Renting For Pet Owners: Key Legal Considerations

Most people who own pets consider themselves to be the guardians of their furry friends, but occasionally they can cause complications in our lives. One such time is when you are attempting to rent an apartment and need to deal the various legal issues that can arise from finding a new place to live for you and your pet. This article examines some of the key legal considerations that could come into play.

No Pets Clauses

The first thing you need to determine when looking for an apartment is whether the landlord allows pets at all. Many lease and rental agreements have no pets clauses. This is perfectly legal, and there is usually nothing you can do to fight it.

One point to keep in mind, however, is that no pets clauses, although enforceable in most cases, do not apply if you have a service animal. The federal government does not consider a service animal to be a pet, but rather an essential helper for a disabled person. If a landlord declines to rent to you because you have a service or assistance dog, they are in violation of the Fair Housing Act.

Breed Clauses

Even if a landlord allows pets, they have the right to restrict certain breeds. One of the most common breed restrictions is enforced against pit bulls because of the belief that they are more aggressive than other dogs. Also, in some instances, a city or county might bar certain breeds from the community, and the landlord has no choice in the matter.

Deposits and Pet Rent

Some states allow landlords to require a separate deposit for renters with pets. This pet security deposit is designed to address any damage done to the apartment by the renter's animal. The deposit might or might not be refundable.

If it is not refundable, it's usually called a pet fee and not a pet security deposit. The law may limit the amount a landlord can charge for a deposit or fee, depending on the specific statutes of your state.

Another issue to consider is that some landlords will charge a small monthly fee for the right to keep a pet. This charge is typically within the law and is in addition to your standard monthly rent.

As you can see, there are a number of legal issues to remain aware of if you plan to move to an apartment with your pet. Because the laws can vary significantly by state and municipality, it's a good idea to consult an attorney such as one found at McKone & Unruh before signing any lease or agreement.