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Pets and rental housing



Renters and pets 
Here's the first thing for pet lovers to remember. Pets don't have rental rights; support animals do. What's the difference? A pet is an animal who lives with you. A support animal is an animal which provides a “service” to a person with a disability. Support animals may be trained like a “seeing eye dog” or maybe “companions” for persons with behavioral health disabilities. No disability? No right to a “support animal”. Then that dog or cat who lives with you is a pet. 

A minute ago, you read that “pets have no rental rights,” but that's not exactly true. In some HUD assisted housing for seniors, HUD has created guidelines for pets in recognition of the fact that, for many renters, having a pet contributes to household well being. Sometimes managers try to impose “pet rules” on support animals. That's a mistake! Rules for support animals are based on agreements called reasonable accommodations which are created on a case-by-case agreement. 

The idea of having “pet rules” is important. Property owners are often hesitant to embrace pets for some good reasons. A recent article in the Washington Post advises condo associations on the need for clear rules to reduce liability in case of dog bites.  Along the same lines, an article in CityLab shares some ideas for “Toward a Kinder, Gentler Union Between Landlords and Pets” offers some interesting ideas about pet issues in rental housing. 
  1. Have rules that address pet size and breed. Some property insurance companies are unwilling to provide coverage if certain “aggressive” breeds are in the property. 
  2. Have an “interview” with the pet before consenting to pet residency. 
  3. Provide documentation of pet health. A vets statement can show current vaccination and overall condition. 
  4. Provide a pet reference from a previous landlord. 
Find more good ideas by googling Humane Society Pets Are Welcome. 

One way landlords discourage pets in their housing is by assessing pet deposts and pet fees. Here's the difference. A pet deposit is refundable. A pet fee is not. In Ohio, a pet deposit that 
is designed to protect the landlord against damages to the property is treated like a security deposits by ORC 5321.16. A pet deposit  A pet fee, on the other hand, is a payment (either one time or monthly) for the privilege of having a pet in the unit.  Pet fees are not refundable.

Keep in mind that pets need to be good neighbors just like tenants. The Ohio Landlord Tenant Law requires tenants to respect the "peaceful enjoyment" of the premises. That means your pet's barking, menacing and defecating could be grounds to have the pet owner evicted. (ORC 5321.05 A 8)

When AliciaM asked RHINO about exhorbitant pet deposits and pet fees charged by her landlord, her problem was complicated by the fact that, in her community, one company owns most of the rental property. While she may try to negotiate, she doesn't have the right to get reasonable rates.
 
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