Advice For Renting Homes: Your Legal Rights For Keeping Your Pets

Need some renting advice? Learn about your legal rights for keeping your pets in your home or apartment.

By law, the landlord has the right to set a pets allowed or a no pets policy. As the owner of the property, they have every right to establish limits on how their property is to be used. Therefore, it is up to the renter to find a landlord who is open to the tenant having an animal.

If your landlord is pet friendly, they may still impose several restrictions to keeping a pet in your home. They may demand proof that your animal is spayed or neutered. They may want a copy of your veterinarian's records to ensure that the animal is well cared for and that immunization is up to date. They may want the number and description of your animals written into the lease. This will prevent you from acquiring additional pets without their permission. Many pet friendly landlords also demand a pet deposit that may or may not be refundable. Some even charge a "pet rent". Pet rent could be as much as an extra ten to thirty dollars a month. These fees and surcharges must be written into the lease or rental agreement as well as behaviors the landlord forbids, like urinating on the floors or excessive barking. This is usually written into a rider on the lease called a pet clause.

To avoid such charges and restrictions, some people try to sneak pets into the home. This is not a smart decision. Keeping an animal in violation of pet regulations or a no pets policy, may cause eviction or other legal action against you.

The one main exception to property owner's right to set a pet policy is that he cannot discriminate against a disabled person. Therefore, he will have a hard time telling a disabled person that they cannot keep an assistance pet in their home. By law, they can still insist that no pets are allowed, but if they were to be sued for discrimination against the disabled, they would surely lose the case. Seeing Eye dogs, dogs for hearing impaired people, and dogs trained to help physically disabled people are typically allowed in all housing. Of course, you will need proof that you have such a disability and that your animal is a certified assistance pet.

If you have been living with a pet for some time and the owner decided to add a no pets policy, in most cases you may legally be able to keep your pet. This is provided your pet is not a nuisance or the reason that the pet policy was instated. Keeping such a pet against the property owners wishes are a reason for eviction. However, if your pet is well behaved and has not damaged the property, the new regulations should not affect you. You will need to discuss this with your landlord and have it put in writing that pre-existing pets are not affected by the change in policy. If you already had permission in writing that you can have a pet, this change in policy does not affect you until your lease expires.

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