Your furry, feathered and scaled friends might make life worth living, but they sure don’t make life easier — particularly if you do not own your own home. Rental companies, landlords and condominium associations are notoriously strict about pets, and you may struggle toward the right rental fit for you and Fido. Even if the property in question is a home with a yard large enough for your breed of animal, outright refusals, restrictions and fees await you. Get ready to get busy — and sometimes creative — with your search.
Why No Pets?
Many hard-line pet restrictions on rental properties are not necessarily unfair to pet owners, or are a mark against animals themselves. Individual landlords may even love pets, but previous experiences with irresponsible pet owners forced a tough decision. When you apply for a rental, you must also fight the memory of every previous pet owner.
Some left the parting gift of property damage at the end of their lease — chewed trim and door edges, ripped-up baseboard and floors, stains and damaged landscaping — while others carried the repeated complaints of other tenants. A dog’s bark, if too frequent and at untimely hours, is pure noise pollution, and unruly behavior in common areas is not only dangerous, but a liability for the landlord.
Some landlords have experience with tenants that ignored their rules and secretly kept pets indoors, and may have unpleasant memories of surprise damage to properties. Many know this type of pet owner: they either lie outright when negotiating the rental agreement or initially have no pets, but later change their minds. These pet owners make you look irresponsible and untrustworthy by association, and may prejudice landlords against you.
Start Your Search
Initially, avoid any properties with a ban on all pets. These options are the least likely to end well. Instead, search out pet-friendly housing in your area. The Humane Society provides a list of known pet-friendly rental properties — and your local chapter may know of more.
Hit up a few real estate or rental agents for leads, and keep your eye on newspaper and online listings. Look carefully at properties with a restricted pet policy — that is, properties that allow only some types of pet. If your pet falls within the allowed types — great! If not, set the listing aside as a last resort.
Accept that you may not find your absolute ideal in housing, or even your ideal price. Your pet’s stay in your new home may come with extra fees to cover potential property damage, and the specific cost may vary based on the type and size of your pet. A pet rider for the rental agreement is standard practice.
Pet riders give you and the landlord a basic legal structure to work within, so that there are no misunderstandings or surprise restrictions on your pet later in the relationship. The rider also provides legal protection for you, in the event that an unscrupulous landlord suddenly presents new fees or attempts an unfair eviction based on pet-related concerns.
Failing all else, get ready to charm your way into a new home, despite the pet restriction policies. Approach only individually-owned or small companies, and have no expectations. Make you and your pet look like ideal tenants, but be honest! Prove your responsibility through stellar references from the last place you lived, training certificates for your pet, veterinary documentation of shots or neutering and, if possible, a letter from your veterinarian that supports your claims.
If a landlord or housing manager appears amenable, but hesitates, offer to bring your pet for a visit, so they can see your pet’s behavior for themselves, or suggest a short-term lease as a trial period. Offers of liability insurance and pet deposits can also help smooth your way into a new, agreeable home for you and your pet.