. “They’re stupid. The only vacancies I’ve had are when people had to move because the economy forced them out of state for a job.

“Within a day or two, there’s a new dog or cat moving in. I can’t remember all the people, but I can remember their pets.”

She started her “pets-only” policy shortly after she bought the place 40 years ago, and saw one of her tenants — a retired school teacher — hiding her cat because she thought the new owner would evict her. Judy told her not to worry.

“The next time I walked by her apartment, her cat was sitting in the window sunning itself. It wasn’t hiding anymore,” she says.

Each tenant is allowed one or two dogs of any size (she’s had Great Danes), but they must be vaccinated, and wear an up-to-date ID tag. Incessant barking or bad behavior is prohibited. They actually “interview” the dog before the person to check for that.

Dogs have to be on a leash when they are outside the apartment. As many as three cats are allowed, and they must be neutered. Happy tenants with happy pets = good living.

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