Most pet owners will say their beloved pet is part of their family, but if you’re renting an apartment, condo, or house, you might be subject to a few pet ownership rules. animals.
“Pets provide so much to us and are an integral part of the family for most Americans,” says Katie Jarl, director of government affairs and policy at American Pets Alive!. “And for people with disabilities or special needs, these animals are true lifesavers and have special protections under the law.”
Housing and tenancy restrictions are major causes why people are forced to part with their pets, Jarl says, making it essential for pet owners to know their rights, especially those who have service animals and support animals. “It’s something we need to address from a national perspective,” Jarl adds.
Here’s what you need to know about your rights when it comes to your apartment’s pet policy.
- Pet policies in apartments.
- What are your rights regarding service animals and support animals?
- Can an owner refuse a service animal or support animal?
- Tell your owner about your pet.
Apartment Pet Policies
Pet policies are terms in rental leases that set out terms for tenants and their pets. These policies set out the rules for the landlord and tenant regarding expectations and responsibilities regarding pet ownership in the rental unit. Because your lease is legally binding, it is essential to read your lease and understand these terms.
Standard apartment pet policy guidelines include:
- Breed Restrictions. Many apartments enforce breed restrictions to avoid liability and potential property damage. Some insurance companies may also require race restrictions before insuring a multifamily building. Common dog breeds banned from rental properties include Pit Bulls, German Shepherds, and Rottweilers.
- Type of animal accepted. The building may allow cats and dogs, but the pet policy may restrict other types of pets such as reptiles or birds.
- Number of pets. Most apartment pet policies limit the number of pets to one or two in each unit.
- Weight restrictions. Some policies may include a weight limit, which could also exclude many dog breeds. Larger dogs could pose a risk to the apartment, plus there is also noise to consider. Most apartments that limit dogs based on weight generally allow no more than 25 pounds.
- Pet deposit and pet rent amount. The landlord may impose fees associated with having a pet in the unit, such as an initial deposit and a “pet rent” amount added to your monthly rent.
- Pet-free policy. There may even be a clause prohibiting pets in the lease. This means that no pets are allowed in the unit. However, there are exceptions for service animals and emotional support animals under federal law.
If necessary, landlords and housing facilities must allow service dogs and emotional support animals to live on the premises if a tenant has a disability-related need.
What are your rights regarding service animals and support animals?
“The Federal Fair Housing Act protects tenants of most professionally-run units and requires landlords to make reasonable accommodations not only for specially trained ‘assistance’ dogs, but also for ‘support’ animals. “who help with a physical or mental disability,” says Christopher Berry, managing attorney at the Animal Legal Defense Fund. “The Fair Housing Act applies to most rental housing, but not all, so it’s important to determine if it even applies.”
Service animals are also protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act. “A service animal is defined by the ADA as a dog that has been individually trained to work or perform tasks for a person with a disability and those tasks must be directly related to a person’s disability,” Jarl explains.
In accordance with the Fair Housing Act, breed and weight restrictions do not apply to service animals or emotional support animals. Additionally, Jarl says landlords cannot charge a tenant additional rent for a pet or pet deposits for service or emotional support animals.
Can an owner refuse a service animal or support animal?
According to ServiceDogCertifications.org, owners have the right to refuse housing when the animal exhibits dangerous, dangerous, or destructive behavior. Certain small landlords, such as owner-occupied buildings with no more than four units and single-family homes sold or rented by the landlord without the assistance of an agent, are also exempt from the service animal rules of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.
But if you are denied, Jarl encourages anyone in that situation to contact a national or state disability rights legal center. Another option is to file a complaint through HUD. There is even a section on the HUD website where you can file a complaint against the landlord who denies you these rights.
“I always recommend that anyone who is being denied contact one of these legal centers to receive the legal help they need to work with the owner and ensure their service or support animal is licensed in his accommodation,” says Jarl.
Tell your owner about your pet
According to Berry, landlords are required to allow service animals, but it’s up to the landlord whether or not to allow pets. “Local or state tenant associations and legal aid societies often have resources explaining applicable laws, which can help guide a tenant through the approval process,” says Berry.
For pets, The Humane Society of the United States recommends finding a rental unit that welcomes all pets. Although it may be difficult, you can increase your chances of success by giving yourself plenty of time to research housing, research animal-friendly listings, and contact family, friends, social networking sites, or social media.
You can also talk to your pet’s owner and they may be willing to make an exception, even if they don’t meet weight or breed restrictions.
On the other hand, if you have a service or emotional support animal, you technically do not have to disclose this information on the rental application due to privacy laws. However, Jarl says the owner can still request certification to prove your animal is a service animal or emotional support animal. This is information she suggests potential tenants have on hand if they are renting a new home.
ServiceDogCertifications.org says owners can verify a service dog by asking two questions: Is the dog a required service dog for a disability? What job or task was the position trained for? These questions can only be asked if the need related to the animal’s disability is not obvious. Also, owners can never demand documents such as ID cards, registrations or certificates.
However, ServiceDogCertifications.org adds that emotional support animals require a signed letter from a licensed medical professional such as a therapist, doctor, or counselor. These letters are known as ESA letters and landlords are entitled to rely on them to verify that the tenant needs an emotional support animal.
Prospective renters with pets should also be aware of federal and local laws regarding what is allowed and what is not allowed. “Renters with pets, service or support animals should familiarize themselves with their rights under federal, state and local laws so they can make an informed decision on how best to approach their landlord,” Berry said.