Not all rental units allow pets, and in a tight housing market this can mean serious problems for a tenant and their animal.  If a landlord forbids animals, or does not specify whether pets are allowed, a tenant may still be able to keep a pet using the following tips:

  • Pay additional pet fees: if the tenant agrees to pay more money, the landlord may agree to pets on the premises.  These additional fees may be a pet deposit (often nonrefundable) or other monthly expenses;
  • Prove your pet responsibility: the tenant can provide documentation of prior rental housing with the pet, vet records, and obedience trainings.
  • Show your flexibility: by acknowledging the concerns related to a no-pet or limited pet policy, a tenant can better understand their duties as a pet owner under the housing arrangement.

What If My Contract Stated "No Pets," But My Landlord Said Pets Were Allowed?

If a landlord gives you permission to have a pet, it is important to have that promise in writing. A verbal contract in this context is insufficient and reliance on one may lead to eviction or other penalties. For landlords who would like to establish a formal pets-allowed policy, the Humane Society of the United States offers relevant information and advice. 

Can a Landlord Permit Certain Types of Pets But Ban Others?

Yes. Landlords can limit what types of pets are permitted and the number of pets permitted. For example, landlords can ban non-mammals or permit only cats. Landlords can ban certain breeds of animals. For example, a landlord can permit dogs as pets, but may ban breeds determined to be dangerous, such as Rottweilers and Pit Bulls.

Landlords can also limit pets based on ownership. For instance, a tenant might be allowed to keep pets that he or she owns, but the tenant could be prevented from keeping animals which belong to friends. Landlords can even limit pets by the pet’s weight or age.

What Are Some Common Conditions on Pet Policies?

Many landlords will permit pets, but they are conditional. The most common conditions are:

  • Vaccinations and name tags required.
  • Pet must be a leash while outside the tenant’s apartment.
  • Tenant is responsible for any “waste” the pet leaves on the property.
  • Tenant is response for any property damage caused by the pet.
  • Landlord retains the right to have the pet removed from the property.  

What If The Pet Policy Changes After Move-In?

A tenant must know whether the policy itself was actually altered after move-in or whether it was merely brought to your attention after move-in.  Rules relating to pet ownership and policy changes vary by state and discussing your personal circumstances with an attorney may be your best course of action. 

If the property is changing ownership, current tenants with pets can try negotiating for a grandfather clause, a clause which would exempt current tenants from a “no-pet” policy of the new landlord. 

What If I Have a Disability and My Pet Is An "Assistive Animal"?

Under certain conditions, those with disabilities are entitled to live with assistive animals.  As long as the assistive animal serves as a “reasonable accommodation” under the Fair Housing Act, prohibiting assistive animals is a form of disability discrimination.

The federal Housing and Urban Development department reviews complaints and concerns regarding landlords who refuse tenants with assistive animals. 

Do I Need A Lawyer?

Because property laws are state-specific, a local attorney specializing in landlord/tenant law or fair housing law will be able to answer your questions regarding housing regulations and exceptions. Present your case to a real estate attorney now.