Pets can benefit individuals and families alike. They can provide companionship, entertainment, protection and specific kinds of support. As a result, it can be difficult for renters when they learn that they are not permitted the freedom to own pets in the same ways that homeowners are. As a result, some renters may attempt to skirt a landlord’s restrictions on pet ownership.
At other times, renters may push back against a landlord who attempts to keep a renter from owning a pet. They may even allege that they are being unlawfully discriminated against. The validity of such claims is contextual. Some pet ownership restrictions are permitted by law, while others are not.
Why legal guidance can be helpful
All landlords in the U.S. are required to abide by the terms of the 1968 Fair Housing Act. This federal law gives renters the freedom to seek accommodations without fear of being discriminated against due to a number of protected classifications, including race, religion and disability.
Therefore, if an individual who has a disability needs to live alongside a service animal, a landlord cannot lawfully restrict such ownership. Additionally, many states have also expended legal protections for so-called “comfort” animals. There is no universally-accepted sense of what a comfort animal is, so states employ their own definitions and restrictions with regard to this concept.
As a result, it can be helpful for landlords to seek legal guidance before making determinations concerning pet ownership. Without clear guidance, a landlord could potentially find that they are unintentionally violating state law by denying a resident permission to own a pet.