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Renting with Pets and Animals

It’s usually in the landlord’s best interest to accept pets (at least dogs and cats), because over a third of all households have one. A landlord would have a better chance of filling his or her vacancy if it’s marketed to a larger audience than restricting his or her prospects to ones without pets. Ironically, the landlord’s reason for rejecting pets usually isn’t the increased liability or threat posed to fellow neighbors, it’s the threat posed to the baseboards, carpeting, doors and furnishings that weighs heavy on his or her mind.

Of course, there are landlords concerned about the safety of other inhabitants, neighbors and the community at large when you tell them that your two pit bulls would like to move in with you. This article discusses common landlord concerns and requirements, as well as your rights and responsibilities as a tenant with a pet.

Fish Tanks

This is an especially interesting topic because it’s often equated to the whole issue with waterbeds from the 1980s. As a whole, with any apparatus designed to hold dozens or hundreds of gallons of water in a rental unit (or home), landlords and insurance companies get nervous. Water is bad news; one mishap could spell disaster. This is why landlords who are willing to accept fish tanks sometimes require deposits or for you to agree to a specific placement of the tank. In other words, the fish tank must be positioned in the kitchen or on some tiled surface. Small fish bowls and aquariums are seldom ever discussed or disclosed. However, larger freshwater or saltwater displays can pose a problem for some landlords.

Fortunately, unless the landlord specifically asks, you are not required to disclose you even plan on rooming with some marine life. However, if the topic does come up and there is a little resistance, be prepared to reassure the landlord and possibly offer a refundable deposit that must be returned to you upon vacating – as long as the fish tank never causes any damage. In all reality, fish tank mishaps are seldom encountered, but when they do happen, it’s a big mess – even when it’s only just a few gallons.


Most landlords generally don’t have a problem with cats, although there are a few out there that will only accept cats that have been declawed – especially those landlords that offer furnished units, in which case the deposit needed to offset the potential for damage would be too great for most tenants to be able to handle.

According to the Humane Society, declawing cats is a matter on continuing controversy and should only be considered as a last resort because of the potential complications for the cat because it’s more than a manicure – it’s a surgical procedure that traditionally involves the amputation of the last bone of each toe. The Humane Society advocates that properly educated owners can easily train their cats to use their claws in a manner that allows a peaceful existence. Declawing should be reserved only for those rare cases in which a cat has a medical problem that would warrant such surgical procedure or, after exhausting all other options, it becomes clear that the cat cannot be properly trained – and, as a result, would jeopardize your tenancy.

If faced with this issue concerning your cat, consult your veterinarian on your options and don’t ever let the landlord sway your decision – this is something for you and your veterinarian to decide. Just be prepared to walk away and find a landlord who accepts your cat “as-as.”


There is an ongoing debate about the increased risk to humans by certain dog breeds. Some say it’s how they are raised and nurtured, while others say it’s genetically controlled behavior. Regardless of what your beliefs are, there are quite a few landlords and insurance companies that have labeled some dog breeds to be high-risk or dangerous – based upon data from organizations such as the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Center for Disease Control and the Humane Society. Despite what many experts say, the fact of the matter is you won’t be able to win a debate against a landlord or insurance company that has adopted a strict no pet (or no breed) policy. Human fatalities and bodily harm aside, there still remains the issue of pet stains, odor and damage that landlords are usually concerned about.

The best thing to offer a landlord (aside from cash) is a stellar recommendation from a current or previous landlord concerning your pet and the condition of the premises. Landlords need to feel comfortable about who they are renting to, including the entire household that accompanies the tenant. Whether it’s corporate controlled complexes or individually owned properties, all landlords have a large investment at stake – and, for some, it may even be their only source of income.

There have been thousands of stories about thousands of dollars in property damage caused by pets and their neglectful owners. So, it’s important to understand the reasons behind any resistance you may encounter – in order to present your best rebuttal. Of course, if your animal companion is a designate service animal due to a disability, no landlord can turn you down – thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act reaffirmed by HUD.

Exotic Animals

So you don’t care for cats and dogs. Instead, you have a fondness for 16-foot pythons or little monkeys. Since landlords will most likely not have an exotic pet policy or guidelines, their questions may only pertain to cats and dogs. If that is the case, then you are not obligated to disclose your hairy tarantula collection that you love to allow to roam free. However, if the landlord has a blanket questionnaire about pets and animals, you must answer it truthfully to avoid any future claims of lease violations.

There is certainly nothing wrong with the many unorthodox pets that are quiet and easy to manage. The problem is when you own an obnoxiously loud squawking bird from some tropical paradise. It may be pretty to look at for some, but the vast majority of people would soon be annoyed at the break of dawn or the onset of dusk, when the squawk box goes off and on, off and on, off and on… In this instance, it may be unreasonable to expect to find a suitable place to live in a community building. Instead, you may want to find a house that doesn’t share walls with your neighbors. Just don’t keep your feathered friend on the back porch for the neighborhood to hear.

By the way, some exotic animals are either outlawed or must be licensed in certain jurisdictions. Obviously, it’s your responsibility to make sure your cool little creature has been properly permitted. Otherwise, you may be forced to make a decision – either move or get rid of your exotic pet. Yes, it’s your right to own any legally permissible pet, but your landlord also has the right to refuse you tenancy – so choose wisely when shopping for a pet, especially when you plan to rent for a few more years.