Whether you have a dog, cat or another furry friend, you probably consider your pet to be a part of your family. But can your landlord evict you for having a dog?
The short answer is yes.
Why apartments have pet policies
Most apartments have pet policies to limit possible damage to the property and to ensure that residents are considerate of one another. Some landlords or apartment associations enforce a maximum number of pets allowed in a unit to keep tenants from overwhelming a small space with multiple animals.
Others may specify the size or breed of a pet to make sure that they're quiet, well-behaved and suited to apartment living. The best small dog breeds for an apartment are quiet and don't require a lot of exercise or space. Most apartments require pets to be confined to the owner's unit and they're not allowed to roam free or unleashed. Pets should not be left unattended on patios or balconies.
Know the pet policy
As long as you follow your apartment's rules and make sure that your pet doesn't cause damage or become a nuisance to others, there should be no conflict between you and your landlord. If your apartment complex is pet-friendly, take all the necessary steps that allow for a tenant to have one, you should be in a good position.
This means full disclosure of the animal's presence and all required information and payment of any necessary fees, deposits and pet rent. Make sure you are following all the related rules for pet owners like keeping dogs leashed and picking up after them on walks.
If you're getting a new pet and bringing it home to your current apartment, the same rules apply. If your community is pet-friendly, this shouldn't be a problem as long as you disclose your intent to the landlord or management company, then follow all the necessary steps and pay mandatory fees.
However, if your complex is not pet-friendly and they don't allow animals of any kind, then you either need to move somewhere else that allows pets, or you need to put your plans on hold. If you break the rules, you're subject to eviction.
You have to pay for your pet
Failure to pay rent is the most common reason for eviction, and pet-related fees fall under the above classification. If you don't pay your pet fees, deposits or rent, they have the right to kick you out — or at least demand the fees be paid.
Your property management company can restrict animals based on size and breed or even the number of pets you're permitted to have. They're also entitled to do random pet checks and you can bet they're paying close attention to who has a pet and who doesn't, so don't try to sneak one in.
Don't let your pet be a nuisance
Even if pets are allowed and you're up to date on all your fees, you can still be evicted if your pet proves to be a nuisance. For example, if you have a dog who barks all the time — to the point where your neighbors repeatedly complain — you'll need to act swiftly to remedy the situation or you can both be thrown out.
You also have to be careful about damages to the apartment. It's understood and likely covered in your lease that tenants are required to keep their pets from causing damage to the apartment. While a torn carpet or scratched baseboard will be covered by your security deposit, pet odors are notoriously difficult to remove and, therefore, considered damage.
If your pet is not housebroken or fails to use the litterbox, things can get bad quickly. You can be evicted for having a pet if you don't tend to these matters. And just like you're responsible for what your pet does inside, you're also on the hook for what they do outside. Clean up after your pet!
Service animals are the exception to the rule
By law, landlords must allow for service animals (such as seeing-eye dogs) and emotional support animals. Tenants who have these animals must show documentation proving their service or emotional-support status upon request. Pet rent, fees and size or breed restrictions do not apply to these animals as they're not considered pets.
Can a landlord change the pet policy?
A landlord can't change the pet policy that's specified in your lease. The lease can't be altered or amended unless an addendum is made and signed by both parties. However, a landlord can add a “no pet" clause to a new lease agreement when an old lease expires.
If your landlord proposes a lease addendum to deny your pet after you've moved in, you can try to negotiate the terms. For example, let's say that your pet does some damage to the rental property and your landlord decides to evict your pet. You can renegotiate the pet deposit with your landlord to pay more to cover the damage.
The Humane Society of the United States offers a great resource for resolving pet issues with your landlord. They suggest that you seek legal consultation if you're being faced with the eviction of your pet. There may be free legal assistance in your community to help you find answers to questions about notices that you have received from your landlord.
Stand up for your rights as a pet owner
Read your lease and check the local housing laws. It's up to you to know your rights and defend them. Typically, if a lease does not mention pets at all, then you're allowed to have pets.
Some communities and public housing authorities have laws banning certain types of animals or breeds of dogs. Local laws may outweigh the terms of your lease banning specific animals as pets. Even if your lease does not allow pets, you may have a legal right to keep your pet depending on where you live and the type of housing you live in.