If you have a four-legged member of your family, finding a pet-friendly apartment to rent can be a challenging endeavor.
Apartment hunting is already a tricky business under the best of circumstances. When you add an animal into the mix, especially a large breed dog, it gets even harder.
The task might seem daunting, but it is not impossible.
This article will provide you with helpful tips and tricks for finding an apartment with your pet.
Plan Ahead and Start Early
The most important thing is to plan ahead and give yourself some extra time to find a pet-friendly place.
There are fewer apartments on the market that accept pets, but they are out there. You just have to give yourself enough time to find one.
Each year, thousands of pets are surrendered to animal shelters. According to a study by the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy (NCPPSP), the top two relinquishment reasons for dogs are:
- Landlord Will Not Allow Pets
Do not allow your pet to become part of these sad statistics!
Give yourself as much time as you possibly can to find a pet-friendly apartment. Especially if you have a large-breed dog or a breed that is often on the list of “restricted breeds” (more on this later).
Also, be prepared to pay extra for the privilege of renting with your pet. Almost all apartments will require a pet deposit of some kind, so start putting away a little money for this purpose.
Have Open Discussions with Landlords
Even if an apartment listing does not specifically mention a pet policy, start an open conversation with the landlord.
Many landlords do not actively seek out pet owners, but they will consider pets on a case by case basis.
You will probably have more luck with individual landlords who own just a few rental properties, rather than large apartment complexes or property management companies.
Focus your search on stand-alone apartments or small houses for rent rather than big apartment buildings.
Craigslist, Facebook, Nextdoor, ApartmentFinder, Apartments.com, Rent.com and Zillow are all good websites to use when seeking a pet-friendly apartment.
Stay positive, professional and friendly. Offer to introduce your pet to the landlord. If a landlord says no to your pet, be polite and move on.
If you are cordial and reasonable, a landlord might be willing to work with you, especially if you provide some of the incentives listed below.
When a landlord does consents to allowing your pet on the property, make sure to get their approval in writing.
This is crucial in case there are any disputes later after you and your pet have already moved in.
Here is a sample of a generic pet addendum that you can ask to add to your lease.
Show Proof of Vet Records
Prove to your potential landlord that you are a responsible pet owner by showing proof of regular veterinary care.
Vaccinations are required by law in most places and they also show that you are concerned about public health and safety.
Send your potential landlord documentation showing that your pet is vaccinated for rabies and other common diseases.
Most importantly, vet records will demonstrate that you are a responsible person who takes care of their pet.
Show Proof of Obedience Training
Similarly, a prospective landlord will likely be more open to accepting your dog if you can display proof of obedience training.
If you graduated from a puppy class or a basic obedience class, send in a copy of your graduation certificate.
If you worked one-on-one with a trainer, ask them to write your pet a letter of recommendation.
There is even a certification provided by the American Kennel Club (AKC) called the Canine Good Citizen (CGC) certification.
If at all possible, try to get this certification for your dog. It requires you and your dog to pass a standardized assessment that demonstrates that your dog is a safe and polite member of society.
The Canine Good Citizen test consists of the following evaluations:
- Accepting a friendly stranger
- Sitting politely for petting
- Accepting grooming and handling
- Walking on a loose leash
- Walking through a crowd
- Responding to sit, down and stay commands
- Coming when called
- Ignoring the presence of another dog
- Reacting appropriately to a startling distraction (i.e. a loud noise, a jogger running past, someone dropping an item)
- Supervised separation for three minutes
- Pledge of responsible dog ownership (for the owner)
If your dog passes this test, your dog will receive the CGC title from the AKC. You will get a printed certificate and your dog will get a tag to wear on his or her collar.
Note—your dog does not need to be a purebred dog to get this title from the AKC.
You will have to find an approved assessor to administer the test. Many licensed obedience instructors are approved CGC assessors. Ask your local trainer if he or she is a CGC evaluator.
You can also visit this website to find a list of AKC approved CGC evaluators by state.
If your dog gets its CGC title, that will definitely give your dog a leg up when it comes to impressing a potential landlord!
Have Letters of Recommendation
If you have previously rented with your dog, ask your former landlord(s) to write letters of recommendation for your pet.
It will mean a lot to prospective landlords if your pet received a good review from a previous landlord.
If you are searching for your first apartment, you can still ask neighbors, friends, family members, veterinarians, or trainers to write letters of recommendation for your pooch.
Ask them to include notes that assure the landlord that your dog is friendly, socialized, housebroken, not destructive, and not a nuisance barker (assuming these things are all true, of course).
Create a Pet Resume
This might sound a little bit silly, but a pet resume can really make a difference.
Create a professional pet resume for your dog to include with your rental applications.
Include information such as:
- Vet’s name and office number
- Trainer’s name and contact information
- Where and how you plan to exercise your dog
- How you plan to contain your dog when it is unsupervised (i.e. doggie daycare, crate, baby gates)
- How you plan to take care of the property (i.e. pick up dog waste, replace damaged items if needed)
Check out the AKC Guide to creating a pet resume for more ideas and examples!
Offer to Pay a Pet Deposit
Money is usually the most convincing tool at your disposal.
If a landlord is on the fence about allowing your pet, offer to pay a pet deposit (or a higher pet deposit) to cover any damages that might occur.
This is probably going to be your most effective negotiation tool.
Carry Your Own Renters Insurance
If you can carry your own Renters Insurance (also known as Tenants Insurance), that will really help you stand apart from the crowd.
Most insurance companies offer renters pet insurance that can provide coverage if your pet injures someone or damages property.
We will talk more about insurance resources later in the article, but State Farm, is an excellent choice because State Farm is an insurance company that does not discriminate based on breed.
Contact a representative for a quote.
Additional Tips for Owners of Restricted Breeds
If you own a certain breed (or mix) you might encounter some additional hurdles to finding your dream apartment.
Some landlords will place generic size restrictions, such as only dogs under 25 lbs. will be allowed.
Other landlords will prohibit certain breeds. The list of prohibited breeds varies from rental to rental. However, below are some of the most common breeds that are targeted.
The list of restricted breeds generally includes:
- American Pit Bull Terrier
- American Staffordshire Terrier
- German Shepherd
- Presa Canario
- Chow Chow
- Doberman Pinscher
- Cane Corso
- Great Dane
- Alaskan Malamute
- Siberian Husky
- Wolf Hybrid
Hopefully, in time, landlords will move away from this discriminatory model and will move towards policies that hold all owners and dogs responsible for safe behavior regardless of breed.
Until then, below you fill find some additional resources if you own one of these restricted breeds.
Just because your dog looks like one of the restricted breeds, does not mean that he is one.
Even if you have adoption papers from an animal shelter that list certain breeds, these are most likely just educated guesses.
Studies have shown that it is practically impossible to accurately guess a dog’s genetic makeup based on visual identification.
Even animal professionals such as veterinarians and animal shelter staff members cannot accurately guess a dog’s mix based on physical characteristics.
According to a study by the National Canine Resource Council, “Over 90% of the dogs identified by agencies as having one or two specific breeds in their ancestry did not have their visually identified breeds as the predominant breed in their DNA analysis.”
You can visit the website for the National Canine Resource Council to find more information about the inaccuracy of visual dog breed identification.
The test costs around $80 and you can do it at home. The test consists of a simple cheek swab and results usually come within 2-3 weeks.
All you have to do is use a special Q-tip to collect some saliva and cheek cells from the inside of your dog’s mouth.
Then you send it off in a special envelope and wait. You will receive an email with an illustration of your dog’s family tree.
The results may be very surprising!
Assistance Animals and Emotional Support Animals
If your dog provides critical assistance to you, including emotional support for a psychological condition such as depression, you may be able to get a special exception for your pet.
Your doctor or mental health professional will have to write a letter certifying that you have a disability and that your animal provides crucial support.
According to the Fair Housing Act (FHA), landlords must make reasonable accommodations for assistance animals, even if they are on the list of breeds that are normally excluded from the property.
Talk with your mental health professional if you have further questions about Emotional Support Animals (ESAs).
Some landlords may feel that they have to restrict certain breeds due to their homeowner’s insurance.
However, there are a number of insurance companies that do not discriminate by breed.
You can encourage potential landlords to explore these options, or you can offer to carry your own Renter’s Insurance policy with one of these companies.
Check out the list of insurance companies that do not discriminate by breed.
Short Term Emergency Options
If you get into a tight spot, here are some ideas for temporary housing solutions to give yourself a little more time to find a pet-friendly apartment:
- Stay with a friend
- Rent an Airbnb
- Board your dog at a boarding kennel or doggie daycare
Reach out to your local animal shelter or humane society for help. They will want to work with you to keep your pet out of their shelter, so they will provide you with any assistance they can.
They might know of certain landlords and apartment buildings in that particular community that are pet friendly.
Renting with a dog can be challenging, but with a little extra effort and time you should be able to find a happy home for you and your pet.
We hope that this article has given you some helpful hints about how to be successful in your next housing search!