When you have a pet, finding an apartment can be a little more difficult. Most of our rental units don’t accept pets at all, or if they do, the breed, species, or size of pet you can have is restricted.

Whether your pet is furry, feathered, or scaly, it’s critical to read any pet policy carefully before renting to ensure that you’re not jeopardizing your security deposit—or your home.

Despite how limited the options appear to be, most tenants will have no trouble locating a rental that allows their pet. We’ve highlighted how to make sense of those pet regulations, as well as some common sense recommendations for being a decent tenant when you have a two- or four-legged roommate on the lease.

What Are Pet Policies?

Pet policies are provisions within a lease that dictate the rules around pets for tenants. These policies protect both landlord and tenant by clearly stating expectations around pet ownership within the unit—for example, what kind of pet is or isn’t allowed and whether or not there is an additional deposit or monthly fee.

Pet or not, it’s crucial that you read your lease carefully. A lease is a legally binding contract, and once you sign it, you must uphold the guidelines within it. If you don’t have a pet yet but are considering adopting one in the future, you should still be reading through the pet policy to learn whether pets are allowed and what your landlord will expect from you.

The more clear you are on the policy of your rental, the less chance you’ll have of running into trouble later on.If your lease doesn’t have a designated pet policy and you either have a pet or intend to adopt a pet, ask your landlord before signing. A lack of pet policy isn’t the same as getting a direct go-ahead. And if your landlord does say that pets are okay, it’s a good idea to amend the lease with that statement to cover your bases.

What’s Covered in a Pet Policy

Pet policies are specific to the rental that you’re looking at, which means that they can (and often do) look quite different from building to building. That being said, the language used tends to be pretty standard. Here are some of the common guidelines you’ll find in pet policies.Types of pets allowed. Some pet policies may allow for cats but not dogs, or only allow for small animals like bunnies or hamsters. Some may allow for contained animals like fish but nothing else. Read carefully to see if there are restrictions on what type of animal you can have in your rental, and whether these restriction are in line with the type of pet you have or want to adopt.Number of pets allowed.

Even if pet laws are permissive, you may not be able to have as many pets as you wish. You might be limited to one or two pets, or you might have to ask permission before getting another one. Breed restrictions are in place. Regrettably, some rentals do place restrictions on the types of dogs that are permitted in their homes. Breed restrictions prohibit the keeping of so-called “dangerous” or “bully” breeds such as American Staffordshire Terriers (Pit Bulls), Rottweilers, Huskies, Mastiffs, and Doberman Pinschers on private property. These restrictions could be the result of breed-specific legislation in a city or municipality, insurance restrictions, or landlord preferences. And while animal rights groups are actively campaigning against them, they’re still a reality in many rentals across the U.S.

Want to appeal a breed restriction?

It’s definitely worth a shot. If your dog isn’t allowed due to a blanket “dangerous breed prohibition,” speak with your landlord to see if there’s any room for negotiation. A pet interview may be able to ease any reservations they have about a particular breed, and you may be able to reach an agreement by paying a bigger security deposit or offering to pay a monthly fee. While not all landlords will budge on breed limitations, demonstrating that your dog isn’t something to be afraid of and that you’re a caring pet parent can go a long way.

Pet weight requirements

Many pet policies have weight limits for pets, such as no pets weighing more than 30 pounds or no pets weighing more than 100 pounds. A weight criterion can be used as a backdoor technique of excluding some breeds without imposing a formal breed restriction. Other times, it’s simply a landlord choice based on the unit’s size or the types of pets they’re comfortable with (for example: a low weight requirement may rule out many breeds of dogs but allow for all kinds of cats, birds, and other animals).

No-pet policies

In certain cases, the pet policy simply states that no pets are permitted under any circumstances. Take these warnings carefully, and never try to sneak a pet into your home or hide an animal from your landlord. Both instances are considered a breach of contract, and you may lose your rental or have to find a new home for your pet.

Pet deposit or monthly rent increase

Additional fees related with having a pet in your property may be included in your pet policy, such as an upfront, non-refundable fee, a temporarily refundable deposit, or a monthly rent increase. It may be illegal to charge these fees in some places, so double-check your local laws. Also, if there is a legally enforceable refundable pet deposit, be sure you understand exactly what is required of you in order to receive your money returned at the conclusion of your lease period.

  • Is it only damage to the unit that necessitates the forfeiture of your pet deposit?
  • What about complaints concerning noise?

Make sure you’re clear on the expectations so you can receive your pet deposit back when you move out.

What About Service Animals?

Even if a no-pet policy exists, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits landlords from excluding a service animal from staying in a rental. They also can’t charge a refundable or non-refundable pet fee or a monthly rent increase for a service animal, and they can’t limit the type, species, or size of the animal. A service animal is not a pet, which is a crucial distinction to make. Service animals are specially trained for specific tasks and are required to handle a tenant’s disability. It’s also worth noting that because emotional support animals do not qualify as service animals, the ADA’s rules do not apply to them.

With an emotional support animal, it is feasible to get around a no-pet policy, but there are no promises. If you’re looking to rent with a service animal, make sure you have proof of their status on hand. You are not needed to reveal your impairment to a potential landlord, but you must show that your animal companion is a licensed service animal.

Being a Responsible Renter When You Have a Pet

Just because you can have a pet in a rental doesn’t mean you can do everything you want. Follow the instructions below to be a nice renter and neighbor (and maximize your chances of getting your security deposit refunded). Make sure your pet has all of the necessary vaccinations, licenses, and tags. If necessary, choose a new veterinarian as soon as you move so that your pet’s care is never disrupted. Even if your pet won’t be interacting with other animals during your tenancy, it’s vital that they have all of their vaccines and any local licenses or tags.

  • Give your pet plenty of exercise and attention – Pets with a lot of pent-up energy are prone to bad behavior such as over-excitement, barking, and property destruction. Providing for your pet’s needs is an important aspect of being a good pet parent—and a good tenant. So, if you’re going to be gone for the majority of the day, have a walker or sitter check in, and always make sure your pet is getting enough love and exercise to be well-behaved in your apartment.
  • Keep your dog on a leash when outside – Other renters may have dogs of their own or be afraid of animals, so keep your dog on a leash whenever they’re outside. When you’re not in a designated off-leash area, this is the rule anyhow, and it ensures that you’re being a responsible neighbor.
  • Clean up after your pet – Nothing irritates neighbors more than dog feces left on the sidewalk. Keep a waste bag holder attached to your dog’s leash so you always have bags on available, and clean up after your dog immediately away rather than waiting until later.

In the United States, 57 percent of families have at least one pet, implying that there are millions of renters with pets. Knowing what to expect from pet regulations and doing your best to be a good pet parent while renting are essential, and will go a long way toward ensuring a positive experience renting with a pet.