Q. I rent in a high-rise building with a very well-behaved German Shepherd that has NEVER hurt anyone or behaved aggressively.

Recently, my building instituted a new rule that says dogs over 25 pounds have to ride the service elevator. This is apparently in response to parents who don't want their children sharing an elevator with a dog bigger than their precious tykes.

The service elevator is a lot slower than the passenger elevators and it's on the opposite end of the hallway from my apartment.    

Is the landlord allowed to do this?  What are my options?  I'm not sure I would have moved here in the first place if I'd known I'd have to take the service elevator 3 times a day.

A.  Unless your dog is a service animal, you'd better get used to the service elevator, say our experts

"The rule doesn't prohibit you from having a dog and appears neither extremely onerous or intended solely to make pet ownership difficult," says  Dean M. Roberts, a real estate attorney with Norris McLaughlin & Marcus.

Whether you lived in a co-op or rental building, the rule would probably withstand legal challenge because "there is a rational basis for the policy--a concern regarding the safety and perceived threat of large dogs in a confined area," says Roberts.

It's also unlikely that the inconvenience to you is material enough, in the eyes of a housing court, to justify breaking your lease, says Roberts.  

As a matter of policy, notes Roberta Axelrod, a real estate broker and asset manager with Time Equities, while there are no laws (yet) prohibiting discrimination against dogs over a certain weight, it would have been more politically palatable for your landlord to relegate all dogs to the service elevator.


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