Pet-Friendly Housing and Renters

Cat in sunlight

“No pets” policies, limitations on the number or type of pets, restrictions on the breed or weight of a pet, costly pet deposits, and additional monthly “pet rent” are all roadblocks renters encounter as they attempt to find a place to live with pets.

These policies have real-world effects. A national study conducted by the ASPCA revealed that those who rent are more likely to need to rehome their pets for housing-related issues than for any other reason. Furthermore, according to the study, a primary housing issue cited by families relinquishing a pet to an animal shelter or rescue is financial eviction from their current housing and a lack of suitable, pet-friendly alternatives in the rental market. Renting with pets? Here’s some general advice that may help you find the right home.

But the demand for pet-friendly rental housing is only growing. A survey of 1,000 renters by reinforced the importance of including pets as part of a renter household. Of those surveyed, more than 80% of respondents said a pet-friendly policy played a major role in where they chose to live, and nearly 90% said they have a pet. Of the renters surveyed who do not currently own pets, more than half plan to become pet owners within the next year. Survey respondents who said they were forced to give up their pet(s) cited not being able to find an apartment with a pet-friendly policy (65%) or not being able to afford the pet deposit (27%) as the two main causes.

There is no such thing as completely animal-free housing due to fair housing laws, which require landlords to accommodate service and emotional support animals. However, many landlords exclude or significantly restrict pets due to an unproven belief that households with pets will become a financial or social burden for their communities. 

Some landlords permit pets, but place significant restrictions on the breeds or weight that they will allow. However, the breed and size of a dog does not correlate to a pet’s behavior or desirability as a resident. Some larger dogs may be more docile and quieter than smaller dogs. An older dog may be quieter than a younger dog, no matter its size. Furthermore, the breed of a dog is often misidentified. The ASPCA strongly recommends that the breed and size of pets not be specifically limited given that pet owners should be able to maintain control over their pets at all times.

Some landlords express concern about pets contributing to conflict within their communities. Of course, common complaints, such as excessive barking and pet owners not cleaning up after their dogs, are not issues exclusive to renters. Most local governments already have regulations in place to address common issues that impact public health and safety and nuisances, but landlords can also include additional rules in lease addendums that outline what is expected for pets and their owners. Setting clear expectations up front can prevent future conflicts of all kinds

Best Practice: It is always important to outline expectations upfront.

  • Pet policies can be provided to prospective and current tenants in a lease addendum. Pet policies are intended to address the respective needs of management and both pet-owning and non-pet owning tenants, as well as the needs of the pets themselves. The terms of a policy should create a harmonious co-existence of everyone living and working at the property by fostering respect, cooperation, and consideration by clearly laying out the expectations and agreements made.
  • In addition to a pet addendum, a landlord may request a photo and other identifying information about the pet(s) and may request proof of compliance with local licensing and vaccination laws, in addition to other applicable state and local public health, animal control, and animal cruelty regulations.
  • Landlords should designate at least one common area for pets to relieve themselves. They should require pet waste to be appropriately removed by the pet owner and may consider providing a pet comfort station with waste bags and disposal receptacle.
  • Tenants should provide the name and contact information for a pet caretaker who will assume responsibility for the care of their pet(s) should the owner become unable to care for the pet.

While some landlords may believe that all pets will create significant damage, recent studies have found that there is little, if any, difference in damage between tenants with and without pets. In fact, there are a number of benefits that both landlords and the community enjoy when pets are allowed. For example, according to one study, 83% of owners/operators say that pet-friendly vacancies can be filled faster. Furthermore, 21% of residents in pet-friendly housing stay longer than those who don’t allow pets.

Even if landlords allow some or all pets, many require exorbitant and/or non-reimbursable pet deposits. Some states have addressed this by limiting the amount of residential deposit that can be charged for a new tenant and explicitly requiring the deposit must be fully reimbursed for normal “wear and tear” of a rented home.

The ASPCA is working to educate state lawmakers on the implications of pet restrictions and high pet deposits in order to pursue legislative solutions that ensure tenants are not forced to give up their pets.

Sources available upon request; contact [email protected] with specific questions about this content.