renting with pets: finding a pet-friendly apartment

It's simple: you're expected to rent by the rules established in your lease. But what about the legality of having a dog or cat in your apartment? Find out how to negotiate a pet roommate with your landlord and whether you could be violating your lease.

convincing a landlord to accept pets

It can be hard enough to find the perfect apartment, let alone a pet-friendly one. But depending on your landlord, you might be able to negotiate before you move in using these tips:

  • Provide references. Did your last landlord allow your cat or dog? If your furry friend was a perfect tenant, consider asking for a letter of reference.
  • Vet records, obedience school records, and any other documents attesting to the physical and behavioral strengths of your pet help prove that they're well-trained and up-to-date on medical care.
  • If you haven't already, think about getting your pet spayed or neutered. To many people, it shows that you're a responsible pet owner, and that you won't have a surprise litter someday.
  • Offer a higher deposit if you can. Some landlords only need a financial push to comply.

How else can you assure your landlord that you're a responsible pet owner? Consider renters insurance. In addition to providing protection for your everyday items, it could help protect your liability in case your dog nips at a neighbor.

Pet rent

Depending on your state, your landlord may legally charge a pet deposit or a monthly fee for pets — essentially, pet rent. It's a tricky issue though, mainly because fees can vary drastically, so it's a good idea to look into the legality of pet fees where you live (and the limits!) before you agree to any.

violating your lease

Let's say you manage to smuggle a pooch into your brand-new no-dogs-allowed studio, but then your landlord finds out. You might have to get rid of your dog or the 2 of you might be evicted. Do you have options?

Correctable violations

In the case of "correctable" causes — such as housing a pet when your lease forbids it — you're granted up to 30 days to fix the problem before being evicted (meaning you've got to find your dog a new home or you're both out).

To prevent being evicted for circumventing your lease, always ask your landlord before taking on a pet (or suppress your urge to buy one until you find a place that accepts the type of pet you want).

Cause for eviction

Depending on your state and circumstance, your landlord is legally required to give you between 3 and 30 days' notice before you have to vacate your apartment. That is, provided they have just cause; for instance, if you decide to keep a dog illegally after you were given the opportunity to get rid of it once your landlord found out.

What's considered a just cause varies by state, so be sure to stay up-to-date on the tenant rights where you live.

There are exceptions, depending entirely on your landlord. Say they don't allow dogs over 20 pounds but you come home with a hefty Lab mix. You may be able to negotiate with your landlord, but there's no guarantee you'll both be allowed to stay.

service animals in apartments: your rights

Whether you have a mental or physical need for a service animal, it's your legal right to have one in your apartment, so long as your requests are reasonable. Even if your landlord doesn't allow pets, they have to allow you to have a service animal if you need one.

The Fair Housing Act states that service animals aren't legally looked at as "pets" when it comes to renting, which also means you can't be charged a pet fee for a necessary companion. And weight and size restrictions a landlord might place on regular pets can't apply to service animals. A renter isn't limited to one pet if more than one is required, though it depends entirely on the individual case.

You don't have to prove that your pet is a certified service animal, but you do need to prove that you require one (typically supported with documentation from a licensed health care professional).

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