Dogs & Lease Agreements

by Genevieve Van Wyden, Demand Media
    This canine fur baby might be welcomed in a rental property.

    This canine fur baby might be welcomed in a rental property.

    As a dog owner who rents, you may have encountered potential landlords with firm no-pets policies. Some landlords may have been forced to impose a no-pets policy. However, some landlords do see dog owners as more responsible, so when you encounter one, keep your rights in mind.

    Renting to Dog Owners

    As you are looking for new digs, you may find that you’re running into a mix of landlord opinions on renting to dog owners. Some will look at you, shake their heads and say, “I have a firm no-pets policy, period. I’ve had bad luck in the past with dog owners not cleaning up messes, not keeping their dogs quiet or preventing their dogs from damaging my property.” Whoops. You, as a responsible dog owner, are being made to pay the price for the few bad apples in the dog-owner barrel.
    However, depending on the landlords you talk to, you actually may meet one who says, “Yes, I do allow pets -- with certain rules in place." Once you know this, it’s to your benefit to be clear and honest with someone who might agree to allow you, your dog and your family to live in his property.

    Strategies to Use

    If you’re looking at a place that’s just perfect, but the landlord has a no-pets policy, try to get references from past landlords attesting to your dog’s personality. Is your dog a certified AKC Canine Good Citizen, perhaps? Bring your dog-gal with you to meet your landlord. Chances are, when he looks into her melting, big eyes and sees how well-behaved she is, you might be able to get him to waive his policy.
    If he still resists, offer a substantial deposit for your dog. This should be higher than you normally would pay. Find out what your state’s landlord-tenant laws allow for rental deposits.

    Everything in Writing

    You’re making progress with this landlord. He’s agreed to rent to you, waiving his no-pets policy. Don’t relax now. Get everything in writing, especially his waiver. Should he decide to sell or if he has a change of heart, you could be in a world of legal trouble if you didn’t bother to get the agreement written, and signed in black and white.
    When you renew your lease, ask your landlord to modify your agreement or add a separate addendum that covers a new canine family member you're interested in adopting.
    Your written agreement should go into minute specifics -- number of dogs, weight of your pet, how often you clean her leavings, your responsibility to make repairs caused by your dog and keeping your pet indoors during certain hours.

    Weight Limits

    Landlords can set limits on specific breeds by limiting the weight classes of dogs they allow to live in their properties. If, for instance, you’re interested in renting a small apartment with a small living room and no yard, your landlord may say, “No dogs over 20 pounds.” Of course, if you are renting a house with an enclosed backyard, you may have more leeway for negotiation.

    Dangerous Breeds Bans

    You know the breeds in question -- pitties, Rottweilers or German shepherds. When the landlord asks you, “What breed is your animal?” be ready to hear about a ban on dogs deemed to be dangerous. This question is fair, because the Fair Housing Act applies to humans, not animals. It’s in a landlord’s best interest to ban certain breeds because of the reputation they carry -- whether it’s a fair reputation or not.

    About the Author

    Genevieve Van Wyden began writing in 2007. She has written for “Tu Revista Latina” and owns three blogs. She has worked as a CPS social worker, gaining experience in the mental-health system. Van Wyden earned her Bachelor of Arts in journalism from New Mexico State University in 2006.

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