This post first appeared on Care2.com
I will never forget how nervous I was the day Solas, my late German shepherd mix, and I headed out to meet the landlord of a studio apartment that I was hoping to rent. The apartment was at the back of the landlord’s home and he and his wife were hesitant to rent to a tenant with a dog. I convinced them to meet my dog before turning us down.
Solas had been bathed and was wearing a cute bandana when we walked up to the landlord’s door. I also brought along her Canine Good Citizen certificate and references from my veterinarian. She made a great impression and we got the apartment. In fact, Solas and the landlord’s granddaughter became great buddies.
Not all tenants with pets fare so well. In an American Humane survey of 93 shelters, “landlord won’t allow pets” was the fourth most common reason pets were surrendered to shelters. And according to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the lack of pet-friendly rental properties leads to the surrender of half a million pets to shelters each year. While the rental housing industry claims to be pet-friendly, HSUS representatives say that it is discriminating about the types of pets allowed. Often there are weight limits or breed restrictions when it comes to renting with dogs.
Alex Dobrow was asked to leave his apartment because his German pincher, Boo, was over the size limit for dogs allowed in the rental unit. After an extensive search for a suitable dog-friendly apartment that accepted dogs over 50 pounds, Dobrow finally bought his own home.
“The stress and anxiety were overwhelming but I would rather have lived on the streets than part with my best friend,” Dobrow said. “That dilemma made me start thinking about how many other people must be in the same situation as I was and I launched PeopleWithPets.com.”
With more than a million visitors annually, PeopleWithPets.com works to help pet owners find pet-friendly apartments nationwide. Dobrow works hard to convince management properties that they would benefit from renting to pet owners, especially since 72 percent of U.S. renters own pets.
By accepting renters with dogs and cats, landlords increase their pool of qualified rental applicants dramatically, giving them more options for finding great tenants, say HSUS experts. Grateful to find pet-friendly apartments, these tenants stay longer meaning fewer vacancies and lower administrative costs for the rental companies.
By accepting renters with dogs and cats landlords increase their pool of qualified and reliable rental applicants dramatically.
Today, Dobrow said, many of the rental properties he deals with don’t have weight or size limits, but 95 to 96 percent will have breed restrictions.
“Many will not rent to tenants with German shepherds, Rottweilers, pit bulls, Dobermans, or chows,” he said. “It’s got to do with apartment liability insurance.”
Occasionally Dobrow comes across rental properties that won’t allow small dogs because they bark too much and disturb neighbors. Some properties, he said, won’t rent second-floor apartments to tenants with fish tanks in case of water damage, while others won’t rent to tenants with exotic pets like snakes and iguanas. “Sometimes pet owners have better luck finding an apartment through a private individual with an apartment for rent rather than looking at large rental properties,” Dobrow said.
Tips from the HSUS on Finding Pet-Friendly Rental Housing:
- Allow as much time as possible to search.
- Research animal-friendly listings and realtors using online classified ads.
- Reach out to friends and family, using networking sites and social media to uncover connections and opportunities.
- Show off your pet’s best qualities by creating a “resume” for your pet that includes a photo, favorite activities, certifications and even a short adoption story.
- To further prove that your dog will make a good tenant get a reference from a current or most recent landlord, written proof that your dog completed a training class, and a letter from your veterinarian showing your pet is spayed or neutered and current on shots.
- Invite landlords to meet your pet.
- Be prepared and willing to pay a reasonable extra amount in rent or pay a refundable pet deposit.
- Even if a landlord advertises “no pets” or has size or breed restrictions, some will make exceptions, especially when they are pet lovers themselves. It is worth a friendly ask over the phone or in person.
The HSUS also offers helpful information on signing leases and resolving issues with landlords.
Petfinder.com offers a breakdown by state of sites that list pet-friendly apartments.