Pet Policy

If ease of management were the controlling factor, a policy prohibiting all pets would be the right policy. However, there are other factors. There is an ages old bond between humans and domestic animals. There are a substantial number of apartment rental customers who want to maintain a pet. Some rental company is going to accommodate them. The important question is: How do we accommodate tenants' desire to maintain pets? The management considerations are: 1) covering costs, and 2) insuring that the pets neither harm nor aggravate other tenants. Costs are covered by assessing pet deposits and, in some jurisdictions, pet rent. Preventing harm and aggravation are more difficult tasks.

Each type of pet that is acceptable must be specifically listed and all others prohibited, or the manager must reserve the right to determine, in advance, the acceptability of each proposed pet. There must be a limit on the number of pets each tenant may maintain and there must be a stated size limit. The size limit may be expressed as a weight limit. That technique is sometimes used for dogs.

Pets can acquire diseases from stray domestic pets or from wild animals if the pets come into contact with either. Some diseases can be transmitted from animals to people.

Each pet should be treated by a local veterinarian to ensure prevention of disease. You should require the tenant or prospective tenant to submit a current certificate from a local veterinarian certifying examination and appropriate medical treatment. Dogs and cats require rabies and distemper treatments, and they should be neutered or spayed, and the veterinarian's certificate should specifically state that the animal is spayed or neutered as appropriate.

The following are some factors you should consider when writing your pet policy. Some breeds of dogs are inherently vicious and dangerous, especially to children. Dogs can do a lot of loud barking. I can hear one of the neighborhood dogs barking as I write. The dog is half a block away and across the street. When the dog's owner is out of town, the dog barks continuously for eight hours. Could you tolerate that in your apartment complex? Your tenants should not have to endure that kind of aggravation and probably would not. An article about dogs in the January 2002 issue of National Geographic contains the following quote at page 22. "From 1979 to 1998 more than 300 people in the United States were killed in dog attacks. Most were children. In 1994, the last year data were compiled, an estimated 4.7 million Americans were bitten, 6000 of them hospitalized."

The author once allowed a tenant to move a small, exotic bird into the tenant's apartment. Some time later, on a quiet night and for reasons unknown, the bird emitted an extremely loud, blood-curdling scream that sent shock waves through the apartment community. The bird had to go.

Aquariums (and water beds) can become a problem if the water spills. If a water spill occurs in an upper level apartment, it may cause damage in more than one apartment. Don't underestimate the need to obtain a deposit on an aquarium.

Some tenants will want permission to maintain reptiles in their apartments. That may be acceptable with some limitations. The following story was reported in the public news media. A few years ago a tenant maintained a snake as a pet. The snake escaped. The tenant did not report the loss. Two years later the snake appeared in a different apartment having survived somewhere in the structure. Now consider this: snakes are cold blooded. Suppose a pet snake escapes, finds its way into another apartment and, to keep warm, cuddles up with the baby in the baby's basinet. What do you think the parent's reaction would be if they happened onto that scene? Lawsuit? Bad publicity? Whatever your policy on reptile pets, you will need to disallow poisonous varieties.

How many pets should a tenant be allowed to maintain? There must be a strict limit. Apartment buildings are not specifically designed to accommodate animals.

If pets are allowed, a very effective apartment cleaning procedure is required because the tenant who subsequently occupies the apartment may be allergic to animal fur or dander.

Visitors to your apartment complex who attempt to bring their pets onto the property present a management challenge. Although tenants may carefully observe the rules they are often reluctant to require their visitors to observe the rules. It is not unusual for visitors to attempt to bring animals onto the property in violation of some or all of the pet policy rules. What should you do? You either enforce your policy or you don't have a policy. If you fail to enforce the policy, every tenant who is inclined to ignore the policy will do so. If you enforce the policy by requiring the visitor to remove the animals, thus unavoidably embarrassing your tenant, you will probably lose the tenant. However, if you don't enforce the rules several tenants may move out.

The following pet policy extract contains some language that may be useful when you are developing your pet policy.

PURPOSE: This policy establishes the terms and conditions under which (name of apt) residents may keep pets at (name of) Apartments.
  1. Each species of animal and each specific animal must be approved in advance by the (name of apt) manager.

  2. There shall be a $______ deposit for each animal and for each aquarium. Part or all of the deposit may be retained by (name of apt) management to defray cleaning, repair, and/or replacement of property soiled or damaged by the animal.

  3. Animals must be kept inside the apartment except when exercised outside under the direct and constant supervision of the owner.

  4. All animals that make noises loud enough to be heard outside the apartment are disallowed.

  5. All snakes are disallowed.

  6. All wild animals and all dangerous animals are disallowed, as are all animals which may not legally be kept in captivity.

  7. Animal breeding operations are disallowed.

  8. Animals are not allowed in the swimming pool area.

Visitors to (name of) Apartments may not bring their animals onto (name of apt) property.

Violation of any aspect of the (name of apt) Pet Policy terms or conditions shall be grounds for eviction of the tenant who maintains the animal as well as all other persons living in the tenant's apartment.


Name ________________________ Date __________

Name ________________________ Date __________

It will be necessary to include some language regarding your policy on cats and dogs.