Are pets allowed?
The first step is to simply ask your property manager whether your apartment community accepts pets. If the community does accept pets, ask whether there are restrictions on the types or breeds of animals allowed or whether there are limits on weight, and ask whether there are guidelines regarding how many pets can live in a single unit.
Are rodents, fish or birds allowed? Some communities have building- or unit-specific requirements, such as residents with dogs over a certain weight must live on the first floor or only in units with hardwood or laminate floors.
Most likely, you will need to sign a pet addendum as an amendment to your lease. This document outlines the community’s pet policies and details the terms with which the resident must comply to keep a pet on the property.
If you purchase a pet after moving into the community, be sure to communicate your decision to your property manager immediately and to ask whether there are any additional papers or forms you need to complete.
Expect additional fees
Most properties will charge an additional rental fee for pets, typically $25 to $80 per month, depending on the community and how many pets you have. You might also need to pay a security deposit or nonrefundable pet fee up front.
Another growing trend among apartment communities is requiring pet insurance. This insurance protects the pet owner and building management from liability in the event a pet bites another pet or resident.
In addition, some properties require vaccine records or registration in a dog DNA database to identify owners who do not pick up after their pets.
Pet parents who truly consider their animals to be members of the family often weigh the pet amenities and services just as much as the “human” amenities and services — and apartment owners are stepping up to deliver. For example, many communities offer bathing stations, pet-sitting and dog-walking services, or even pet access to the swimming pool and other common areas on select days.
As an added convenience, some communities even offer dedicated relief areas or a leash-free dog park on site. Consider these offerings in your search — and don’t forget to check out the surrounding area for walking trails or parks.
Avoid these pet pitfalls
Once you’ve found the perfect community for you and your pet (or the perfect pet for your community), take steps to avoid damage to your apartment. Prevent stains and carpet-cleaning fees by selecting a unit with laminate or wood floors. Pull up the blinds or consider alternate window coverings to avoid damage. Also consider restricting your pet’s access to all rooms when you’re not home via a gate or crate to avoid accidents or chewing on cabinets.
It should go without saying, but to keep your space clean and odor-free, make sure you regularly scoop your cat’s litter box, clean your bird’s cage or schedule walks for your dog.
Be a good neighbor
Above all, be a responsible pet owner. Pick up after your pet, limit noise and don’t let your pets wander into areas of the community where they’re not allowed. And in the case that you have a friend or family member visit who has a pet, be extra mindful of additional noise and consider taking the animals outside to play.
Sometimes issues between neighbors do occur. When this happens, review your lease to make sure you’re abiding by the community’s established rules and proactively communicate with your neighbors and property manager. Property managers are problem solvers and should be able to help you find a solution.
Every community has rules regulating pet ownership to ensure that the property is well-maintained and comfortable for all residents. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t own a pet while renting.
If you take a proactive approach and communicate with your property manager up front, then not only can you have a pet, but you can also enjoy the added benefits of pet services and amenities that an apartment community can offer.
Robert Pinnegar is president and CEO of the National Apartment Association.