Pet-Friendly: A Guide for Landlords and TenantsBy Nicole Daniels
February 23, 2023
Whether you’ve had a loyal dog in your family for years, or welcomed a new dog or cat into your home since the pandemic, like millions of Americans, we know how important it is to find an ideal living situation for humans and pets alike. We also know that looking for housing with a pet, or determining how to welcome one into your rental, can be a stressor for both landlords and tenants.
In response to requests from pet lovers and owners in the Listings Project community, you can now narrow your housing search to “Pet Friendly Listings.” However, an efficient search engine and curated listings are only part of the equation. In this article, we explore pet-related tenant and landlord rights and some tips for making pet-friendly listings as clear and transparent as possible.
Know the Laws
In cities like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, landlords can choose to list apartments as pet-friendly or not. Some landlords place limits on the species or weight of animals, or ask for refundable pet deposits or “pet rent,” a monthly addition to the base rent rate.
Often these rules are made at the discretion of the landlords with little government oversight. However, in cities like New York, new housing laws state landlords cannot charge more than one month of rent for a security deposit, which prevents landlords from creating pet security deposits.
And remember, regardless of laws, if a pet is a nuisance – displays aggression, frequently barks, or defecates in public areas – a landlord can determine it to be a cause for eviction.
The New York City Exception
New York City has an unusual Pet Law which states that regardless of a no-pet building policy, if a pet is kept “openly and notoriously” in a rental for a period of three months, the pet may stay indefinitely. However, if a landlord begins court proceedings within the first three months of gaining knowledge of your pet, they may follow through with an eviction.
What does it mean to have an “open and notorious” pet? You must ensure that the pet is not hidden from the landlord or other tenants. Additionally, you must document that your pet lives with you with photographs of them in common areas and dates and times of when neighbors or your landlord saw the pet.
This law is confusing and potentially risky for renters. We encourage listers in New York City to openly discuss pet policies, and any exceptions, with their landlord before signing a lease.
Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals
The Fair Housing Act (FHA) protects a person with a disability from discrimination in obtaining housing. This ensures that an individual looking for housing with a service animal cannot be discriminated against on the basis of having that animal. In some cases this means that a no-pet rule or a monthly pet fee could be waived.
While certified emotional support animals do not qualify as service animals under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the FHA protects all people with disabilities. If a person has a documented disability and is searching for housing with an emotional support animal, the landlord is still obligated to make reasonable accommodations.
Seeking Pet-Friendly Housing
So you’re ready to make a move with your pet. Once you’ve researched any applicable laws, start by making a wishlist of what you and your pet need in a new home: Are you looking for a backyard or a nearby park? Do you expect roommates to be involved in pet care? Does your pet need a quiet and calm atmosphere away from street noises? Is your pet ready to make friends or do they need to be the only pet in the home?
Writing a Pet Resume
Transparency is key, so be sure to include that you have a pet in the title of your listing: “3 artists and a quiet dog seeking accessible NYC apartment.” Next, work on your pet’s resume to introduce them to the world. If you’re posting a listing to advertise that you're looking for a space or are responding to a rental listing, here is some key information to include:
Your pet’s species, age, size, breed and how long they’ve been in your family
Your pet’s temperament and what they enjoy doing
Some information about how you care for them and their routine (Are they an elderly dog or cat who mostly lounges around all day? Or are they an active puppy who you take on lots of walks?)
Also, be sure to include information about their training:
Are they housebroken?
Does your pet have a license? (Check your local state and city laws; dogs in New York City are required to have a license which must be renewed annually.)
Does your pet have any special training or certifications, such as the Canine Good Citizen training?
Share one or two references from a previous landlord or a pet sitter who can talk about what your pet is like.
And of course, include a sweet photo of your pet to seal the deal!
Landlords & Tenants Renting Out a Pet-Friendly Space
If you’re ready to open up your rental property to pets, get very specific about what you’re comfortable with and your expectations for the pet and their owners. Are you okay with dogs and cats? What about snakes or rabbits? Are the screens in your windows cat-safe? Would you like to speak with references for the incoming pet? Meet the pet in person first? Does the pet need any specific vaccinations? Be sure to include a written agreement, or lease addendum, with information about your pet policy.
Subletting with Pet Care
If you are subletting your space and are seeking someone to take care of your pet, this information must go at the top of the description of your listing (for example, “Sublet with Cat Care” or "Pet care in exchange for discounted sublet"). In your listing provide potential subletters with the following information:
Will you be compensating the person for caring for your animal by directly paying them or by reducing the rent?
How many hours a day should the person expect to spend caring for your animal?
What responsibilities will they have? Summarize the primary tasks in your listing and include a detailed chart with responsibilities in the sublet agreement.
And, similar to those seeking pet-friendly housing, provide as much information as possible about your pet’s personality, habits and behaviors. Take a look at “Writing a Pet Resume” above for tips.
If you want to know more about renting with pets, check out these resources.
Nicole Daniels (she/her) was a Listings Project blog writer. Prior to her Listings Project days, she was a staff editor at The New York Times Learning Network, as well as a researcher and curriculum writer at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.