Pets are popular in the United States. In fact, nearly seven out of ten homes have a pet, According to the 2019-2020 APPA National Pet Owners Survey.
But there’s at least one group among whom pets are not popular—landlords. It’s common for property owners to forbid pets in their lease agreements. Some will accept small pets, such as hamsters and birds, but not larger cats and dogs. Others won’t budge on any type of animal.
If your family lives in a rental property with a no-pet policy, you may be wondering whether you can simply keep your pet at home on the down-low.
It’s possible, and it has been done, but there are significant risks to keeping secret pets as well. This guide includes some tips on keeping a pet at home discreetly but also offers some alternative strategies that may enable you to keep your pet legitimately, no matter what your landlord’s pet policy says.
In this guide:
- What to consider before sneaking pets into an apartment (and what to try instead)
- How to hide a dog from your landlord
- FAQs about hiding pets
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What to consider before sneaking pets into an apartment
Let’s get something out of the way up front. We at The Dog Tale don’t advise you to try to hide your pet from your landlord. The risks are just too big. Hard as you may work to sneak your pet into your apartment, your landlord could easily find out, and if they’re not the forgiving type, you could find yourself in the hard position of choosing between keeping your pet or keeping your home.
Additionally, some states, such as my home state of New York, have laws in place that allow tenants to keep their pet if they’ve been living openly with the animal for a set amount of time and their landlord or property manager has not intervened. However, deliberately hiding a pet typically voids this protection.
Fortunately, there are some good alternatives for you to consider.
Consider getting your dog certified as an ESA
The Fair Housing Amendments Act (FHA) gives you the right to have an emotional support animal (ESA) or companion animal in any housing, regardless of whether your landlord allows pets on their property. In fact, the act goes as far as to forbid property owners from charging you pet fees or deposits, which can sometimes cost hundreds of dollars per year.
Getting your dog certified as an ESA is by far your best option, and it’s easy; there are many services that can do it online. However, not all of these companies are equal. Some offer low prices, but their service amounts to little more than a piece of paper and possibly an ESA vest. These won’t hold up in most states.
One service that does offer legitimate certification is Support Pets. Support Pets allows you to qualify online in seconds. It will then submit your information to a licensed doctor in your state, so they can grant you the official medical certification required by most states to qualify for FHA protection.
The whole process can be completed in just 24 to 48 hours and can also help you travel with your dog and bring them with you to businesses and venues that don’t normally admit pets.
Consider asking your landlord for permission
Some landlords are amenable to pets if you ask nicely. They may dictate what size or species they’ll allow, and they may require an extra security deposit or nonrefundable pet fee. But either of these options is better than living in fear of eviction.
It always helps to be respectful of your landlord and their property, so explain the reasons why you want a pet and the steps you’ll take to protect the home. Emphasize that you wanted to check with them first (if you don’t already have the dog), and see if you can work together to come to an agreement.
The downside to this option is that you’d be alerting the landlord to your intentions, and if they directly say no, then going against their word becomes even more deliberate. It could also lead to additional fees you may not want to pay. However, if they say yes, you’re in the clear.
Consider the lifestyle of your pet
Cats love it indoors, but dogs need more exercise and stimulation. If you live in a rural area or a city with dog parks nearby, you may be able to keep your pup a secret and still give them a healthy life. But if your dog is going to be cooped up inside a townhouse all day with only short walks to break up the monotony, that’s not fair to your pet.
How to hide a dog from your landlord
If you’ve read through the considerations and alternatives above and you still want to know how to hide a dog, here’s what it’ll take.
1. Get a hypoallergenic breed
One of the main reasons many landlords disallow pets is the likelihood that another person in your building has allergies. Pet dander can travel through air ducts and common areas to affect your neighbors.
So if you don’t already have a pet, consider getting a hypoallergenic breed, such as a Yorkshire Terrier, Poodle, or Maltese. This will prevent spreading pet dander, and will also help with the next step.
2. Keep your apartment clean
Aside from getting a hypoallergenic dog breed, make sure to keep your apartment spotless. Vacuum frequently or consider getting a Roomba to clean up any pet hair and dander before it can spread or settle into your carpet. Use air filters to keep the rental property smelling fresh, and use an enzyme cleaner like Bac-Out to remove any stains and scents after accidents.
Also, make sure you pick up any dog poop on the grounds immediately.
3. Take training seriously
Another major reason landlords ban pets is the damage and nuisance they can cause. Consider taking your pet to training classes that focus on common issues like:
- Scratching at doors
- Potty training
Excessive barking will be the most urgent issue to resolve because it could immediately give you away. You’ll need to train your pup to ignore common triggers such as mail carriers, the doorbell, or other dogs on the sidewalk. One of the best ways to do this is to expose the dog to these things early and often in life so they become unremarkable.
But chewing, scratching, and urinating on the carpet are all the issues that keep landlords awake at night. Repairing a chewed up cabinet door or tearing up carpet can get expensive, so address these issues immediately as well.
Not only will training your dog help you keep them under the radar, but it can also help you convince your landlord to let you keep the pup If you do get caught.
4. Time potty breaks & walks strategically
Unless you want to potty train your dog to use pee pads or an artificial grass mat, you’ll need to take them out several times a day. Try to time these events strategically to reduce the chance of running into your landlord or super.
This might mean getting used to late-night and early-morning potty breaks.
When you go for walks, consider driving or carrying your dog to a nearby park—or at least a few blocks away—and walking them there. If you’re constantly circling your block, you’ll be spotted before long.
5. Have a plan for inspections
From time to time, your landlord may need to enter your home to conduct repairs and inspections. If you’re trying to hide your pet from your landlord, you’ll need a plan for these times. First, keep obvious signs of your pet, such as feeding bowls, crates, and toys, organized, so you can quickly move them to a closet.
You could even consider pet furniture that blends in with your decor, such as a dog crate that doubles as an end table.
Next, have a friend on hand whom you can ask to watch your dog on short notice. This way, you’ll be able to respond quickly if your bathtub springs a leak and your landlord says they’re coming over.
6. Size up your neighbors
Many of your neighbors will see your dog at one point or another. Some of them may be delighted to meet a new furry friend. Others may say nothing. And still others may be upset. As best you can, try to gauge their sentiment before you let them see your pet.
You may find some will help you watch your pet when needed, and they may even be dog owners themselves. But others could report you, so you’ll want to steer clear of their homes when going on walks.
FAQs about hiding pets
Can my landlord make me get rid of my dog?
Not technically, but they can force you to choose between keeping your pet and your home. Violating a no-pet policy is a breach of contract, so they may be able to legally evict you. If you’re at risk of losing your dog and you think this will cause undue emotional stress, consider getting your pet certified as an ESA. In many cases, this will allow you to stay in the home with the pet, but you should research your local laws to be sure.
What happens if you don’t tell your landlord about a pet?
It depends on a number of factors: your landlord, their reasons for not allowing pets, and the type of pet you have. It also depends on whether you get caught.
The worst-case scenario is that you could face eviction and possibly lose your security deposit. If your pet has caused serious damage, any resulting repair bills or legal fees could be your responsibility as well.
If you have savings and family nearby whom you can crash with, this might be a reasonable risk. But if you would face temporary homelessness and your family would suffer, it’s not worth it.
How do I ask my landlord for a pet?
Honesty and transparency are your best friends here. Landlords are human, too. Many love animals, and simply have a no-pets policy because they were advised to, or they are concerned about their property. If you ask nicely, assure them that you’ll make a good effort to train the family pet, and keep them under control, they may allow you to get one. It can’t hurt to throw in a bottle of wine, either.
They may say yes but require an additional deposit and/or a monthly pet fee. If you’re willing to pay these, your chances of getting approval will increase.
Why do landlords not like pets?
The main reason landlords don’t want pets on the premises is the wear-and-tear issues they can cause. Pets urinate, scratch the floor, chew on doors, and leave hair everywhere. Getting rid of a stubborn pet smell or restaining a wood floor can cause delays and add hundreds to thousands of dollars to their clean up costs in-between tenants.
Additionally, multi-unit property owners need to think about other tenants. Some may have allergies, and others may just hate the sound of barking. Still others may be concerned about a loose animal biting their child. Landlords don’t want to deal with any of these issues.
But many landlords have no-pet policies simply because that’s a common practice among property managers, and they’ve never really given it a serious thought. If you have a good relationship with your landlord and ask nicely, it’s possible they’ll make an exception.