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Pet Companionship, Apartments & You

Pets provide incredible companionship, but they can also be a major responsibility especially when living in an apartment. One of the biggest questions when it comes to pets and renting is whether you can keep a dog, cat, or even a bird in your complex?

Pets including two dogs, birds, a cat, and fish
Can you have any type of pet in an apartment?

While apartments in the US have regulations concerning cat and dog ownership, it is important to get to know these requirements before you move into a new rental or before you decide to bring Fido home without first speaking to your landlord!

Let’s look at the most common questions and concerns when it comes to renting an apartment with a pet.

Are You Allowed to Keep Pets in Your Apartment?

In the US, you are permitted to keep no more than 2 dogs or cats in an apartment while domestic animals such as hamsters, fish, or a small bird may be allowed.

Infographic about pets in apartments
Can You Have Pets in an Apartment? - Infographic

The reasons pets are strictly regulated in apartments are to prevent animals from becoming a nuisance to the neighbors, causing destruction of property, or posing a risk to the public.

It also depends on the individual lease agreement. Some landlords don’t allow pets over 50 lbs while others won’t permit cats or dogs of any size from entering the property. Check your lease to determine whether you can have pets, the types of animals you’re allowed to house, and whether there are penalties for bringing a pet home before consulting with property management or the landlord.

When searching for apartments to rent online, look at the features that are offered with the rental. The details should include the floor plan, number of bedrooms, and whether pets are allowed. If you are already living in a rental and you want to know whether you can bring a pet into the complex, this will have to be discussed with the landlord. Remember, if they do agree to a cat, dog, or other domestic animals, it may come with an extra charge on top of your rent. Also, changes to the lease should be recorded in a written contract and not merely a verbal agreement to protect you against harsh penalties down the line.

Pet Restrictions in Apartments

Either your lease doesn't allow any type of pet, or you could be allowed companion animals but within restrictions.

Let’s look at the limitations concerning pets in complexes:

Which Types of Pets are Allowed?

Most landlords won’t allow large and heavy or “aggressive” breeds into apartments. They might not allow cats or birds such as a parrot that could make a lot of noise either. The types of pets you can keep will depend on the landlord and the rental policy. If you can’t find information about pets in your lease, contact your landlord to ask the necessary questions. We look at ways of proposing to keep a pet to your landlord a little later on.

A chicken looking at the camera lens
Not all animals, big or small, will be allowed into the apartment!

Are There Size Restrictions?

Landlords might agree to cats and dogs but that doesn’t mean bringing a Great Dane into your complex! There will most likely be a weight limit on dogs.

Black and white Great Dane
Don't expect your landlord to welcome a dog the size of a small horse!

Limited Number of Pets

Because of the size of an apartment and because you live in close proximity to others, you cannot have large numbers of pets even if it includes birds, hamsters, or small reptiles. Cats and dogs are limited to 1 or 2 per leaseholder (again depending on what your landlord permits) while restrictions on smaller animals will depend on the type of animal you want to bring into the home.

Why It’s Important to Ask Your Landlord About Pets?

You may not think of your little hamster running in his wheel as a liability, but landlords have to think about the risks of bringing animals into the residence. They have rules and regulations that govern pet keeping for your protection and that of other tenants.

If you don’t speak to the landlord or check your lease and you decide to bring a dog or cat into the apartment, you could face a financial penalty, you could be requested to rehome the pet, or face eviction.

Stressed out woman
Read your lease before bringing a pet home

Don’t take a chance! If you want to become a pet owner, read your lease or speak to the landlord about your options. You can also find apartments where pets are permitted.

The Costs of Owning a Pet and Renting

One factor that many renters fail to consider is the cost of owning a pet. Apart from their food and basic care, you could be facing additional fees and deposits if you want to bring a furry member into your home.

Landlords can issue the following fees for pet ownership:

A Deposit

Deposits for pets are not uncommon. Even apartments that accept dogs, cats, and other animals may request a down payment to cover the damages that could be caused by the pet. Property managers look for things like stains on floors and carpets, scratches on the wall or door, and even odors related to animals relieving themselves in the apartment. The repairs for these spoils will come from funds that are separate from your security deposit.

Higher Monthly Rent

This is a fee added to your monthly rent. You could be charged up to $100 extra per month so always get clarity on the extra costs involved in bringing a four-legged companion into an apartment.

Convincing Your Landlord to Keep a Pet

So, what happens if you have a cat or dog that has nowhere else to go and you want to move into an apartment with a clause that doesn’t allow pets?

4 dogs walked in a park on a sunny day
With some work you can make pets and living in apartments a success

When there is a policy in the lease that prevents dog or cat ownership, it can be challenging to change the landlord’s mind but there are a few steps that you can take to try to get your furry family member approved on the lease:

Create a Proposal

Not the engagement kind! A proposal is about putting some information together to present to landlords concerning the importance of your pet, the situation you’re in, their general behavior, and how you take full responsibility for their care. Property owners want to know that the pet will be well-behaved so include proof of training and even testimonials from friends, family, and fellow members at training classes. You need to provide a convincing proposal that you have the most well-behaved and stellar pet to ensure they become a part of the lease!

Provide Proof of Medical History

Updated vaccinations, spaying or neutering, and perhaps a reference from your vet concerning pet health can go a long way to providing landlords with peace of mind.

Prepare for the Costs

If they decide to amend the lease and include your pet, prepare for the extra fees. Adding pets does not come cheap so expenses to add to your monthly bill will include your general living expenses, regular rent, and rent for pets. You will also have to keep your dog, cat, or other domestic animals well-groomed, vaccinated, and have regular vet checks to maintain their health.

Now that we know a little bit more about the legal side of pet ownership while renting your home, let’s look at ways to keep them healthy, happy, and avoid nuisance behavior that could complicate your tenancy!

Caring for Pets in Apartments – How to Avoid Pet-Related Problems

A major problem with having a dog or even a cat in an apartment is complaints. You could have a sweet-natured dog or a gentle cat but when you aren’t home during the day, they could whine so loudly and persistently that it irritates the neighbors.

A brown dog wearing glasses sitting in front of a magazine
You want your dog to be well-behaved when you're renting

Unfortunately, if your pet causes a noise disturbance, bites, or scratches another tenant, or becomes a risk to someone else’s pet, you could be issued a warning to resolve the issue. If it goes unresolved, then you could get an eviction notice.

Because apartments offer less square footage than a house with a garden, you have to put more time and effort into raising a healthy dog and even a cat.

Cats will need a clean litter box and perhaps a small area with some plants (maybe some catnip) where they can relax. Young felines should be stimulated with toys to keep them busy, and sterilizing goes a long way to preventing territorial behavior such as marking the walls and floors.

Dogs need a different regime. They have to be exercised including playtime and socialization.

Let’s look at steps to care for your pooch with an apartment lifestyle:

1. Social Skills

Even if you own a Chihuahua, every dog has to be socialized to prevent any risks with children, the public, neighbors, and other animals. Taking them for training and basic obedience helps with discipline but socialization with other people and pets is your best bet at preventing threats.

Two people walking 4 dogs in a park
Socialize your pets by introducing them to other people and animals

2. Exercise

Depending on the activity level and age of your dog, they’re going to need exercise. If you have a young spaniel, you may have to walk them twice a day to avoid issues of pent-up energy. Stress and boredom are the primary reasons dogs act up and some can become so frustrated that they tear up the apartment along with your furniture. You’ll find that most problems such as whining, barking, or scratching at furniture are relieved when your dog gets enough exercise.

3. Toys

Don’t leave dogs alone without anything to keep them stimulated. Toys are the best way to keep them occupied when you spend hours away from home.

Small dog running with ball in the mouth
Toys are an important part of keeping dogs out of mischief

4. Stick to a Schedule

Dogs and cats can do very well when provided with a routine. It creates stability and security in their home. Stick to times for walks, feeds, and social time to make it easier for them to adjust.

5. Discipline

If you see your dog scratching up the door or your cat climbing up the curtains, stop these behaviors immediately with a firm NO! Don’t allow undesirable habits to form because it becomes extremely hard to break and could compromise your tenancy.

Renters Insurance and Pets

It is important to understand that renters insurance will only cover damage or loss to your personal belongings which excludes pets. If something happens to a pet when you are away from your apartment, your renter's insurance won’t cover any cost. You’ll need to consider pet insurance and its scope of cover to determine whether it is worth it.

The Landlord Approved the Pet but It’s Excluded in the Lease

If landlords agree to allow the pet, the lease must be amended to reflect this decision. Don’t sign a lease with pet exclusions based on a verbal agreement.

What It Means When Pets are Permitted

If you’re looking at apartments and you come across “pets permitted” it means that pets are allowed. Remember, just because the apartment is dog-friendly, it doesn’t mean that there are no rules to abide by. First, learn about the regulations concerning keeping pets and becoming a tenant. Once you are aware of the rules and you can adhere to these, you can move forward with your application and lease.

You Can Be Happy with Pets in Apartments

With some research, a closer look at your lease, and speaking to your landlord, you can successfully introduce pets into your apartment lifestyle.

Always think about the long-term commitment when you rent with pets. Many people who cannot afford to rent their homes or fail to abide by the lease will end up handing their fur companions to a humane shelter. Consider the costs and the legal aspects of pet rent and you could share your best days with your animal friends.

Girl hugging a Bernese mountain dog
Look out for your pets and your tenancy.

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