Understanding Pet Policies in Rental Units: A Comprehensive Guide for Tenants

These days, many of us can hardly bear the thought of being without our animal companions.  Whether they have fur, scales, feathers, or . . . something else, pets provide companionship, emotional support, and any number of other benefits to tenants and homeowners alike.  However, pet ownership can pose additional challenges to a residential rental tenant that must be addressed to ensure the most secure home for everyone in the unit. 

Who Could Say No to That Face?

Because we so often only encounter, or at least remember our pets’ best behaviors, it can sometimes be confusing when people, including landlords, base their attitudes about animals in apartments on the worst possible scenarios.  However, landlords must be mindful of the potential nuisances animals can create, such as waste in common areas, disruptive noise, and potentially even physical injury of tenants. 

Restrictions on Pet Ownership 

Many landlords will simply avoid any difficult choices by prohibiting pet ownership entirely.  This is within their rights, as it provides an easy, straightforward rule to avoid potential nuisances.  However, it is important to note that even residences with an absolute ban on pets must allow service animals and emotional support animals, as these are not pets. 

Animal Considerations 

If you wish to have a pet while renting, it is important to make sure of a few details before making an addition to the family.  First, you should ensure that there are no restrictions against having pets in your unit.  Sometimes, there may also be limitations, like a ban on snakes, limits on the capacity of aquariums, or the size and breed of cats and dogs.  Each of these restrictions is geared toward avoiding a certain kind of nuisance to the neighbors, escaped snakes for one, water leaks, and potential cat scratching and dog bites, among other, less common injuries.  Landlords will often ask for a photograph of a pet, or at the very least a general description, to aid in identifying any bad actors reported to them.  Whether the lease allows pets or you obtain an exemption based on your need for a service animal, you remain responsible for their behavior and any nuisances they might cause.  This is one reason why pet security deposits have found favor among some landlords, who want some extra money guarantees that the unit will be returned to the condition in which the tenant found it before their animals stayed through the lease term. 

As with every other part of a rental agreement, provisions for dealing with pets can vary widely from person to person.  It is important to carefully review such language and ensure you are safe from any fine print.  Ultimately, your furry/scaly/feathery/other friends will appreciate it.