‘Furry Friends Welcome’ – Legislative Trends Impacting Rental Housing

Jack Russell with gavel Shutterstock_2198709911 As the rental housing landscape continues to evolve, so do general attitudes toward pets and their place in our lives. Today, not only do more people have pets than ever before, they generally consider their furry friends to be integral members of the family and as a result, the demand for pet-inclusive rental accommodations is on the rise.

In response to this growing trend, legislative bodies across the country have been reevaluating the approach to pet policies in housing and insurance. With a notable shift towards prohibiting breed and size bans of pets, it has become crucial for rental housing operators to be aware of these changes and adapt their policies accordingly.

For example, the Pets Belong With Families Act has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives with bipartisan support, and would prevent restrictions on pets in public housing based on breed.

This same bipartisan group also introduced the Providing for Unhoused People with Pets Act (PUPP), which would provide funding for shelters to retrofit facilities to better accommodate pets. In both cases, there is clearly recognition at a national level that pet ownership should be protected in various housing situations.

While those examples would not impact the private rental housing industry, the abundance of state legislation (25 states currently) across the country just may. These bills cover various topics, including:

  • prohibiting insurance companies from denying, canceling, refusing to renew, or modifying a policy based solely on breed
  • prohibiting housing providers from restricting pets based solely on size or breed
  • defining the type and amount of pet fees that may or may not be collected by a landlord
  • prohibiting requirements to declaw or de-vocalize an animal (and yes, astoundingly, some rental housing operators do require these barbaric practices)

Clearly, this type of legislation is worth staying on top of – or getting ahead of – when revisiting your property’s pet policies. Many savvy operators have already eased or eliminated size and breed restrictions, instead shifting the focus to disallowing individual animals who may have a track record of aggression.

Additionally, the days of insurance liability as a reason to restrict are fast disappearing as insurers drop restrictive language based on size or breed, for which there is little scientific data to support. 

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