How to Find and Rent or Buy a Pet Friendly Apartment
Pet-friendly apartments are sometimes harder to find, depending on your location, the landlord, and even the type of pet you have. But why is that? First, it helps to understand why many apartment buildings do not allow pets. I know as a pet lover, it may seem like there's no good reason to deny tenants the ability to have a pet, but put yourself in their shoes for a moment.
For rental complexes, perhaps the landlord has had bad experiences in the past with pet owners who were not responsible. Ruined carpet, feces not picked up around the complex, or pet urine that was left to seep into hardwood floors can dissuade owners from allowing pets in their buildings.
For condos as well as rentals, in the case of dogs, there may be concern about handling complaints if a dog barks enough to annoy the neighbors. In the case of exotic pets, there is also the nightmare of a large snake, for example, getting loose and crawling into the neighbors apartment. Not a fun situation to deal with!
We at Urban Edge are pet lovers (we even have a dog in our office), and we speak from experience. Here then are some thoughts on making your search for a pet friendly apartment as hassle free as it can be.
Pet-friendly Apartment Tips:
1.) Understand That Large Rental Communities Don't Make Exceptions to Policy
If a large building or garden complex advertises "No Pets," you're pretty much wasting your time trying to convince them otherwise. They have to be consistent, and if they allow you to have a pet, they may have hundreds of other residents who now want a pet as well. Focus on those communities that do accept pets.
Don't assume if you see or hear pets on the property that they accept them. It's possible the policy has changed, but that some already existing pets were "grandfathered in."
2.) Focus on Communities Advertised as Pet Friendly
If you already know the building accepts pets, you don't have to worry about whether or not they will accept your pet, and you can focus on the other aspects of the building, amenities and area that may appeal to you. Because landlords know not everyone accepts pets, MOST (but not all) landlords who accept pets will make this known in the ads, in apartment guidebooks, etc.
There are even websites that are devoted to ONLY advertising apartments that are pet friendly. While you shouldn't limit your search to only those sites, they are a great place to start. However, many sites (including this one) allow you to narrow your search to only apartments that accept pets, excluding the other listings.
3.) Find Out the Exact Details of the Pet Policy
This falls under "look for the fine print." Even if the policy says "Dog-Friendly," it doesn't mean that they will allow any dog you bring in. Some buildings may set a weight limit (no dogs over 25 pounds, or 50 pounds, for example). In other cases, they may not allow specific breeds (generally large breeds, or aggressive breeds).
In addition, some complexes may require that your pet by spayed or neutered, and/or be vaccinated. Before losing out on that dream apartment, be sure to clarify the exact policy. No need to waste your time if your pet doesn't meet their exact policy standards.
Make sure you get a written copy of the policy. If you're renting, this will probably be in your lease, or in a lease rider. Obviously you'll want to get these details before you decide to lease, not at lease signing... so ask, and try to get it in writing in advance, not just someone's word.
If you're buying, the condo by-laws (in most cases) or the rules and regulations should have the information you need. Copies of both are usually provided at closing, but you'll want the information beforehand. Ask for the most up-to-date copy for any property you're seriously considering buying. A good condo association will have them legally filed as well, so that would be another route to accessing them.
4.) Focus on Small Landlords You May Negotiate With
Landlords with small rental buildings may not advertise that they accept pets, but instead will handle it on a case-by-case basis. This gives you a chance to put your best foot (or paw) forward and convince them that your pet will cause no problems. This might also apply to small condos or co-ops, but only if the pet policy isn't already dictated. Usually it is.
5.) Have Proof That You're a Responsible Owner
A letter of reference from your current landlord (complete with contact information to verify) can go a long way in convincing a small rental building owner that they should allow you to have a pet. In the case of dogs, if he/she has completed a training course, or obedience school, make sure you have a letter or certificate reflecting that.
Veterinarians can also be used as a reference. A letter stating that your pet has been spayed or neutered, that you have kept up with your pet's medical care, and has been vaccinated against rabies can also help.
You should also show that you are concerned with being a responsible owner by asking the owner how and where you should dispose of your pets litter and waste. You want to show them that you are thinking of these things in advance, and that you are conscientious about it.
You can also point out to the landlord that because it's harder to find a place to live that accepts pets, that you'll be more likely to stay around longer, and not do anything to jeopardize your tenancy, because you don't want to deal with the hassle of finding a new place.
6.) Offer To Have a Pet Interview
In some cases, the landlord will ask. If not, and they seem to be hesitant, offer to bring your pet to meet the landlord. This gives them a chance to see first hand how well behaved (and trained) your pet is, particularly dogs. They can also see how clean and well-groomed your pet is. If an interview is not possible, at least try to have pictures you can show to your prospective landlord.
7.) Scout the Surrounding Area/Neighborhood
Just because the complex accepts pets doesn't mean it's a good choice for you. For example, you have a dog that needs walked daily. Are there sidewalks/paths/walkways in and leaving the complex for you to do this? Or is the building in a more suburban/rural environment with roads and no place to walk? Is there a park nearby that you can take your dog to, particularly if you're living in a downtown urban area?
8.) Be Prepared to Shell Out More $$$
In rentals with pet policies already established, it's not unusual for there to be an additional security deposit required for your pet, to cover any damages they may cause. Some building even charge a monthly pet surcharge, on top of your rent. If you're dealing with a smaller landlord, another bargaining chip you could have is to offer to pay an additional security deposit, or rent. That could sway the owner to your side.
9.) It's Not All About Dogs
While most of our examples have mentioned dogs, as they tend to bring the most restrictions by landlords, they are by far not the only types of pets you need to be concerned about. For example, a landlord may restrict the type of bird you may keep, similar to size or breed of dog restrictions. Again, the concern is noise from your pet disturbing your neighbors.
Among exotic pets, again landlords may restrict them altogether, or restrict by animal type (e.g. hamsters are OK, snakes are not). Sometimes there are size restrictions on the animal, or you may be restricted by tank size (both for fish, and for reptiles).
If you're moving to a new state, be aware of state laws. Some states have banned certain breeds of exotic pets, while others allow them but require that they be registered. And remember that exotic is basically anything beyond cats, dogs and most fish. What is "normal" to you or where you currently live, may be "exotic" where you're moving.
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