Residential Lease Pet Clauses

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 What Are Pet Clauses?

In residential leases, landlords have the power to decide whether to allow tenants to have pets on the rental property. Depending on the landlord’s decision, pet clauses will be included in the lease describing whether pets are permitted on the premises.

These are legal documents that landlords and tenants can use to determine the landlord’s conditions to allow tenants to keep pets on the property.

It is possible to add a pet addendum (also known as a pet agreement) to the rental agreement through an amendment, making it part of the standard documents.

Generally, it is up to the property owner to decide whether a tenant can keep a pet or service animal inside a rental property; in that sense, the landlord has the final say. If the landlord and tenant sign a pet addendum, the landlord permits pets in the unit as long as the tenant is fully responsible for the pet and any damages it may cause.

A pet is not the same as a service animal. The latter is not considered a pet in most states (according to local laws). If this is the case, the landlord must include a clause in the rental agreement that allows the tenant to keep service animals inside the property.

What Are Some Common Features Of Pet Clauses?

Typically, landlords will not allow tenants to have pets because of the potential damage to the rental unit and the liability that could arise from injuries to other people caused by the pets. If a landlord allows pets under a lease, he can require certain conditions, such as:

  • Additional rent each month for pets
  • An additional month’s security deposit
  • Making the tenant responsible for covering any damages or injuries caused by the pet

Can I Be Evicted For Violating A No-Pet Clause?

Violating a no-pet clause constitutes a breach of the lease, thereby entitling a landlord to terminate your lease and evict you. To do this, a landlord must still give you sufficient notice of his intention to terminate the lease.

If My Lease Has A No-Pet Clause, But I Want To Bring A Pet Onto The Premises, What Should I Do?

If you want a pet, you should inform your landlord and try to get their consent. The landlord may waive the no-pet clause (unlikely), refuse your request (more likely), or allow you to keep the pet if you pay additional rent (which they will write into the lease). You should not bring your pet onto the premises without your landlord’s consent if your lease prohibits it.

If I Think My Landlord Has Unfairly Evicted Me For A Violation Of A No-Pet Clause, What Should I Do?

If your landlord knows that you have been housing a pet in violation of the lease but haven’t done anything about it for a considerable time (i.e., three months), they may have implicitly waived the no-pet clause.

In addition, if you and your landlord have a dispute regarding some other term of the lease (such as his failure to fix something wrong with your apartment) and they suddenly decide to evict you based on your violation of the no-pet clause, then you may have a claim for retaliatory eviction.

How Can I Find Pet-Friendly Housing?

In a tight housing market, not all rental units allow pets, leading to serious problems for tenants and their animals. Even if a landlord forbids animals or does not specify whether pets are permitted, a tenant can still keep a pet by following these tips:

  • Pay additional pet fees: if the tenant agrees to pay more, the landlord may agree to pets on the premises. Additional fees may include a pet deposit (often nonrefundable) or other monthly costs;
  • Prove your pet’s responsibility: the tenant can provide documentation of prior rental housing with the pet, vet records, and obedience training.
  • 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?

When a landlord permits you to have a pet, you should get 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. Owners can limit the types and numbers of pets they allow. Landlords can, for example, ban non-mammals or only allow cats. They can also 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.

Additionally, landlords can limit pets based on ownership. A tenant might be allowed to keep pets that they own but be prohibited from keeping pets that belong to friends. Landlords can even limit pets based on their weight or age.

What Are Some Common Conditions on Pet Policies?

Pets are allowed by many landlords, but they are subject to conditions. Typical conditions include:

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

What If The Pet Policy Changes After Move-In?

Tenants must know whether the policy itself was altered after move-in or whether it was simply brought to your attention after move-in. Pet ownership and policy changes differ by state, so it’s best to consult an attorney about your specific situation.

Current tenants with pets can negotiate a grandfather clause, which exempts them from the new landlord’s “no-pet” policy.

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

Those with disabilities are entitled to live with assistance animals under certain conditions. 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.

Additional Questions Regarding the Pet

Any additional questions the landlord deems appropriate for the pet agreement document in the lease may be asked. The landlord can request information regarding past violent behavior, people responsible for taking care of the dog while the tenant is away, etc.

Before signing the lease agreement, both landlords and tenants need to ensure that every clause is properly addressed. If both parties sign this form, the tenant is entirely responsible for the animal and any damages it may cause.

A landlord might refuse to accept a particular kind of animal into their unit if it does not meet the required rules and criteria.

Do I Need An Attorney If I Want To Keep A Pet On The Premises?

An attorney experienced in landlord-tenant law can read your lease and explain its terms before you sign it. You’ll also be informed if pets are allowed on the premises. Additionally, suppose you feel that your landlord is unfairly evicting you or is trying to charge you excessive damages that they claim were caused by your pet. In that case, a landlord-tenant attorney can advise you of your rights and whether you have a viable cause of action.

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