Tips on Renting with Herps (Reptiles and Amphibians)
By Eric Roscoe
One topic that is frequently asked about is the issue of renting with reptiles and amphibians. In other words, how can one successfully locate herp friendly housing? What should be done if you run into issues over your animals with the landlord? It can often be a difficult enough task to find rental housing that accepts many of the more traditional pets such as dogs and cats. Matters can become more complicated when we are advocating for our scaly reptilian friends to those who provide many of us housing and residential leases due to less widespread acceptance, fears, or other negative perceptions of these animals.
Many have successfully rented with their animals, and the purpose of this article is to share some of our tips, suggestions, and experiences for those who may find themselves in similar situations. Most importantly, know that you do not have to give up or rehome your animals in order to find rental housing provided one is willing to put forth some additional effort, responsibility, and persistence into locating herp friendly housing.
Consider Your Options and Negotiate if Needed
- Rental agencies and larger complexes typically will have more comprehensive, standardized, and inflexible rules or regulations with little to no room for negotiation. It is not likely that you as one person will change the company’s policy or agree to allow your animals. Look elsewhere if this is the case.
- Individually or family owned rentals will often be more open and receptive to allowing pets in general, and there is oftentimes greater room for negotiation, at least on a case by case basis. They may even own and understand pets themselves.
- Simply inquire about aquariums or caged pets. Oftentimes, a landlord may not even care about, or include these animals in their leases unless perhaps they become improperly cared for and cause issues with odor, escape, or other nuisance/hazards.
- Remember that even if a rental housing is pet friendly or doesn’t mention relevant pet restrictions, any local, zoning, and municipal laws ordinances can still apply. Always research the ordinances for the community in which the rental is located beforehand, and do not maintain animals unlawfully.
- If a landlord or rental does not allow animals, inquire as to why, and try to educate them by addressing their concerns accordingly. However, this is not guaranteed to always work. If a landlord seems unreasonable and still will not allow your animals for whatever the reason, or comes up with provisions that seem overly restrictive, search elsewhere. There may be little else you can do at such points.
- If you are a student, most, if not all on campus housing arrangements (such as dormatories) will either generally not allow pets, or restrict the number that may be kept and/or limit them to small aquariums of a specified size or smaller. There is little to no negotiation in these situations, and it may be best to wait for the opportunity to find independent or off campus housing.
- Area humane societies and animal shelters may sometimes have free directories to help pet owners find pet friendly housing. These are usually geared towards dog and cat owners, but may still be useful for those with reptiles.
- Don’t try passing your animals off as service or emotional support animals (ESA) if they are not actually designated for such purposes. Oftentimes, additional documentation from one’s doctor or physician may be required. Abuse of such ESA designations may also be in violation of state and/or federal laws, and is an issue that is being increasingly cracked down upon in recent years.
- And as always, be a responsible pet owner and act responsibly with the animals you maintain. Do not be the reason why a landlord or rental, as well as local community, may decide to change their policies and/or ordinances. Consider all of the implications of irresponsible pet ownership.
Read All Terms and Leases
- It cannot be emphasized enough the importance of reading and fully understanding all lease terms and agreements prior to signing on to one. This is of course just as applicable to animal clauses, Find out up front what their pet policies entail before moving forward with any lease agreement. Many rentals will still have many restrictions and may not be as pet friendly as they advertise.
- Have EVERYTHING in writing. This includes any leases, pet provisions, verbal agreements as well as lease addendums at any time. You may need them for later!
- A landlord or rental *cannot* deny your animals unless it is specifically written in the lease that they are prohibited.
- Beware of other lease provisions that waive many rights that you may otherwise be entitled to by law. Beware of provisions that allow landlords to enter your unit at any time for any reason. You have a right to privacy under law. Only allow landlord entry for showing, emergency situations, or to make needed repairs and only if advance notice is given. Beware of any provisions that waive your right to take an issue to court if need be. Also beware of provisions that allow a landlord to change lease terms or rules at any time on a whim. Stop reading right there if you see that.
Know What Rights You Have
- As stated previously, know and read all provisions and any addendums to a lease. Do not sign if any provisions (mentioned above) require you to waive many of your rights, and search elsewhere if that is the case.
- Know and understand the nature and duration of the lease you sign or enter into. Generally, a 6 month, yearly, or longer lease can afford you greater protection from arbitrary, whimsical, and unreasonable changes than with month to month leases. Unfortunately, a landlord holds most of the cards in a month to month agreement, but you can opt to leave with less notice and greater flexibility in a month to month as well.
- The Federal Fair Housing Act protects the rights of the elderly or those with disabilities, or those who otherwise require service animals. It is against the law for a landlord or rental to turn you away or require removal of an animal on the basis that you have a service animal.
To conclude, while renting with herps can be more challenging than renting with more traditional pets, it is possible in many circumstances for herpers to find herp friendly housing if they are willing to expend a bit more effort and persistence into doing so. You do not have to sell or give your animals should you be faced (either voluntarily or out of necessity) with the possibility of having to rent instead of own your own housing. In doing so, it is important to be honest, up front, and responsible, as this is far more preferable in the long run than having to hide your animals each and every time maintenance comes by or when inspections have to be done.