Step 6:

Renting with Pets

Finding a rental as a pet owner can be a challenge. In fact, according to the Humane Society, a problem with housing is one of the main reasons pets end up in animal shelters. But while it may be a little more difficult to find the right place to live when you have a pet, it isn’t impossible. Let’s look as some of the challenges pet owners may face when renting.

Renting with a Large Dog

As you start looking at rentals, you’ll probably notice a trend: most “pet-friendly” apartments have a laundry list of restrictions. You may encounter a strict weight limit that leaves your large dog out, even if your best pal is the gentlest of giants. Why would an apartment ban your goofy Great Dane, even though sleeping is your furry friend’s favorite activity?

Landlords and property management companies typically have size restrictions for one main reason: damage. The rule of thought is the bigger the dog, the worse the damage. Large dogs can scratch up wood, scuff floors, and damage walls. Large dogs may also cause noise when running across the floor, which could annoy those living in the apartment below. Because of this, many apartment communities have weight limits of 25 pounds.

Renting with a Breed Restricted Dog

If you’re the proud owner of a pit bull or Rottweiler, you may already be familiar with the unjust labels assigned to these dogs. It isn’t fair, especially when you know your dog would never harm anyone. But even though your Doberman is a gentle soul, you may still face a difficult time when trying to rent — especially if you’re looking at apartment communities, which often ban certain dog breeds. Dogs most often included on breed restricted lists include:

  • Rottweilers
  • Boxers
  • Pit Bulls
  • Cane Corsos
  • Doberman Pinschers
  • German Shepherds
  • Huskies
  • Akitas
  • Boxers
  • Mastiffs
  • Great Danes
  • Wolf Hybrids
  • Alaskan Malamutes

The reason all these dog breeds find themselves on the restricted list is simple: insurance. Many insurance companies restrict these breeds because they are considered high risk, so apartment complexes can’t accept these dogs if they want to keep their insurance policies.

Renting with Multiple Pets

Most apartment communities restrict the number of pets you can have in your apartment to one or two. If you have three or more, you may find renting more difficult. In an apartment, it’s easy to see why they might limit the number of pets: apartments tend to be small, so having several pets in the space could become chaotic, leading to the potential for noise and destruction.  In addition, if several renters had multiple pets, the grounds could incur damage, as well.

Pet on a beanbag

How to Find the Right Rental for You and Your Pet

Whether you have one tiny Chihuahua or three Great Danes, finding the right rental for you and your pet (or pets) may be a challenge, but it can be done! Be patient, take a few steps to improve your odds, and look in the right places. Here are some steps to take when renting with pets:

  1. If your pet is on the breed restricted list, focus on single-family houses rather than apartments, condos, or townhomes. A single-family house will have more space and a yard to better accommodate pets, and private landlords are often more flexible since they don’t have the same insurance requirements as large apartment complexes. If they are able to meet your pet, that could work in your favor, as well.
  2. If you have multiple pets, look for rentals in less congested areas. While you may have to drive a bit farther for work or to the store, homes in rural settings are less likely to have restrictions on the number of pets you can have.
  3. Create a pet resume. Include a color picture of your pet and answer all the questions any potential landlord might have, such as your pet’s breed, age, weight, current vaccinations, temperament, if your pet is spayed/neutered, and any behavioral training or classes your pet has taken. You can include an “about me” section with your pet’s favorite activities, daily routine, and beloved toys.
  4. Get pet liability insurance. This will show the landlord that you are a caring, responsible pet owner who is willing to take responsibility should anything happen. Pet liability insurance covers you in case your pet damages property or harms another person. This is especially helpful if your dog is considered a “dangerous” breed.
  5. Start looking well in advance. Finding the right rental is difficult enough but finding one when you have pets could take a long time.

Pet Fees, Deposits, and Rent

Once you find the right pet-friendly rental, you may encounter some additional fees. Some places, especially larger apartment complexes, charge a pet deposit, a pet fee, or maybe even pet rent. Ask about any fees associated with your pet while looking for rentals and check your state and local laws to learn more about the fees allowed, and the conditions surrounding those fees, where you live.

While pet rent is usually a nominal amount (often only $25-$35 a month), it may feel as though you’re being gouged simply for having a pet. According to many landlords and property managers, pet rent is necessary because of the additional wear and tear to the apartment. But if you end up renting long-term, that extra $25-$35 a month adds up.

If you find a rental you adore but the pet fees are stopping you from signing the lease, consider negotiating with the landlord. For example, you could offer to sign a longer lease in place of paying a pet fee, or you could offer to pay for a professional cleaning when you move out. Whatever agreement you come to with the landlord, make sure it’s written into the lease. Read over the lease carefully, especially if the landlord normally doesn’t allow pets but is making an exception for you. If they use a standard lease agreement, the “no pets” language might still be there, so make sure it’s removed before you sign.

Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals

If you have a service or emotional support animal, pet fees and restrictions don’t apply. Landlords can’t charge pet fees or impose restrictions because assistance animals aren’t considered pets. Doing so would violate the Fair Housing Act, which states that housing providers can’t refuse to make reasonable accommodations for those with assistance animals.

Moving with Your Pet

When you move, it’s stressful for both you and your pet. Your dog is in tune with your emotions, and they know when you’re stressed, which causes them to be stressed as well. There’s also the disruption to their routine, and a whole new place with different smells to get used to. The sight of packing boxes overtaking your home may also alarm your dog. So, how do you make moving easier for your pet?

  1. Stick to their normal routine as much as possible. If you normally feed your pet at certain times of the day, keep doing so. This also goes for daily scheduled walks, trips to the dog park, and playtime.
  2. If you’re close enough, take your dog to visit the new neighborhood. Go for a walk and let him sniff out his new territory, and maybe even meet a few of the neighbors.
  3. If you’re moving a long distance, find a vet in your new location now and let them know when you’ll be arriving.
  4. Prepare your dog for a long car trip by taking short rides that are slowly increased in length over time. If your dog will be in a plane for the first time, help them get used to the carrier they’ll be riding in (try treats and a soothing voice so they start viewing it as a safe, comfortable space).
  5. Make sure they are comfortable around strangers and loud noises. If your dog isn’t used to socializing with strangers, consider taking your pet to the dog park or anywhere you’ll encounter a lot of people.
  6. Make sure your pet is microchipped and has a collar with your current contact information.
  7. Have a plan for moving day. The doors will be open, people will be carrying heavy furniture around, and your pet could get hurt or lost in the confusion. If possible, leave your pet with a trusted friend or family member for the day, or keep your pet crated in a quiet spot where the movers won’t be going.

While there are some extra steps you’ll have to take when renting with a pet, it’ll all be worth it when you and your four-legged roommate finally settle into your new home.