What Pets are Really Included in a “No Pets” Policy?

Lilly Milman

By Lilly Milman

Oct 03, 2023

As a pet owner, finding a living space with pet-friendly policies is nonnegotiable. And unless you have a certified service or emotional support animal, many landlords can turn you away for having a pet or charge you extra fees (like monthly pet rent or a one-time pet security deposit) for bringing along a furry friend.

It’s always smart to be transparent with your potential landlord about whether or not you will be bringing a pet to your new living space — a best practice that most dog and cat owners will already be familiar with.

But what if you have another kind of pet — like a bird, rabbit, ferret, or even a fish? Do you need to disclose that you will be living with a pet other than a dog or cat?

We spoke to property owners and managers and other industry professionals to find out what their “no pets” policies include, and why.

Do I need to disclose that I have a pet if I don’t have a dog or cat?

Yes. It’s in your best interest to ask rather than assume — even if your pet is a caged animal that you are certain won’t damage the apartment — because different landlords have different risk tolerances when it comes to animals. Plus, if you do have an unauthorized pet, it’s considered a breach of the lease agreement and can result in eviction, the removal of your pet, or the loss of your security deposit.

Why did you create your no pet policy?

You may be wondering why a rental property you love has a no-pets policy. We spoke to property owners and managers and other industry professionals to find out.

Even a Fish Could Cause Damage

“Typically, a no-pets policy is going to include all pets. These policies are mainly in place for the pets that would create the most damage or require the most cleanup — like cats and dogs — but it’s usually easiest to just say no pets in general instead of outlining the specifics about what is and isn’t allowed. And even the calmest pets that take up the smallest space could still cause damage! For example, fish clearly don’t shed or track in dirt. However, a fishbowl or tank is not immune from getting knocked over, which could cause a ton of damage.” — Brittany Mendez, CMO of short-term rental platform FloridaPanhandle.com

“For fish tanks, the issue is really one of leaks and spills. We had an issue at a unit several years ago now where a tenant on the third story had several large saltwater aquariums. They were taking up his entire living room. One day, the weight of the water was too much and the whole floor gave way, completely flooding out the apartment below. That's kind of an extreme example, but even a spilled 10-gallon tank can create lots of problems.” — Leonard Ang, CEO, iPropertyManagement

Birds Can Lead to Noise Complaints from Other Tenants

[Our no-pets policy] only applies to dogs, cats, birds, and some other dangerous animals… I created the policy after complaints from a few tenants. The noise levels were getting high, and some residents weren't comfortable.” — Eli Pasternak, owner, Liberty House Buying Group

“We've had instances where bird-keeping on balconies caused problems for neighboring tenants. Feathers and bird food would sometimes land on other tenants' balconies. This led to conflicts… We decided to only allow fish as pets on our properties… They don't cause allergies, make noise, or create issues in common areas.” — Jasen Edwards, real estate agent and Chair of the Editorial Board at the real estate guidance site AgentAdvice.com

“In addition to cats and dogs, the pets I tend to restrict the most are birds and fish tanks. Even birds that stay in their cages can be noisy enough to bother the neighbors, and they tend to be messy creatures, especially when they're molting.” — Leonard Ang, CEO, iPropertyManagement

Snakes Might Scare the Neighbors

“One of my tenants had a pet snake they had hidden in their unit. Snakes are a part of our no-pet policy. We found out much later when the snake escaped from their unit and was found frolicking near the building entrance.” — Eli Pasternak, owner, Liberty House Buying Group

A Blanket No-Pets Policy is the Most Straightforward

“I've encountered property owners who prefer a more straightforward approach by banning all types of pets, regardless of their size or potential impact. This approach eliminates any ambiguity and leaves no room for misunderstandings between landlords and tenants. Personally, I find these unambiguous policies to be efficient in setting clear expectations from the outset, reducing the likelihood of disputes and ensuring a hassle-free rental experience for both parties.” — Pete Evering, Business Development Manager at Utopia Property Management

“We have a no-pet policy as a blanket rule. That means any kind of pet. The scent of cat urine is really difficult to get out, and if they scratch up furniture, it's going to cost a lot to fix. Dogs have a tendency to scratch up hardwood floors and carpets. We figure if we're not allowing either of those, we're not going to allow any pets.” — Larry Snider, VP of Operations, Casago Santa Barbara Vacation Rentals

“As a property owner, our no-pet policy includes all animals except certified service animals. This means that pets such as birds, ferrets, hamsters, and other non-traditional pets are prohibited. This policy maintains a consistent and manageable living environment for all residents. While cats and dogs are commonly associated with traditional pet ownership, including other animals in the no-pet policy helps avoid potential conflicts, noise disturbances, allergies, and damage to the property that can arise from any type of pet.” — Chris McGuire, real estate investor and licensed broker, founder of Real Estate Exam Ninja 

Why is your unit pet-friendly?

Not all property managers prefer a no-pets policy. We spoke with a few who allow certain kinds of pets in their rental units, and some that actually believe that renters with pets make for better tenants.

Ferrets, Hamsters, and Guinea Pigs are Harmless

“Ferrets and hamsters aren't included in our no-pet policy… [They] are harmless animals who don't make a lot of fuss like other animals.” — Eli Pasternak, owner, Liberty House Buying Group

“I believe there are some harmless animals and birds that cannot cause any damage to the property or neighbors. So, I created a [no-pet policy] that excludes birds and hamsters from the pet policy.” — Perry Zheng, real estate investor and CEO of the commercial real estate investment marketplace Pallas

I Prefer Tenants with Pets

“I sincerely believe that tenants with pets are generally better tenants most of the time. Having an animal that you are responsible for caring for, feeding, bathing, cleaning up after, etc. is a testament to your character. Allowing pets is a win-win for my business. We get excellent tenants that stay forever because no one else will accept their pets [as we have a major problem with landlords refusing pets in my area], so I never have to worry about them moving out (and tenant turnover is the biggest expense landlords face). You can also charge a higher rent and make your units more profitable.” — Greg Gaudet, property manager and property owner, Maui Home Buyers

 “I have an interesting anecdote to share regarding a tenant who had an exotic pet – a parrot. This particular parrot was quite unique in that it was not caged and had an astonishing ability to mimic human speech. Despite the unconventional nature of this pet, hosting the parrot on my property didn't pose any unusual challenges or disruptions. In fact, it added a touch of charm to the community, as many residents enjoyed interacting with the talkative parrot, which seemed to bring joy to our shared living space.” — Anam Gul, landlord and mortgage professional, RentMe

Can a landlord reject my service animal?

Now that you’ve read through some of the rationale behind no-pet policies, you may be wondering if a landlord can deny your service animal (also called an assistance animal) or emotional support animal (also called an ESA or companion animal). The short answer is: No, they can’t.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Fair Housing Act (FHA), a landlord cannot deny you tenancy if you have a service animal or an ESA, nor can they charge extra pet fees like pet rent. They also cannot impose breed restrictions — so a service dog that is a pit bull is just as welcome as one that is a beagle. These are all considered reasonable accommodations that a landlord must make. However, a landlord may charge a tenant with an ESA a refundable pet deposit. They will also require you to have documentation proving that you have a registered service animal or ESA. Finally, all pets must be kept up to date on their vaccinations — regardless of their status as an ESA or service animal.

You can file a housing discrimination complaint with HUD, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, if you feel you were denied reasonable accommodations.

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