Conducting a successful housing search
Please... if you cannot immediately find housing that accepts pets, do NOT abandon your pet in your old rental unit in the hopes that someone else will find and care for them, or in the hopes that you'll be able to "come back" later and get them. Pets depend on us for their care.
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:
- Give yourself enough time. No one likes moving, much less finding rental housing that accepts pets. If possible, start your search at least six weeks before you plan to move.
- Understand why many housing communities reject pets. Many landlords, housing managers, and property owners have had bad experiences with irresponsible pet guardians who didn't safely confine their animals or pick up their feces, snuck pets in, or left ruined carpets and drapes when they moved out. They may be worried about complaints from neighbors about barking dogs and wonder how they are going to effectively deal with pet owners if problems arise. That's why people looking for an apartment, house, or condominium to rent must be able to sell themselves as responsible pet owners who are committed to providing responsible pet care and being responsible neighbors.
- Focus on places that allow most pets. Recognize that it may be futile to find suitable housing for yourself and your pet in a large rental community with a no-pets policy. You're more likely to be successful if you focus on places that allow most pets, allow certain pets (for example, cats or dogs weighing less than 20 pounds), or that don't say, "Sorry, no pets." Individual home and condominium owners may be easiest to persuade. Ideally, look for a community with appropriate pet-keeping guidelines that specify resident obligations. That's the kind of place that's ideal for pet owners because you'll know that other pet caregivers there also are committed to being responsible residents.
- Create a pet resume. Gather proof that you're responsible. The more documentation you can provide showing you are a responsible pet guardian, the more appealing you will be to your future landlord. A resume for your pet can help show a landlord that you are a responsible pet guardian. Include helpful information like obedience and socialization classes, any volunteer work your pet might have done (like 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 your pet is healthy and 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 guardian.
- 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.
- Show an interest in cleanliness. Let the landlord, manager, or condominium board know that you share any concerns about cleanliness. Point out that your pet is housetrained or litter-box trained. Emphasize that you always clean up after your dog outdoors and that you always properly dispose of your pet's waste.
- Promote yourself. Responsible pet owners make excellent residents. Because they must search harder for a place to live, pet caregivers are more likely to stay put. Lower vacancy rates mean lower costs and fewer headaches for landlords and real estate agents.
- Promote your pet. Offer to bring your pet to meet the owner or property manager, or invite the landlord to visit you and your pet in your current home. A freshly groomed, well-behaved pet will speak volumes. Emphasize that the same pride you take in caring for your pet extends to taking care of your home. Many landlords are concerned about fleas, so be sure to let your prospective landlord know that you maintain an active flea-control program for your pet and home. Provide written proof that your pet is spayed or neutered and is, therefore, healthier, calmer, and less likely to be a nuisance.
- Make health and safety a priority. Make it clear to the landlord, manager, or condominium board that you keep your cat inside and your dog under control at all times and that you understand the health and safety benefits of doing so.
- Be willing to pay a little extra. Tell your prospective landlord or resident manager that you are willing to pay an extra security deposit to cover any damages your pet might make to the property. Be sure to discuss deposits and monthly pet-related fees in advance. And have these fees put into writing, too. Request a copy of any house rules pertaining to pets. Let the landlord know that you will abide by the rules set for the broader community and respect the concerns of residents who do not own pets.
- Get it in writing. Once you have been given permission by a landlord, manager, or condominium committee to have a pet, be sure to get it in writing. Sign a pet addendum to your rental agreement. Comprehensive agreements protect people, property, and the pets themselves. If your lease has a no-pets clause, verbal approval won't be enough. The no-pets clause should be removed from the lease (or crossed out and initialed) before you sign it. Be sure it has been removed from or crossed out on your landlord's copy, too.
- 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.
- Be honest. Don't try to sneak your pet in to any rental property. If you do so, you may be subject to possible eviction or other legal action.
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