Renting with Pets: What You Need to Know

finding pet-friendly rental accommodations

Did you know that 70% of apartment renters own pets? While the number of pet-owning renters is high, the number of pet-friendly apartments, condos, and homes does not seem to meet the demand. The unfortunate reality of the situation is that bad pet owners who let their pets destroy property, defecate outside without cleaning it up, and bark endlessly have made it considerably difficult for responsible pet owners like us to find landlords and property management companies who are willing to rent units to applicants with four-legged family members.

Whether you’re moving out of your family’s home or you’re currently looking for a new place to rent, then here are a few things to know about renting a home as a pet owner:

General Pet Policies

Pet-friendly properties are wonderful for pet owners who aren’t in a position to buy a place of their own, but there are many policies involved that you should be aware of before signing any lease documents. Some places may have a restriction on the weight/height of the pet (small dogs and cats are most commonly allowed), while other places may also have restrictions on the number of pets you can have in your unit (typically 2-3) and breed restrictions for insurance liability purposes.

Your leasing contract may also include clauses about excessive noise, which includes barking and howling in most cases. If you’re dog falls into this category and the landlord seems pretty strict about the noise policy, then you may want to find a different home to rent until you manage the barking problem because extreme barking cases could lead to eviction.

Breed Restrictions

Many pet-friendly property management companies have dog breed restrictions included in the leasing contract. The most common breed bans include: Pit Bulls, Staffordshire Terriers, Rottweilers, German Shepherds, Mastiffs, Doberman Pinschers, worf-hybrids, and Alaskan Malamutes. It’s unfortunate that sporadic instances of aggression from these dog breeds has resulted in a universal breed ban by many home insurance and property management companies, but it’s still a necessary consideration if you own one of these breeds.

Service and Emotional Support Animal Exclusions

If you have a physical or mental disability (with documentation from a doctor or other medical/psychological professional) and your cat or dog is a certified service or therapy animal, then you could qualify for the animal assistance exclusion under the Fair Housing Act. Animals covered under this federal law are not subjected to breed restrictions or pet fees because the law mandates that landlords provide “reasonable accommodations” for tenants with disabilities.

If your animal is certified as an assistance animal but your landlord does not comply with federal laws, then you could register a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Pet Deposits and Monthly Fees

Many rental agencies and landlords charge a monthly pet fee ($20-50 per pet, usually). This is on top of your monthly rent costs, so be sure to account for this before deciding on a home that’s on the outer edge of your budget. Some rental properties also require a pet deposit (in addition to the standard security deposit for humans). This may range from $200-600, depending on the type of pet you own and how many.

Potty Areas 

When you start looking at new places to live, find out how far the nearest potty area is from your front door. Some complexes may not have strict regulations on where an animal may go potty (as long as it’s cleaned up, of course!), while other properties may have designated potty areas where you must take your dog to avoid a penalty. Even if your pets are adequately house-trained, it’s still important to know whether they can go right outside your front door or if a potty break will entail a long walk to the other side of the property.

Protect Your Security Deposit

If there is damage to your rental unit caused by your pet, you could be covered if your renter’s insurance has a pet liability policy with it. Umbrella liability coverage policies are preferable options for pet owners because major insurance providers typically cover animal-related damage to the premises. Check with your current insurance company to see what their specific pet policies are – if they don’t cover your pets, then consider switching or finding a separate pet liability policy to protect yourself (some landlords and property management companies may require this coverage anyway).

Other ways to protect your rental unit from damage caused by your pets include: cleaning up stains and spills immediately (when possible), regularly airing out the unit with fans or open windows, keeping a pet odor eliminator with your cleaning supplies, providing destructive chewers with plenty of toys to keep them from chewing on baseboards or cabinets, and crating animals that have destructive tendencies while you’re away.

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