5 Tips for Finding a Rental When You Have Pets

by Becky BlantonFebruary 9, 2017

The only thing harder than finding the perfect apartment or rental home is finding one that allows pets.

“Finding a rental property is hard if you have pets. It’s especially hard to find a rental property if you have one of the so-called dangerous breeds, like a pit bull, Rottweiler or a German shepherd,” said Realtor Jill Barsky. Barsky, who rescues and owns pit-bulls, owns and runs her own animal rescue, and is a Virginia Realtor, says she regularly gets calls from panicked renters and pet owners in search of a new rental.

“They call me and say, ‘My landlord just found out I have a pet and now I’m being kicked out, or I have to leave,” she said. “Sometimes I can work a miracle and find them a place, but not usually. Finding a rental that allows pets takes time and sometimes hard work. There are places out there who will take pets, but you have to work to find them. It’s all about how you approach them.” The best way to approach landlords who are reluctant to rent to pet owners is simple. “Be honest,” she said.

orange tabby cat in a box

Be Honest

The best thing pet owners can do when house or apartment hunting, she said is, “Don’t lie. Tell the landlord upfront that you have pets, what kind and how many.” If you don’t have pets but are planning on getting one after you rent, talk to the landlord before doing so. Don’t rent a place and then sneak in an animal. If you’ve been a good tenant, have a good credit score and are a desirable renter in other ways, many landlords will bend the rules and allow you to get a pet. But ask first.

Communicate

Even when an advertisement or a landlord says, “Absolutely no pets,” don’t be afraid to reach out and ask. “You never know what the situation is, or why the landlord has said ‘no pets’,” Barsky said. Barsky remembered working with a client who had written a landlord and been told no several times. Barsky wrote the man herself, and after half-a-dozen emails and phone calls finally got him to agree to meet her and her client and pets. “He’d had a bad experience with previous renters,” she said. “After meeting my client and her dogs, and some negotiations with him, he agreed to rent to her and her pets.”

Not every landlord is going to respond positively to your inquiries. “They may be aggressive, and tell you not to write or call them again, or tell you to go away. You never know, but if you don’t try you won’t know.” Barsky said.

Be A Responsible Pet Owner

“Responsible pet owners tend to pay attention to their animals,” Barsky said. “I suggest owners create a file where they have a ‘pet bio’ about their pet, their rental history with their pet, references from their vet, their current or past landlords, and their neighbors about their pet’s behavior. Knowing that a pet owner has taken their pet to obedience school can also change a landlord’s mind. Have all the proof you need to show responsible pet ownership and financial responsibility in one folder you can present to your prospective landlord when applying for an apartment.”

labrador dog looking out the window

Talk To Your Doctor

Service animals are not pets, at least not according to the law and the Americans with Disabilities Act. If you are one of the millions of Americans with a disability, be it a physical, emotional, mental health disability, you may be able to have your animals under federal law. “Some federal laws, such as the Fair Housing Amendments Act, Section 504 of the Rehab Act, or Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act may protect some people with disabilities from being evicted because of a service dog. However, not all rental housing is covered by a disability law. According to Service Dog Central, some landlords are exempt from the regulations of the Fair Housing Amendments Act. The exceptions include (a) buildings with four or fewer units where the landlord lives in one of the units, and (b) private owners who do not own more than three single-family houses, do not use real estate brokers or agents, and do not use discriminatory advertisements. Consult a qualified attorney to learn which laws if any apply in your specific situation.”

Have A Good Credit Score

Landlords willing to reconsider pets are more interested in your credit score than your pet’s disposition. “A lot of times I can get people into places, even with dangerous breeds, if they have good credit. Credit is definitely something owners check. You’re more likely to get into a rental with good credit and pets than bad credit and pets. Bad credit is not the end of the world, but it’s going to make it very hard to find the rental you want. Sometimes landlords will consider bad credit but require a larger deposit. If you can work on improving your credit before you rent, do it.”

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About The Author
Becky Blanton
Becky Blanton is a full-time ghostwriter and writing coach for Fortune 500 companies, CEOs, and business speakers. In 2009 she spoke at TED Global at Oxford University, her first ever public speaking gig. When she's not writing, she's kayaking in the Chesapeake Bay. Her dream home is to live aboard a sailing or houseboat.

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