Posted Oct 6, 2015

Legal Exceptions When An Apartment Says ‘No Pets Allowed’

Having a pet is one of the best things about renting an apartment and becoming an adult. However, not every landlord is keen on our furriest family members. In fact, one of the major reasons why some renters end up having a hard time dealing with apartment hunting boils down to three words: no pets allowed.

Legal Exceptions When An Apartment Says No Pets Allowed

I’ve had my schnauzer mix for two years now, and I can’t imagine apartment living without her. Our pets truly are part of the family, which is why it’s important for you to understand your tenant rights when it comes to pets.

In the past several decades, psychiatrists and other medical professionals have been advocating pet ownership to improve quality of life for all kinds of individuals, especially those with disabilities. Thankfully, many apartment owners and landlords have listened and allowed their tenants to enjoy this privilege.

However, it’s important to know exactly what your tenant rights are when you do run into the no pets allowed phrase in the lease. Here are a few key things to keep in mind:

What Landlords Can Do

It is fully within the legal rights of landlords to prohibit pet ownership in their buildings. Landlords can also allow some pets, but not others.

Legal Exceptions When An Apartment Says 'No Pets Allowed' - What Landlords Can Do

For instance, you might see some apartments that allow cats but not dogs, or will allow some smaller dog breeds. According to Realty Times, in some states, landlords can also demand that the dog or cat be spayed or neutered. In addition, landlords can stipulate a pet deposit on their tenants if they want to keep Fido around.

Your Housing Rights

However, there are some exceptions to the no pets allowed rule. For one, according to the Housing Rights Center, more than 9,000 individuals across the U.S. rely on formally trained guide dogs to help them with physical day-to-day activities. What’s more, an additional 5,000 to 10,000 people rely on these same animals for emotional support, such as for depression or anxiety.

Legal Exceptions When An Apartment Says 'No Pets Allowed' - Your Housing Rights

That said, it is illegal for a landlord to refuse a disabled tenant that relies on a service or support animal. Housing providers must have an exception to the no pets allowed rule in consideration for these tenants, per the Fair Housing Act of 1988.

As a whole, a landlord can deny an accommodation if the request would cause financial or administrative trouble for the landlord. For instance, installing an elevator in an older building might not be financially feasible for some landlords.

However, because the costs of a pet are relatively minimal for landlords and rely more on the tenant, a service animal request is usually granted in these cases. Landlords cannot tie in a pet deposit if they grant such a request either, as service animals are not considered pets.

Although there are certain state-by-state stipulations and some grey areas that you’ll want to be aware of, most tenants should know that they have rights when it comes to having service or companion animals live with them. Do your homework and see what kinds of laws concerning service animals pertain to your state.

If you’re apartment hunting, be sure to communicate with your landlord about service animals well beforehand so that there are no surprises– most landlords are more than happy to fulfill these requests as long as they have the proper notice.

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Legal Exceptions When An Apartment Says 'No Pets Allowed'

Rachel LaCroix


Rachel LaCroix is from the Music City, but she now calls the Windy City home. In her spare time, Rachel enjoys writing, reading, seeing local bands, frequenting Chicago eateries, playing with her adorable schnauzer and, most of all, traveling. She's seen Costa Rica to Copenhagen and loves it all!

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