Can a Landlord Legally Say “No Pets?” What Can You Do?

We all love our pets. In fact, for some, our favorite furry cuties are an irreplaceable part of the family. So it can be pretty disheartening to hear that the new place you’re moving into doesn’t allow pets. While some will tell you to rehome your pet, that sometimes just isn’t possible. 

Therefore, how do you solve this issue? For starters, you might try and change your landlord’s mind. There’s plenty of reasons landlords say no to pets, and knowing them might help you make your case. However, should you fail, then you might start considering something else: how to hide a pet from your landlord.

But is this move really your best option? Keep reading to find out!

Why Do Some Landlords Say No Pets?

Landlords who say “no pets” may seem like the worst. Around 67% of families in the United States own a pet, with that number rising continuously year after year. So having a landlord with a no-pet stance is not only unfair but incredibly disadvantageous for the landlord’s rental business.

However, a lot of landlords have this policy in place for many reasons.

Property Damage

This is possibly the biggest reason landlords have a firm no-pet stance. Animals can be incredibly destructive, especially if the owners aren’t diligent, and don’t train them properly. Dogs, being one of the most common types of pets, are known for destroying furniture, damaging hardwood floors, chewing wires, and destroying landscapes.

While property damage doesn’t necessarily always come with pet owners, it is more common. A recent survey revealed that 64% of pet-friendly landlords have had one of their tenant’s pets damage property. In such events, landlords have to invest plenty of time and money replacing the furniture and taping over damaged walls. In the long run, this just isn’t profitable, especially since the animals are likely to damage property again.

Bad Odours

Bad smells may seem like a silly reason for landlords to ban pets. If you take care and groom your pet regularly, then they shouldn’t smell at all. But keep in mind that not every pet owner is as responsible. Plenty of people are lazy and don’t clean up after their pets.

In the case of pet poop, even irregular cleaning can become a huge issue very quickly. If the building is well ventilated the smell can easily spread to your neighbors’ homes, and get into their clothes and carpets. This, in turn, will trigger an avalanche of complaints your landlord will have to deal with.

What is more, these smells can also become quite a health hazard. Not only do poorly groomed pets have more health issues, but they also attract all sorts of creepy crawlies like flies, ticks, maggots, and ants.


One of the biggest reasons landlords say “no pets” is to maintain a peaceful environment. Even the most docile dogs bark from time to time. That’s not even mentioning the noise they can make if they get overly excited and start running around. Cats may be quieter on average, but this can easily change, especially during mating season.

However, if you’re a small pet owner, you may think you’re in the clear. But don’t be so quick to breathe a sigh of relief. Small pets get just as many noise complaints as large ones.

Even if your pet is completely mute, your landlord may not want to risk it bothering other residents. This is especially true if you’re moving into a building with predominantly elderly tenants. Therefore, it’s a much safer option for them to ban pets outright.

The Condo Association Doesn’t Allow Pets

Sometimes, the no-pet rule isn’t even your landlord’s fault. A lot of Condo Associations and Home Owners Associations have strict no-pet policies. These rules are a result of members voting on the issue, or in some cases government-mandated policies.

Members usually enforce this rule with the public interest in mind. As we mentioned, pets can be destructive, noisy, and smelly, which can cause quite a disturbance in the neighborhood. That is why some associations ban them.

But wait, if you buy a property, aren’t you a part of this neighborhood now too? Don’t you get a say in what rules are put in place? Well, for one, your actions still impact the other residents in the building. So if the majority of tenants agree that your pet is a nuisance, there isn’t much you can do about it.

Therefore, before taking your frustration on your landlord, be sure to check the Condo Association’s guidelines on pet ownership.

Can a Landlord Say No Pets?

As we already explained, there’s plenty of reasons why landlords say no to pets. But is there any legal precedent to the ban? Can a landlord legally say “no pets?”

The answer is surprisingly complicated. For the most part, landlords do have the legal right to say “no pets” on their leased premises. This right can mean no pets of any kind, or just banning specific types of pets while allowing others —or it can include regulating the size or number of pets allowed per unit.

Also, landlords who are pet-friendly do have the legal right to enforce certain regulations on pet owners. For example, they can demand you pay a pet deposit when moving in. They can also charge you higher rent, to account for the higher risk of property damage. Lastly, they can change their minds about letting you have a pet if the animal becomes too noisy or dangerous for other tenants.

All this is bad news if you’re a pet owner. However, you will be pleased to know that there are some exceptions to the law.

It Isn’t Applicable in Every State

Different states have different laws. The same applies to pets and homeownership. For the most part, HOA and Condo Associations do have the right to impose basic rules on pet ownership. But, if these rules conflict with existing federal regulations, then you can easily overturn them.

For example, in California, HOAs are legally required to allow at least one pet per unit according to the California Civil Code §4715. So if you’re a Cali resident, you can always fight the no pets policy. However, keep in mind that the law has its limits. The board members can still regulate the number of pets you can keep, as well as the breed and size.

Therefore, before arguing with your landlord about the legalities, check the state laws on pet ownership to see if you’re in the right.

It Doesn’t Always Apply to Service Animals

Possibly the biggest exception to the no-pets rule is service animals. According to the Federal Fair Housing Act landlords can’t discriminate against tenants based on several factors like:

  • Race
  • Color
  • National Origin
  • Religion
  • Sex
  • Familial Status
  • Disability

The disability portion heavily intersects with the rules the Americans with Disabilities Associations espouse. These include non-discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, transportation, public accommodations, communications, and state and local government activities.

Both laws address the legality of pet ownership on no-pet properties. More specifically, the laws state that people with disabilities can own pets if they meet the following criteria:

  1. If they have a mental or physical disability that severely limits them from performing one or more life-activities
  2. If they need the service animal to assist them in managing their disability

If you meet these criteria, then your landlord is legally required to make an exception. However, there are sadly still a few possible scenarios where a landlord may deny you, even if you have a service animal.

When Can a Landlord Refuse a Service Animal?

Since most landlords don’t want to have trouble with the law, they will usually make an exception for service animals. However, stubborn landlords do exist, and they can actually deny you the right of a service animal, based on a few criteria:

They Believe the Service Animal Is a Health and Safety Risk

Let’s make something clear. Landlords can’t just deny your service animal simply because they think it will be a problem. They also can’t refuse you if your service animal makes residents who don’t like it unhappy. They need to have some hardcore evidence that the animal will indeed be a health and safety risk.

Your animal has to have a record of violent behavior for the courts to take the landlord seriously. They also can’t charge you a pet deposit if your pet is a service animal.

They Think The Service Animal Will Cause Property Damage or Incur Large Financial Costs

The same principles apply in the case of property damage. For a landlord to refuse your service animal, they first need to have solid proof that it has caused extensive property damage. Also, they’re legally required to accommodate your service animal in any way they can before withdrawing their pet permission.

But if they think accommodating your service animal will cost too much, they may be able to deny you. For example, if your service animal requires them to install an elevator in the building, they can refuse to do that.

They Suspect Your Pet Isn’t a Service Animal at All

This is probably the strongest reason your landlord may refuse your pet. And sadly, it’s entirely due to irresponsible pet owners. In order to get around the no-pets rule, many people falsely claim their pet is actually a service animal.

Doing this is not only very scummy, but it’s actually damaging to people who actually have service animals. Therefore, to get around the rule, you will need to provide documentation that your pet is a service animal and that you medically need it.

What Happens if You Don’t Tell Your Landlord About a Pet?

If your pet isn’t a service animal, and you can’t convince your landlord to change their mind, you may start thinking about alternatives. One of them is how to hide your pet from your landlord.

Let’s get something straight — you can actually pull this off by implementing several strategies.

  • Keep them confined to one room, to stop them from making noise
  • Take them on walks at night when no one is awake
  • Use strong carpet deodorizers and air fresheners to take care of the smell

However, just because you know how to hide your pet from your landlord doesn’t mean you should do it. Depending on the stipulations of your contract, your landlord may conduct surprise maintenance visits to check the smoke alarm, replace furnace filters, etc. Alternatively, your neighbors may notice the noise, or catch you sneaking your pet out for walks.

Inevitably, your pet will get discovered, and several serious things can follow after.

You Can Get Fined

If you sneak a pet into your apartment, be prepared to open your wallet and pay up. Depending on the terms of your contract, your landlord may decide to fine you.

That fine can be a set amount, or they can charge you for every day your pet remains in the apartment.

It all depends on the terms of your contract. However, if a landlord decides to charge an amount not listed in the lease, you may be able to fight the case in civil court. But sadly, this still won’t enable you to keep the pet, if the leasing agreement forbids it.

Your Pet Can Get Evicted

The main reason you’re considering hiding a pet from your landlord is so you can keep it with you. However, that won’t happen if the pet is discovered. If your landlord finds out about the unauthorized pet, then they can ask you to get rid of it. This means that in the end, all your efforts will have been in vain.

If you’re still unwilling to part with your pet after you’ve been asked to, then your only alternative is to move again. This will mean ending your lease early. The inevitable outcome of such a move can result in some hefty penalties, especially if you have signed an agreement about paying to end the lease early.

You Can Get Evicted

The third outcome is truly the worst-case scenario. However, there are some landlords that are willing to go to the extreme if their tenant breaks their agreement. In this case, not only will you be left homeless, but your landlord may decide to sue you for the remainder of your lease payment.

Worse still, future landlords will learn of your transgression, so you will have a hard time finding a new home.

The Bottom Line

Landlords who say “no pets” may be a pain, but there’s plenty of reasons why they do it. They may be afraid of property damage, the safety of their tenants, or building hygiene. Their condo association may also ban them from allowing pets into the building.

Whatever the reason, you may feel tempted to break the rules and figure out how to hide a pet from your landlord. However, this is a very bad idea, since it’s downright impossible to do that for very long without someone noticing. And when you get discovered, your landlord can fine you, evict your pet, or evict you.

In these cases, sometimes, the best option is to go the legal route and hash out a deal with your landlord. Alternatively, you can try and find a new home that will accommodate both you and your furry friend.

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