Pet-Friendly Housing

All too often, families are forced to make difficult decisions and part ways with their animal companions due to their living situation. Nationally, “no pets allowed" and "moving" remain some of the most common reasons animals are brought to shelters.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

Tips for Renters

Be persistent! Finding a pet-friendly rental will generally take longer than a rental that does not allow pets.

Communities with tight rental markets (like college towns) are less likely to have an abundance of pet-friendly housing.

Here are some more tips:

  • Consider having a “pet resume” for each of your animals to help sell the idea of renting to you. Your resume should include:
    • Pertinent details about your pet (age, breed, vaccination history, spay/neuter status).
    • Information about crate or obedience training. Have a graduation certificate from your dog’s training class? Include a copy!
    • Provide clear information on where the animal will be housed during the day or when alone and if professional dog walking or daycare services will be visiting.
    • References from previous landlords.
    • Stress the traits that make your pet a good tenant.
  • If you have a cat, consider keeping them indoors only to avoid conflicts with neighbors and to keep them safe.
  • Offer proof that your dogs and cats have been spayed or neutered, and stress that spay/neuter surgery makes a healthier and better-behaved pet…and thus a better tenant.
  • Pledge to keep your pets groomed, clean, free of fleas, up-to-date on vaccinations, licensed, and healthy.
  • Be responsible with your landlord’s property.

Here are some sites to help you find pet-friendly housing in your area:

Apartment List

Apartment Guide

Padmapper

RENTCafe

Zumper

A Note about "Pet Deposits"

Massachusetts General Laws, c. 186, s. 15B,  prohibits a landlord from collecting any money in advance of a new tenancy other than the first and last month's rent, a security deposit in an amount equal to or less than one month's rent, and the cost of installing a new lock.

If your landlord is already requiring these advance payments, he cannot collect a "pet deposit" or any other type of deposit. But he can charge a higher rent for people with pets or additional tenants or other factors that may add to wear and tear on the apartment.

Service Animals in Rental Housing

It is illegal for landlords to prohibit service animals from rental property, even if that rental property is otherwise not pet-friendly. In 2011, HUD issued a memo stating that dogs without specialized training, animals other than dogs, and "emotional support" animals must be allowed in housing settings under the Fair Housing Act and Section 504. 

If you want to explore your rights to have an assistance animal in rental housing, contact the Massachusetts Fair Housing Center at 413-539-9796.

Tips for Landlords

People with animals tend to stay in rental housing longer and can be some of your best tenants. These guidelines can help landlords find great, animal-loving renters while protecting their property:

  • A written agreement with the tenant about having pets should spell out expectations and rules, including repercussions for failure to comply.
  • Limit pets to standard domestic animals suited for the environment (urban or rural) where the rental property is located. Specify the types and numbers of pets allowed. Be aware of your town’s ordinances about limits on the number of pets in a household.
  • Set clear rules regarding how and when pets may be allowed outdoors. Many apartment communities prefer an “indoor only” restriction on cats, for instance, to help protect landscaping and wildlife populations. Rules should specify that dogs be kept leashed in the building or in other community areas.
  • The rules should call for dog waste to be picked up and disposed of in a sanitary manner and for cat litter to be put in sealed bags before being placed in the trash.
  • Behaviors of intact cats and dogs can lead to property damage and create a nuisance for other tenants. Consider requiring that all cats and dogs above the age of six months be spayed/neutered. Dakin’s Community Spay/Neuter Clinic is accepting appointments for dogs, cats, and rabbits.
  • Require that tenants with pets provide contact information for their veterinarian and an emergency contact.