Pet-Friendly Housing: How to Rent With Pets
If you've ever had to find rental housing that allows pets, then chances are you know just how hard it can be. Many pet owners have complained that the only rentals available to them are substandard or in poor condition because landlords generally don't want pets in their nice apartments or homes. After talking to both landlords and tenants, it's not as black-and-white as it might seem at first. Landlords aren't all evil and immoral for refusing pets, and tenants with pets aren't all messy or irresponsible. Landlords just want to protect their investment while tenants want a decent place to live with their pets. Here's what you can do if you're a pet owner trying to find a place to rent.
Why Are Landlords Reluctant to Rent to People With Pets?
It's easy to get angry with landlords who refuse to allow renters with pets. Pets are part of the family, and for someone who's looking for housing, it can feel downright discriminatory to refuse pets! But from a landlord's perspective, it only takes one irresponsible tenant to turn them off renters with pets.
Landlords who refuse pets aren't necessarily pet-haters. They might be inexperienced with pets or heard horror stories from other landlords . . . or maybe they allowed pets at one time but had a bad experience that they don't care to repeat.
- Damages caused by pets. Although many jurisdictions allow landlords to charge a little extra for pets, there is often a limit as to how much they can charge. The tenant's security deposit sometimes isn't enough to cover the repairs.
- Noise problems. Excessive barking, meowing, or even chirping can become a huge problem in an apartment or condominium where there are lots of residents living in close quarters. Constant noise complaints can cause the landlord many headaches trying to deal with the issue.
- Community concerns. Tenants are expected to behave in a way that shows respect for their neighbors and their community. Tenants who don't pick up after their dogs, or who let cats wander and cause a nuisance, or don't keep dogs leashed can cause the neighbors to lodge a complaint. And it's the landlord who has to deal with the issue once again.
So you can see why many landlords are reluctant to accept pets. It's not necessarily that they don't like pets, but more that they're worried about making sure their investment is properly cared for. They are understandably wary about the possibility of getting an irresponsible tenant who doesn't take their responsibilities as a pet owner seriously. Some condominiums will even fine the owners if the tenant breaks the rules!
Tips for Renters With Pets
Landlords want to protect their investment. As a pet owner, you want to show a prospective landlord that you are a responsible tenant and a responsible pet owner. You want to convince the landlord that it would be a good thing to have you as a tenant! Here are a few things to consider when renting with pets:
- Create a resume for your pet. It might sound funny to have a resume for an animal, but it can help show a landlord that you are a responsible pet owner. Include helpful information like obedience and socialization classes, any volunteer work your pet might have done (eg. pet-assisted therapy work), references from veterinarians, dog trainers, pet sitters, neighbors, previous landlords, etc. You could also include a copy of your pet's vaccination records to show that he's healthy and is up-to-date on vaccines. It also helps to show that your pet is spayed or neutered. Finally, include a short write-up about you as a pet owner.
- Offer a prospective landlord the opportunity to visit you at your current residence. He can then meet your pet and see how well you keep your current rental unit.
- Try to take a few days off when you move into a new place to help your pet adjust. It's new for your pet too, and sometimes even the quietest pets will get anxious in new surroundings and make excessive noise, disturbing the neighbors. It often helps if you can be there to help your pet adjust to his new home.
- Be a good neighbor. Make sure your pets don't disturb your neighbors, whether it's with noise, pets wandering loose, or unsightly messes. Remember that your landlord has to deal with complaints and won't be happy if it keeps happening!
- Be diligent about addressing any concerns your landlord may have. If an issue arises about your pet, make sure you understand what the problem is and take immediate steps to address it. For example, your dog may bark excessively when you first move in because he's unsure of his surroundings. Try another temporary solution (put your dog in a comfy covered crate with his bedding, toys, and water; take him to a doggy daycare; take a few days off to help your dog adjust).
- Get permission for all types of pets, not just dogs. Sometimes tenants assume that indoor cats or caged pets will automatically be okay because no one else ever sees them. Trouble (and heartache) arises when they're found to have pets without permission. There are many landlords that place restrictions on what types of pets you can have. Even birds are a touchy issue because their singing, chirping, and sometimes even talking can be loud and disruptive to other residents of the building.
- Check your rental agreement first before you get a pet. Most of the time you will need to get approval from your landlord before you get a pet, even if you already have one. Many rental units have a limit on the number of pets you can have, the size of the pet, or the types of pets allowed.
- Get it in writing. A verbal acceptance of your pet isn't good enough. Ask to get it in writing so that you have some protection if they later ask you to get rid your pet (if you violate any of the rules they may be able to do it anyway). Make sure your rental agreement states the name and type of your pet(s).
- Be prepared with temporary housing plans. You might not be able to find pet-friendly housing right away so have a backup plan in place. Ask a good friend or a family member if they would be willing to care for your pet temporarily until you can find rental housing that allows pets. If you can't bear the thought of being away from your pet, then stay at short-term pet-friendly accommodations like hotels or even a B&B or a cottage.
Although landlords and tenants are often at odds about the issue of allowing pets in rental units, there are many successful landlord-tenant relationships that include pets. Landlords are happy to have responsible tenants with pets as it can mean less turnover. Tenants with pets are likewise happy to have decent "pets allowed" housing and will take good care of the rental unit.