How to find a dog-friendly apartment.
Let’s face it, moving is a hassle. There are utilities, bank accounts and credit cards to change, as well as the minutiae of sorting, packing and innumerable other tasks. Animal lovers in search of rental property face an additional challenge: finding an affordable apartment in a good area that allows dogs and cats. At first glance, the issue of animal friendly rentals appears dogmatically simple – animals are either allowed or they’re not – but there are gray areas you need to be aware of. For example, policies vary from building to building and many “pet friendly” apartments place restrictions on the animals they allow.
To begin your search, contact local vets, Humane Societies, and shelters to ind lists of animal-friendly apartments. Another approach is to use websites dedicated to listing apartments that allow animals (see sidebar). You may also contact realtors who specialize in animal friendly apartments, although ultimately it’s your duty to sell yourself and your animal to the person with the final say.
“The first thing to do is ask what a building’s pet policy is,” says Lisa Peterson of the American Kennel Club. “Many times there are restrictions as to the breed, size or weight of the animal. You need to ind out what those policies are.” This process helps focus your search and gives you an idea of any restrictions in the area you wish to live in.
How to sell yourself
It’s important to understand why animals cause controversy in rental situations. “Landlords who don’t want animals have usually had a bad experience,” says Lisa. This ranges from improper waste disposal to noise to damaged carpets and upholstery.
Consider your landlord’s point of view. Why would he rent to you when he could rent to someone without an animal, who presumably would be less of a hassle? Pet Friendly Rentals in Canada suggests making the following case:
Tenants with animals have fewer turnovers. They tend to stay longer because of the difficulties of finding a new apartment and the stress it causes for the animal. In addition, urban animal lovers are a growing, largely untapped market. Letting in one dog or cat may lead to good word of mouth, attracting other responsible animal people. This helps ill units for longer uninterrupted periods, and reduces the costs of advertising.
It’s also important to demonstrate to the landlord that you’re going to be responsible with your animal.
• “If you’re serious about finding a place, you may need to provide an animal resume,” says veterinarian Dr. Sophia Yin. This resume includes general information about your animal, health records and letters of reference from past landlords. It should be presented along with your formal rental application.
• “For dogs, include any training classes and G.C.C. test information,” Dr. Yin suggests. The American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen Test (G.C.C.), is a widely recognized tool for assessing good dog behavior with ten tests that include: accepting a friendly stranger, walking through a crowd, polite reactions to another dog, and supervised separation.
• Spaying or neutering your animal is another sign of responsibility on your part.
• “Offer to put down an extra cleaning deposit,” Lisa adds. Some renters pay an extra fee per month to house their animals – make sure to check contracts thoroughly and clarify these points.
• Extra money often goes a long way, but will not assuage all concerns. Sometimes an animal interview is requested. “I’ve read of tests where the landlord invites the person and the dog over to the new apartment, has the person leave, and then knocks on the door to see how the dog reacts,” says Lisa. “A friendly visit goes a long way.” Veterinarian Dr. Babette Gladstein recommends having the interview at your place instead. “It’s hard to predict how the animal will act in a new setting,” she explains. “Showing there’s no damage in the place you live in now is obviously more persuasive than bringing the animals into a new environment and not knowing how they’re going to react.” Dr. Yin also suggests a crash course in preparation if an onsite visit is required.
“If your animal hasn’t had practice interacting with other animals and people in different locations, prepare him by visiting others.” If you and your animal are accepted, be sure to get the agreement in writing. Even if the landlord verbally consents, you and your companion are not protected by law unless there’s an addendum to your rental agreement. It should include a minimum statement of how many animals you have and what type they are.
Never, under any circumstances, sneak an animal into an apartment. It may lead to eviction and other legal action. Moreover, it leaves a bad taste in the landlord’s mouth, making him less likely to allow animals in the future.
Even so-called animal friendly apartments most often have restrictions on sizes, weights and breeds, especially for dogs. “People tend to be scared of big breeds like pit bulls, German shepherds, Rottweilers, and even black Labradors,” says Dr. Yin. “Even though it’s not fair, that’s how it is. People with these breeds need to really focus on training and be able to show proof.”
Although it often requires a longer commute, Dr. Galdstein recommends renting a private home further away from the city. “There’s less opposition with neighbors, but people are still very cautious of some breeds because of how they’re perceived,” she says. “Presentation is everything. One of my clients gives out a postcard – she has chows that are gorgeous but intimidating – and whenever someone asks a question about them, she gives out the postcard with information about the dogs on it.” Dr. Galdstein also recommends training dogs and even cats as therapy animals to add to their credentials and help contribute to society.
Life in an animal-friendly apartment
You’ve found your apartment, but the work has just begun. New environments often lead to lare-ups of bad behavior in animals, often when you aren’t there. This is most pronounced in dogs. “One of the biggest issues in an otherwise well-behaved dog is that he barks at sounds when he’s alone or experiences separation anxiety, something that doesn’t happen in other settings,” says Dr. Yin. Barking will annoy your neighbors, and according to lease agreements and nuisance laws, can even result in eviction.
While a television or radio on at low volume can help mitigate a dog’s reaction to outside noise, there are other factors at play. In particular, keeping the dog indoors all day won’t help. Lisa recommends employing a dog walker if you’re away most of the day. “That way the dog doesn’t get cooped up for long periods and become prone to boredom and destructiveness.” As for separation anxiety, veterinarian Dr. Ann Hohenhaus suggests obedience training. “Trained dogs are less likely to suffer from separation anxiety, which is very disruptive for your neighbors.”
All-indoor cats tend to be less of a concern for landlords, but if you have one, make sure there are plenty of stimuli in the apartment to keep him engaged.
Finding the right animal friendly apartment for you and your companion may seem a daunting task, but persistence will pay off and result in a longer, happier stay. Consider your companion’s temperament and make the choices that are healthiest for him. Remember…when you live with a dog or cat in rental accommodation, you represent all animal lovers. It pays for you both to be on your best behavior!
Check out the stats
• According to a recent Apartments.com survey of more than 1,000 renters around the U.S, nearly 90% who responded said they have an animal.
• More than 80% said an animal friendly policy played a major role in where they chose to live. • 30% sought out an apartment in close proximity to desirable animal amenities such as dog parks, walking trails and a veterinary ofice.
• More than 11 million searches for animal friendly apartments were conducted on Apartments.com in 2008.
Websites that maintain lists of animal friendly apartments are invaluable to your search. Here are a few to try.