Landlords may choose to permit or not permit pets in their units at their discretion. They may impose breed restrictions, require pet-owning tenants to sign a pet addendum, require renter's insurance, charge additional deposits and rent for those who own pets, and withhold from security deposits due to actual damages caused by the pet.
Being a pet owner is not a protected class under Fair Housing Law; therefore, it is legal for a landlord to deny a prospective tenant because they have a pet, charge higher rent and deposits to pet-owners, and begin the eviction process if a tenant has an unauthorized pet.
Pets are not to be confused with emotional support animals (sometimes known as companion animals) or service animals.
Pet-Related FAQs for Renters
Do I need permission to get a pet?
Before getting a pet, check your lease for pet policies. If permission is required, get it in writing and keep a copy for your records. If you're looking for a new apartment, ensure you have written consent to have a pet.
What can happen if I get a pet without permission?
You could be evicted if it is prohibited in your lease. If you have an unauthorized pet, this would be a non-rent violation for which a landlord could begin eviction actions such as giving notices. The type of notice the landlord should provide you (curable or non-curable, as well as the number of days) and whether you can get rid of the pet to stay in your unit and avoid eviction will depend on several factors. For more information, please see eviction.
If one tenant has a pet, does the landlord have to allow everyone to have pets?
Landlords should not discriminate against tenants based on a protected class (race, sex, religion, etc.) or retaliate against tenants enforcing their rights. Still, they can choose to allow pets for some tenants and not others, as long as who they allow to have pets is not discriminatory based on a protected class. Discriminating against certain animals or breeds is permitted if it applies to everyone. Service or companion animals have different applicable rules.
How do I find landlords that rent to pet owners?
Check the regular rental listings–many landlords advertise that they allow pets. Some humane societies also keep lists of landlords who rent to people with pets. Contact the Dane County Humane Society if you are looking for an apartment in Dane County. You can also search rental websites for units that allow pets.
How can I convince a landlord to rent to me and my pet?
Negotiate with the landlord.
Contact the person with the authority to permit you to have a pet, such as the resident manager, property manager, or building owner.
- Ask why the landlord has a no-pets policy, so you can learn how to present your request best. Considering your landlord's position will encourage them to be more open to yours.
- Be careful about waiving or agreeing to give up some of your rights to get permission for a pet. If the landlord seems unreasonable, you may want to keep looking for another apartment.
Present yourself as a good pet owner.
Prepare a "pet resume" and include proof of your claims. Include the following in the resume:
- Good rental history. Get letters from landlords and neighbors to show that your pet is responsible and well-behaved, especially if your new landlord requires pet references.
- Training. If your cat is litter box trained or uses a scratching post, say so. If your dog does not bark when left alone or has attended obedience classes, mention this and include receipts or a graduation certificate.
- Veterinary records. Include copies of health certificates showing that your pets are spayed or neutered, free of fleas and ticks, and up-to-date on their vaccinations.
- Renters insurance. You can purchase liability insurance for any pet damage depending on your pet. If you have this insurance, mention it in your resume and include a copy of your policy.
- Interview. Invite the landlord to "interview" your freshly groomed, well-behaved pet at your current home to show that your pet has not caused any damage.
In addition, offer to sign a pet addendum to your rental agreement that makes you responsible for possible damage to property or injury to others.
Be a good pet owner.
- If you have a dog, make sure to clean up its waste.
- Consider crate-training if you feel your dog may be destructive while you are not at home.
- Ensure your cat has access to a scratching post and that one or more litter boxes are readily available. If your cat is scratching something it shouldn't be, try putting aluminum foil or double-stick tape in that area to deter the behavior.
- Talk to a veterinarian or other pet owners for advice on behavior issues.
Can landlords charge pet owners higher security deposits?
Yes, they may charge pet owners more, but they must follow all the same laws about returning it. "Non-refundable" pet deposits are not allowed. Check out our About Security Deposits page for more information on security deposits!
Can landlords charge pet owners more for rent?
Yes, landlords may charge a monthly pet fee (sometimes called pet rent) of whatever amount they choose.
Should landlords automatically withhold money from pet owners' security deposits?
Where can I get more information?
- Our webpage has an article specifically on Emotional Support Animals and Service Animals.
- The Humane Society of the United States has sample pet resumes and detailed information on how to find housing that accepts pets.
- The Dane County Humane Society lists landlords who rent to pet owners.
- Cats International provides information for cat owners
*Note: We aren't attorneys at the Tenant Resource Center, and no part of this information should be regarded as legal advice. Our services aren't intended to replace an individual's responsibility to be familiar with the law. If you need legal assistance or representation, please contact a Wisconsin housing attorney.