The search for an apartment that meets your needs (and your budget) can be a challenge. For renters who also need to accommodate pets, the process can be especially so. As anyone who has rented an apartment can probably tell you, some apartment communities ban pets altogether, while others place strict limits and/or requirements for pet owners. Fortunately, understanding the rental market when it comes to pets can help limit the frustration. Below are some considerations for apartment-seekers who own pets, as well as those who may consider adopting a pet in the future.
Remember: Apartments do not have to allow pets.
There are many laws that spell out how landlords may choose tenants, for example, it’s illegal to discriminate against someone based on race or religion. However, pet owners are not protected by law. Consequently, rules vary widely between apartment communities. The good news is, in most cases you should be able to find an apartment that will accommodate your pet—you may just have to search a bit harder.
There’s one rare exception here: landlords are legally required to allow service animals or therapeutic animals for people with disabilities—these animals are not considered to be pets, and thus are exempt from rules pertaining to pets. For more information on service animals, you can contact a disability rights organization.
Find out what pets are allowed.
Many apartments will state that they allow pets or are “pet-friendly,” however many will place limits on specific species, breeds, sizes, or number of pets. Some will only allow cats or dogs under a certain weight limit, others will only allow two pets. Exotic pets (birds, rodents, reptiles, ferrets, etc.) are often prohibited, but some landlords will allow them at the discretion of the management. Some apartments will allow fish tanks but only under a certain size, e.g. under 10 gallons (this has to do with avoiding water-damage if a tank breaks). Ask the apartment manager exactly what pets are allowed, and check to make sure your lease reflects these terms before you sign.
Be aware that apartments will never allow pets that are illegal in your state and/or local jurisdiction. Your lease may not list specific animals, but owning them would fall under “illegal activity” which almost certainly is prohibited in the terms of your lease.
Ask about breed restrictions.
Many apartments ban dog breeds considered to be “high risk” by their insurance company. This has nothing to do with your individual dog—it’s simply based on a company’s assessment of statistical risk. Also know that even if your landlord allows these breeds, you may have trouble with your own renter’s insurance company. Each apartment will have a different policy, but most commonly banned breeds include larger breeds such as: Pit Bulls, Staffordshire Terriers, Doberman Pinschers, Rottweilers, German Shepherds, Chows, Great Danes, Presa Canarios, Akitas, Alaskan Malamutes, Siberian Huskies, and wolf-hybrids.
Understand pet fees and deposits.
Many if not most landlords will charge you more if you have a pet, but their terms will vary. Some may require a pet deposit, which is generally returned to you when you move out as long as your pet has not caused any damage. Others may charge a one-time and/or monthly fee. Sometimes you will be charged a fee per pet. This should be reflected in the terms of your lease.
Don’t try to hide a pet from your landlord—chances are very good you’ll be caught. Other tenants may report you if they hear or see signs of a pet, or management may notice when they’re in your apartment for a repair, inspection, etc. Sometimes they may enter without advanced notice, for example, when there’s a leak. If you have unauthorized pets you are considered in violation of your lease, which may have serious consequences.
Apartment locators are your friend.
Apartment locators can be an invaluable resource for anyone seeking an apartment, but owning a pet is a perfect example of a situation when we can be especially helpful. Why? Because while websites may reference their pet policies, these policies may be buried under other information or they may leave out important details (for example, they may say “pet-friendly” but don’t mention banned dog breeds). Digging for this information can be time-consuming and frustrating. However, locators usually have this information at their fingertips, and if they don’t, they can find out quickly. If you let us know exactly what type of pets you have (or plan to adopt), you can save a lot of time by letting them do this work for you.