If you’ve ever been searching for a new apartment or home to rent and it seemed as if every promising rental you looked at didn’t allow pets, you’re not alone. It’s hard enough to find an affordable rental these days, let alone one that also allows pets.
So, can a landlord say “no” to pets? Landlords have the right to include a “no pet” clause in a lease agreement. They can choose to deny any kind of pet for any reason, although cats and dogs are the most commonly prohibited pets. Landlords can also change their mind about allowing pets, but only under certain circumstances.
On top of that, if you violate this clause you could face eviction for violating the terms of your lease agreement. There are also certain terms and conditions under which a landlord can change a lease agreement. It’s important to know what those are, and we’ll cover them in detail below.
Can a Landlord Change Pet Policy?
According to the legal experts over at LegalNature, when tenants and landlords sign a lease, they enter into a legally binding contract. The lease can’t be altered or amended unless another written agreement called a lease addendum is made and signed by both parties. In rare cases a lease might include an exception that gives one party the power to change some of the terms, and that can include allowing pets or not. Read your lease agreement carefully and/or consult a lawyer if you’re not sure if your lease has one of these exceptions.
When can a landlord change their mind about pets?
When a landlord wants to make changes to a lease agreement, they can do so when the current lease agreement expires, or when a lease addendum is executed.
Landlords Can Change Pet Policy When Your Current Lease Expires
A landlord can add a “no pet” clause to a new lease agreement when an old lease expires. So, if your pet has caused damage or disturbed neighbors, it’s possible that when it comes time to renew your lease that your landlord could decide to include a “no pet” clause in the new agreement. It’s also possible for them to add other clauses related to pets at this time.
Some common pet clauses in lease agreements include:
- Requiring a pet deposit
- Charging pet fees (usually for specific damages)
- Charging pet rent
- Asking for a pet interview
- Restrictions on certain, aggressive dog breeds
- Restrictions on pet size, usually for large dogs
- Exclusion of rescue animals
- Limit on the number of pets
If you’re on a month-to-month lease, it’s common for landlords to give at least 30 days notice before changing any lease terms, such as allowing pets or not. Some states may allow shorter notification periods, and other states may require longer notification periods of 60 days or more. If you’re on a month-to-month lease and your landlord suddenly decides not to allow your pet, check your state laws or consult a lawyer to see how long of a notification period your landlord is required to give you.
Landlords Can Try to Change Pet Policy With a Lease Addendum
A lease addendum is an agreement between tenant and landlord to amend a certain part of the contract they’ve entered into. Lease addendums can be proposed by either landlord or tenant at any time after a lease has been signed.
Because a lease addendum cannot go into effect unless it’s agreed to and signed by both parties, it’s a good opportunity for renters to negotiate some parts of the lease agreement with their landlord, and vice-versa. This includes whether or not pets are allowed.
If your landlord proposes a lease addendum that adds pet restrictions or refuses to let you have them after you’ve moved in with your pets, you can choose not to agree to the addendum. You can also negotiate with your landlord the terms under which they will allow your pets.
For example, let’s say that your pet does some damage to the rental property that is above and beyond what’s covered by your pet deposit. Your landlord decides they’ve had enough, and initiates a lease addendum to remove the allowance of pets from the lease – in effect, an eviction of your pet.
In this case, you can renegotiate the pet deposit with your landlord to pay a bit more so that it covers the damage that your pet caused. Alternatively, you could negotiate a one-time pet fee to cover the damages, or write pet fees for damages into the lease. Either way, you don’t have to agree to or sign the lease addendum if the terms seem unfair.
A lease addendum may also be proposed if you happen to successfully convince your landlord to allow pets in their rental property while your lease agreement is still in effect.
Landlords Can Deny Pets at the Beginning of a New Lease Agreement
If you’re already moved into an apartment and on a lease agreement that allows pets, your landlord would have to take the steps above (the lease addendum) to negotiate to change their pet policy. But this is only specific to your lease agreement, not all lease agreements within your apartment building.
Here’s another example: let’s say you’re a tenant who has lived in your apartment building for awhile with your pets, and you’re part of the way through your lease agreement. Your landlord could change their mind about pets and decide that they don’t want to allow them any longer. New tenants who sign the updated lease agreement that denies pets wouldn’t be able to move in with pets if they had any. But, without a lease addendum, this change in pet policy would not apply to you.
It’s important to note that your landlord isn’t required to notify you of the new lease terms that deny pets until it’s time to renew your lease. At that time, the rules above about giving adequate notice to tenants about a change in pet policy to deny pets would apply. Good landlords will give you and your pet family adequate time to find a new pet-friendly rental when they decide to change.
But since the required notification period varies by state, and could be 30 days or less in your state, it’s a good idea to check in with your landlord periodically and well ahead of the time when your lease renews to see if they’ve changed any policies that could affect you or your pets.
Emotional Support Animals are an Exception to No Pet Clauses
Emotional Support Animals (or ESAs) are animals that provide assistance and comfort to people with physical, mental, or emotional disabilities. Emotional Support Animals are not considered pets, and are therefore exempt from “no pet” clauses in lease agreements.
People with disabilities are protected from discrimination by the Fair Housing Act. Service and Emotional Support Animals are considered a “reasonable accommodation” to people with disabilities, and landlords are required by law to allow for them.
Even if you acquire a condition that is aided by a Service Animal or Emotional Support Animal while you are currently on a lease with a “no pet” clause, you can still get a Service Animal or Emotional Support Animal without risking eviction or needing a lease addendum to add your new pet companion.
How to Get Around a “No Pet” Policy
There are several possible ways to get around a “no pet policy” in a lease agreement. The first step is to ask your landlord if you can have a written copy of their policy against pets. If they have a written policy that specifically excludes pets, then you need to make sure that you understand what that policy entails, and then follow up with questions on why particular provisions are in place. For example, does your landlord have a no pets policy because they’re concerned about property damage, or noise disturbances, or something like concern for child or elderly tenant safety?
It’s important to know why your landlord has a no pets policy in order to be able to find ways around it by offering a counter-argument that includes either
The next step is to determine if there is anything else in your lease agreement that might help you. For instance, some leases that have a no pets clause also include provisions that allow for the addition of a pet as long as you follow certain guidelines, such as having renter’s insurance or paying a pet deposit.
If your lease doesn’t contain any such provisions, you’ll need to explore ways of convincing your landlord to allow pets.
Some approaches you can take include:
- Offering to pay an additional, one-time security deposit known as a pet deposit
- Offering to pay an additional monthly fee, known as pet rent
- Suggest to your landlord that if they relax their no pets policy, you will get renter’s insurance that includes coverage for potential damages incurred by pets
- Ask your landlord if they’ll make an exception for caged pets, like birds or fish or reptiles
- Register your pet as an Emotional Support Animal or Service Animal, but only if it actually qualifies for either of these designations – we do not recommend lying or falsifying information to get around a “no pet” policy!
If you’re not sure if your rental situation fits into what we’ve discussed above, or if you need legal advice on pet policy and lease agreements, get in touch with legal counsel in your state. You can find a directory for low-cost legal assistance at USA.gov.