Renting with Your Pets: Tips and Resources
Finding a pet-friendly rental, resolving landlord issues and keeping everybody happy
Welcome, pet-owning residents! The Humane Society of the United States knows how important your pet is to you—they’re family. And we understand the kind of challenges that can occur when searching for housing that welcomes pets or when living with pets in rental housing. Tragically, housing problems are one of the main reasons that pets are given up to animal shelters.
We don’t want you or your pets to become part of this statistic! This page provides resources and information to help you find good housing options and keep your pet if a housing problem arises.
Please note: When dealing with any landlord-tenant issue, seek professional legal assistance. The materials provided here are for informational purposes only, and do not constitute legal advice.
Finding rental housing for you and your pets
Finding a place where you and your pets are welcome may take some time and patience, but with the following steps, you can increase your chances of success.
Conduct a search for housing where you and your pets are welcome.
- Give yourself as much time as possible to search.
- Contact local animal shelters and rescue groups for suggestions.
- Research animal-friendly listings and realtors.
- Look for a community apartment guidebook in supermarkets for listings.
Make sure that your lease says that you may have a pet.
- At the very least, make sure that your lease doesn’t say “no pets allowed.” Don’t assume that you're allowed to have pets because you see other pets on the property, and don’t take anyone’s word (even that of a realtor, building manager or landlord) that it’s okay to have pets. What matters is what's written in your lease. Make sure you get a copy of it when you sign it, and store it with other important documents like your birth certificate and social security card.
- If there is a pet deposit or monthly fee, make sure these are specified in writing in the lease. Sometimes the pet deposit or monthly pet fees can be discussed with the landlord and negotiated.
- Even if the landlord advertises “no pets,” it is worth asking if you can discuss the matter.
Put your pet's best foot forward to your potential landlord.
- Get a letter of reference from your current or most recent landlord.
- Provide written proof that your dog has completed a training class.
- Get a letter from your veterinarian that says your pet is up-to-date on vaccines and spayed/neutered.
- Invite the landlord to meet your pet.
- Be willing to pay a reasonable extra amount in rent or pay a refundable pet deposit.
- Create a “resume” for your pet, including the information above, a photo and favorite activities. You can even tell the story of how you adopted your pet.
As a resident, you have rights. Knowing those rights can help you keep your pet if any issues arise.
- Review your lease. Typically if a lease does not mention pets at all, then you are allowed to have pets. Some communities and public housing authorities have laws and rules banning certain types of animals or breeds of dogs. Be sure to check if any local laws or rules are in effect, as these outweigh your lease.
- Contracts like leases cannot just be changed without both sides agreeing, unless there is already language in the document that allows the change.
- Your landlord cannot go into your apartment and remove a pet, or show up and force you or your pet out. Landlords have to follow the law and go through a legal process to remove tenants or their pets. Generally the landlord cannot even enter the home without giving the tenant notice except in an emergency, unless the lease specifies otherwise.
- Even if your lease does not allow pets, you may have a legal right to keep your pet. Your right to keep your pet may depend on local housing laws, the type of housing you live in, as well as the type of lease you have. This is why it is so important to find legal resources to assist you. Also, if your pet meets the legal qualifications of an assistance animal, you may have a legal right to keep your pet.
- While not technically “tenants,” unit owners in co-ops and condominiums may also face pet-related housing issues.Co-op and condo boards have strict defined rules they must follow to make any changes in pet policies or to remove unit owners. If your building’s pet policies have suddenly become restrictive or if you’ve received notices to remove a pet, it’s important to seek legal assistance to determine your rights.
- If you are being faced with eviction or loss of your pet, seek help before you do anything drastic. There may be legal resources in your community (see next section) to help you find answers to questions about your lease or about notices you have received from your landlord. These include nonprofit agencies whose services may be low cost or even free. You may be able to keep your housing and your pet, so do not panic.
Many states and cities have organizations that provide information and, in some cases, free legal assistance to people with a housing concern. The easiest way to identify these organizations is to use the Internet to search the following terms:
- [Your state or city] Legal Services
- [Your state or city] Legal Aid
- Free legal services in [Your state or city]
- The National Fair Housing Advocate Online has a good list of legal services, tenant advocacy organizations and housing rights enforcement agencies throughout the country.
- The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights has a good list of legal services, tenant advocacy organizations and housing rights enforcement agencies throughout the country.
- Your local housing court may have a help center for tenants who have questions about the laws and the legal process.
- Your local or state bar association may have a resource center or referral service for people involved in housing disputes. Contact them for a referral.
It can be scary when your landlord tells you to remove your pet. But it's important to look into all of your options before making any decisions. Even if it seems that keeping your pet in your home may be a problem, you may have a legal right to keep your pet and there may be resources to help you. Here are some common scenarios.
- Your landlord says there are complaints that your pet is being a nuisance.
- Your landlord says that your lease says no pets and you have to remove your pet. Have an attorney or a tenant’s rights agency review your lease (see "Finding Legal Resources in Your Community," above). If you suffer from a physical and/or emotional disability, you may have a right to keep your pet as an assistance animal.
- Your landlord says that your pet must leave if you don’t start paying a fee each month to keep the pet. Or a new landlord takes over the property, and says he will no longer allow pets. Typically a landlord cannot suddenly change the terms of a lease and charge additional fees. And if your lease includes your pet, there may be laws in your state that protect you. Contact your local legal resources to get more information about your rights as a tenant (See "Finding Legal Resources in Your Community," above).
Tips for cat owners
- Preventing your cat from destructive scratching
- Why declawing isn't the answer for scratching problems
- Preventing litter box problems
- Solving litter box problems
- Keeping your cat happy indoors