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Renting with Your Dog
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1. Give yourself time! There are plenty of dog friendly landlords out there, but it can several weeks to find the rental you need. So plan ahead and be resourceful and persistent.
2. Understand the landlord's situation. Many have had bad experiences with dogs - expensive damage, noise, neighbor complaints, etc. Don't get angry or defensive when they decline. Your calm, can-do attitude can make all the difference in helping a property owner decide if he wants to hear the solutions you're going to offer him.
3. Be Awesome. Obedience train for rock star good manners. IMPORTANT! Make an eye-catching pet resume that includes:
- Appealing photos of your dog
- Letters of recommendation from your vet, neighbors and trainer to show how well liked your dog is and responsible you are.
- Dog's health status: Spay/Neutered? Vaccinated? Name of your veterinarian.
- Describe any arrangements you make for your dog while you’re at work (crate trained? doggy daycare?) or away on vacation.
- Describe how and where you will exercise your dog.
- Describe how you plan to take care of the property.
SHARE: Downloadable graphic hand-outs!
4. First Impressions Count. It can help in some cases to bring your well trained dog with you to meet the landlord. It’s easy to decline dog owners on the phone, but harder when they meet a great applicant and lovely dog in person. Leave him in the car or have a friend hold him outside while you introduce yourself. Can't bring your dog? Have a video of him on your phone and offer to share it. It's been know to work!
Hint! - Teach your dog a trick such as 'Shake!' or 'Roll Over!' to help impress prospective landlords during your first meeting.
SO IMPORTANT: Hear the landlord out and be polite no matter how they respond. Many landlords have been moved to give dogs a try after applicants offer a solid game plan and a willingness to work with them address all of their concerns.
4. Better than your average dog! Better than the average dog owner! A letter of recommendation from former landlords and/or a Canine Good Citizen certificate is golden.
From pit bull owner Vuthy Thorn, "Whenever I move from a place, I draft up a letter of recommendation stating that my dogs have never caused any problems, have been quiet, great tenants, etc., and have had no problems getting my current-soon-to-be-former apartment manager/landlord to sign it. It really does help."
Great advice Vutha! To build a pet friendly community, pet owners of every type of dog really do have commit to being awesome tenants. Lay rugs down to avoid scratching the hardwoods. Use a dog crate to prevent unexpected damage, like chewed door frames or urine marking while you're away at work. Pick up after your dog. Don’t let him bark non-stop or annoy others. Don’t let him run loose. Let willing neighbors meet your well behaved pet so they can support you in your ownership: Consider inviting them over to a BBQ for some enjoyable ‘get to know’ time. Wear a thick skin and be polite to those that are rude or afraid. Make it your mission to help them realize you’re a thoughtful, responsible dog owner with a well loved pet and your landlord will happily give you a great reference for your next rental.
Ask your trainer how to help your dog earn his Canine Good Citizen title (CGC). This impressive certification helps show landlords that your pet is able to demonstrate the best manners. Info on the CGC test.
5. Renter's Insurance. Buy a policy that will cover your dog and let prospective landlords know that when you apply.
How much? State Farm Insurance will sell a $300,000 liability policy for around $300 a year. This is a small price to pay to help your landlord feel good about renting to you. Resources for Renter's Insurance.
Atomic Betty's lessons. When Mike and Kim wanted to adopt BADRAP's Atomic Betty, their landlord said, "No way." The company that carried the policy on the home discriminated against several breeds including pit bulls, and they weren't willing to risk losing their insurance. It was a big disappointment. Mike and Kim loved their rental and really didn't want to move, but Betty was worth some creative problem solving. Rather than give up or sneak an unwelcome dog onto the property, they got proactive and wrote a warm and hopeful letter, outlining their love for the house and hope to stay on as longterm tenants as well as their affection for Betty. They boasted about her lovely personality and impressive training background to help the landlord see that she was one special dog. They also politely suggested that the landlord switch to an insurance carrier that wouldn't discriminate against the dog they were in love with, and they provided the name of a local State Farm agent who would work with them. To sweeten the deal, they offered to pay the difference if the new policy was pricier.
It worked! The solution was a win-win for everyone: Mike and Kim got a great dog, and their landlords have two very happy and responsible tenants who are even more committed to renewing their lease and taking good care of the home they love. Their example is a reminder that persistence pays, especially when tenants are willing to work in cooperation with property owners to remove any concerns or obstacles.
6. Money Talks. Consider offering an additional pet deposit to cover any damages - or, as we learned with Atomic Betty's example - offer to pay any extra costs to help a landlord buy a new policy from a non-discriminatory company. Dog friendly companies and agents listed HERE.
7. Stay Honest. Never try to hide your dog or sign a lease that doesn’t allow dogs. You’re much safer if you stay honest and if you have the landlord add your dog’s name and breed to the lease. If you decide to hide your dog, you’re at the mercy of ill-informed neighbors who might turn you in! Landlords are more likely to evict dogs when they’re pressured by neighbors or if they’re caught off guard.
9. Let science help you! Someone told you your dog is a pit bull, but the truth is, many dogs identified as pit bulls are actually mixed breed dogs who have been incorrectly labeled. Albert (right) was labeled a pit bull in a local shelter but the landlord of his wanna-be adopter restricted this breed from his building. After a DNA test showed that there was absolutely no terrier in his genetic make-up, he was welcomed into the apartment and officially adopted from the shelter! (Albert's DNA results showed that one of his parents was a German Shorthaired Pointer) Wisdom Panel tests cost around $75. From his shelter advocate who arranged the adoption:
“It was very reassuring to both landlord and potential dog owner...I remember the landlord doing a complete 180 once he had a piece of paper in front of him (the DNA results). Having a printed document was much more official, and if the landlord was worried about being sued if anything happened, it could puts the onus of dog breed identification back on the dog owner.”
More info on why judging a dog's breed by appearance alone tends to be very inaccurate! Breed Identification.
10. Foreclosures - Know Your Rights! If you learn that your landlord has foreclosed, federal legislation signed by President Obama in 2009 protects your lease. Provided a new owner of the property isn't moving in, you can stay put until the end of your lease, and if you have a month-to-month lease or if the owner is moving in, you are entitled to 90 day's notice before having to move. Ninety days isn't a lot, but it does buy you time to search for pet friendly home. Learn more: Renters in Foreclosure
11. Need more time? Ideas if you get desperate:
- Rent an Airbnb home that allows dogs to buy yourself time. IMPORTANT: Use a dog crate and make sure your dog is an excellent houseguest.
- Board him at your vet's office or boarding kennel while you search. Short on cash? Some businesses will allow a work exchange to help pay kenneling costs.
- RV life! Buy, borrow or rent an RV to live in until you find your apartment. Yes, use a dog crate and commit to the best care and cleanliness.
- Find a friend who'll let your dog stay at their house temporarily. Offer them a written contract outlining clearly defined terms including length of stay and your commitment to care and exercise your dog. You may want to invest in a large, sturdy dog kennel so your dog can be safely contained in a yard or garage when you aren't around.
- The last resort: Rehoming is a sad but necessary option for people who run out of luck. Here are our best suggestions for finding a quality home.
12. SF Bay Area: Subscribe to the Facebook Group: Bay Area PET FRIENDLY Housing.
If you're facing homelessness due to a dead end search, fill out this FORM and we'll do our best to assist you with ideas, support and occasionally, a lead on a rental we're aware of.
We know how stressful this can be on everyone and wish you the very best luck with securing what you need for your pets and family.
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How to identify responsible dog owners for your rental properties. INFO for Landlords.