Finding dog-friendly housing can be tough, especially if your best friend is a pit bull or pit bull mix. Rejection hurts, but don’t panic! Instead, be proactive and ready to prove to landlords why you and your dog are the perfect tenants.
1. Give yourself time! It can can several weeks to find a home that will allow your dog, so plan ahead and be resourceful and persistent. Craigslist is a great resource for dog friendly housing ads. You may want to consider placing a ‘Housing Wanted’ ad on Craigslist while you're there.
2. Understand the landlords' situation. Many deny certain breeds due to insurance restrictions, especially in the larger multi-unit buildings. Property managers' hands are usually tied, which is why pit bull owners tend to have better luck working directly with owners of smaller properties. Others are reluctant after having bad experiences with renting to dog owners. Don't get angry or defensive - Your calm, can-do attitude can make all the difference in helping a property owner decide if he wants to work with you on these obstacles.
3. First Impressions Count. When viewing a pet friendly apartment, it can help 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. Can't bring your dog? Have a video of him on your phone and offer to share it. It's been know to work! IMPORTANT: Hear the landlord out and be polite no matter how they respond. Many a landlord has been moved to give applicants a try after they demonstrate a willingness to work to address all of their concerns.
4. Obedience train your spayed or neutered dog and create an eye-catching pet resume that includes appealing photos and letters of recommendation from your vet, neighbors and trainer to show how well liked your dog is and responsible you are. Describe any arrangements you make for your pet while you’re at work or away on vacation.
Hint! - Teach your dog a trick such as 'Shake!' or 'Roll Over!' to help impress prospective landlords during your first meeting.
4. Better than your average dog! - Better than the average dog owner! Many landlords have experienced big problems including property damage from former tenants with dogs - a huge turn off to allowing them in again. How can you prove that you're different? 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. Since liability is every property owner’s biggest concern, buy a renter’s 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? If you still haven't found a place to live with your dog, consider boarding 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.
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.
How to identify responsible dog owners for your rental properties. INFO for Landlords.