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Apartment Hunting With Your Pet

Give yourself and your pet a leg up on the apartment competition
Friday, November 16, 2012

Girl with dogApartment-hunting is rarely easy for pet parents. Finding a place you like and can afford is challenging enough, especially in urban areas where rentals are in demand. But pet parents often face another obstacle: the no-pets policy. If building owners do accept pets, they might impose weight, size or breed restrictions.

What’s more troubling is that research shows that the most common reason people give their pets away is because their place of residence does not allow dogs or cats.

What’s a home-hunter to do?

You can give yourself and your pet a leg up on the competition by knowing where to look and planning how you’ll present yourselves. Here’s how to stand out from the pack.

Man with dogStart with pet-friendly properties

Check with your local SPCA or humane society for lists of pet-friendly apartment complexes, property owners and realtors. Some organizations might even post pet-friendly rentals on their websites.

Use your network! If you’re a regular at the dog park, mention your apartment search to other pet parents and local dog walkers. Check out neighborhood pet-supply stores, which sometimes have bulletin boards where pet-friendly rentals are posted.

And don’t forget that many apartment hunting sites, such as Rent.com or Craigslist.com, enable you to search for pet-friendly apartments. Often, you can narrow your search by species, since many complexes may allow cats but not dogs.

How to handle “no pets” and other pet policies

If an apartment ad specifies “no pets allowed,” it’s usually best to believe it. Especially in larger apartment complexes, you have little chance of changing the landlord’s mind. Without policies in place to manage tenants who have pets, there’s no guarantee your landlord won’t decide later that they really don’t want pets in the building.

Instead, aim for rentals that welcome pets or don’t say anything about pets. In situations where an ad doesn’t specify a pet policy, mention your pet once you’ve gotten to a comfortable point in the conversation.

Better yet, if you’re able to see the apartment in person, that’s a better time to ask, “Would you consider accepting a pet?” Be honest about your pet, but don’t dwell on the subject and make your landlord think there is any reason to worry.

Woman with kittenThinking ahead: A pet résumé, references, and deposit

Give the landlord a pet résumé that describes your pet: their breed, age, health, activity level, and personality. Why are they a good apartment pet? Have they lived happily in apartments before? Explain how you ensure they are clean, well trained, and comfortable when you are not home. If you are involved with animal-related organizations, note that too.

Offer references for your pet. Ask previous landlords and neighbors to summarize their experiences with your dog or cat. Your veterinarian, trainer, pet sitter and dog walker are other good sources of references. For example, they can assure a landlord that your dog is not destructive or an excessive barker.

Finally, be ready to put down extra money as a pet deposit. It might be a few hundred dollars, but it could convince the landlord to rent to you and your pet.

Another thing to ask about: the growing trend of “pet rent.”

Prove you’re a responsible pet parent

Bring your renters’ insurance policy. Show records of your pet’s vaccinations and spay/neuter surgery. Present certificates from obedience-training classes. All these things prove that you take your responsibility as a pet parent seriously.

Suggest a pet interview

If your landlord still seems unsure, suggest a meeting! Give your landlord a chance to see how well-behaved your pet is. This is a good time to show off your dog’s ability to obey commands.

Start off on the right foot…er, paw

Whatever you do, don’t lie. You can’t hide your pet forever — eventually your dog will bark or your cat will make an appearance. Keeping your karma clean will make you and your pet a lot more comfortable in your new home.

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