Rover is a member of your family. He has a monogrammed food dish and a favorite chair in your living room. When it comes to rental rights, however, Rover doesn't carry the same weight as a human. Knowing the law will help you provide him with a safe, happy home.
Rover's lack of opposable thumbs prevents him from signing a lease agreement, but he still has to abide by it. If you sign a lease that does not allow pets in the unit, you cannot legally bring Rover home with you. A lease can address pets in either the body of the contract or as an addendum, and as long as the lease follows all state and federal laws, you must follow the rules.
Before you move into a new apartment or rental home, tell the landlord about your canine pal and ask about any extra deposits or fees. This is often called "pet rent," and it is perfectly legal. However, those extra charges cannot bump your rent over the legal amount in a rent-controlled community, nor can it exceed any deposit or fee limits imposed by your state. For example, in Nebraska, a landlord can charge a tenant with pets no more than 125 percent of one month's rent as a security deposit.
If your companion dog is also a service animal, he has additional rental rights. Landlords cannot charge pet deposits or fees for service animals, nor can they refuse a companion dog in a housing community for the elderly or handicapped that receives federal funding.
You have rights when it comes to a rental property, but so do your neighbors. If Rover's late-night barking or habit of digging underneath the fence interfere with your neighbors' peaceful and quiet enjoyment of their homes, your landlord might protest. Keep Rover's behavior under control and talk to your neighbors about any complaints. It is often easier (and better for Rover!) to resolve the issue amongst yourselves than to involve landlords or animal control officers. Keep in mind, however, that local laws might give police officers the right to issue fines to tenants with loud or destructive dogs.
Landlords have the right to refuse dog breeds known for aggression or other dangerous behaviors. Some rental properties advertise themselves as "pet friendly" but keep a list of breeds that are not acceptable. Pit bulls, rottweilers, German shepherds and Doberman pinschers often appear on these lists. If Rover's breed makes this a complicated issue, look for rental properties that evaluate dogs on a case-by-case basis rather than by breed. Landlords can also restrict companion dogs based on size.
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