Allowing unleashed dogs in common areas of residential buildings is against the law. Complain to your landlord, and if that doesn’t work, you have other options.
Q: I live in a rent-stabilized apartment in a large Manhattan building. Two tenants do not leash their dogs in the common areas — the hallways, lobby, elevators and laundry room. One of them lives next door to me. Our super has spoken to them about this several times, to no avail. I don’t like dogs coming up to me or jumping on me, and when they aren’t on a leash I have no protection from this happening. What are my options to force these people to leash their dogs?
A: Dogs in New York City must be leashed in public spaces, so your neighbors are violating city laws. You are entitled to walk through your building without being accosted by someone else’s pet.
“The bottom line is that a landlord must ensure that all tenants are safe and comfortable in their homes,” said Jennifer Rozen, a Manhattan lawyer who represents tenants.
Leash laws make sense. A dog does not need to be violent or aggressive to injure someone. An excited dog might careen into a small child or an adult who is unsteady on their feet. But even if you’re not endangered, you’re not obligated to interact with a dog.
“It’s important for people to understand that no matter how much we love our dogs, you can’t assume that everyone around you has the same feeling. And you certainly can’t assume that everyone around you is comfortable with dogs,” said Andrea Arden, a New York City dog trainer who has heard of unleashed dogs running into elevators without their owners, or ending up in fights with other dogs they encounter in the building.
Your landlord could send the offending tenants notices to cure or start eviction proceedings. Write the landlord a letter explaining that the unleashed dogs pose a real safety risk. Point out that if the dogs injured someone, management could be negligent for failing to correct a hazard. In a future lawsuit, “if the parties can show that the landlord had notice and did nothing, that makes for a good personal injury claim,” Ms. Rozen said.
If a letter doesn’t get your landlord’s attention, threatening to withhold rent certainly will. It’s “the most powerful tool you have as a tenant,” Ms. Rozen said.
Since you live next door to one of the unleashed dogs, you could tell your landlord that you will consider this option if the dogs remain unleashed in public spaces. It might be enough to persuade management to take the issue seriously.
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