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Can I break my lease if other tenants moved in with pit bulls?

Asked by user in New York.

My landlord at a large apartment complex has allowed tenants to move in with pit bulls. She claims at least one of the tenant’s pitbulls is a service dog. The other tenant has been here and just brought in a full grown pitbull so he’s definitely not a service animal. I feel for my safety and the safety of my family. Is this sufficient grounds to break our lease?

Answered by Enjuris Editors:

Unless the dog can be considered a “service animal” used by blind, deaf or disabled people, whether dogs are permitted is at the discretion of the building owner and is usually stipulated in the lease.

Tenants do, however, have the right to live in “reasonably safe housing” free of hazardous conditions. In some cases, a dog may cause housing to be unsafe. For example, if the dog has a history of attacking tenants and the landlord fails to do anything about it, the tenant may be able to break their lease after giving the landlord a reasonable amount of time to resolve the issue. Unfortunately, without a more concrete danger, your “feeling” that it’s not safe to be around the dogs is not sufficient.

New York has a free legal program that helps tenants with housing issues. It may be worth contacting the program to see if there are any other options available to you. You can find out more information about the program here.

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