One of the most common ways that tenants violate the lease is by keeping unauthorized pets. Before signing the lease, the tenant should find out whether pets are allowed, if the landlord places any restrictions on the size or type of pets, or if the landlord requires a pet deposit, pet fee, or additional pet rent. If the landlord chooses to do so, these terms must appear in the lease. If the landlord and tenant negotiate regarding pets, both parties should ensure that the lease reflects their agreement before it is signed.
The tenant should be careful to comply with the lease regarding pets. If the lease says “No pets allowed,” then keeping any pet is a violation of the lease. This includes pets in tanks, such as fish or snails and includes pets kept entirely outdoors. If the lease puts restrictions on the size or type of pets, the tenant should ensure that any pets meet those restrictions. If the lease requires the payment of additional pet rent or deposit, the tenant should give the landlord notice of the pet and pay the proper amounts. The pet deposit is an additional amount above the security deposit given to help protect the landlord from damages caused by the pet, and it is limited to an amount equal to ¼ of one-month’s rent. Pet rent is not limited by law. If the lease provides that the tenant may only keep a pet with the landlord’s written permission, the tenant must get that permission BEFORE bringing the pet into the property. The tenant will also be responsible for any damages caused by the pet. If the pet ruins any flooring or scratches up doors, or if the pet’s cage or tank breaks and causes damage to the property the tenant will be charged for the repairs.
If a medical or mental health professional prescribes an animal to help treat a condition, or if the tenant needs a service animal, the tenant may be able to keep the animal under the Fair Housing Act. See Therapy Animals.