Renting with Pets
Statistics show that almost 50% of renters have pets. For rental property managers, it makes good business sense to maintain a policy that welcomes responsible pet owners. An animal-friendly policy will increase the marketability of a housing property or community and often results in an increased length of occupancy. Tenants must be willing to show proof that they are responsible pet owners, take measures to ensure their pets act appropriately, and adhere to all pet-related rules established by their housing community.
When tenants and property managers work together, it can be a win-win situation for all and result in fewer animals surrendered to shelters.
Here are some tips to help both tenants and property managers:
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Showing your landlord that you are a responsible pet owner.
Considering the many benefits that living with a companion animal can bring, it is unfortunate that so many building associations and individual landlords reject all tenants with pets. The behavior of a small numbers of irresponsible pet owners has resulted in severe limitations for responsible pet owners. Overcoming the general inclination of landlords not to rent to you will take a little extra thought and preparation on your part. However, the opportunity to keep your pet makes this effort very worthwhile.
The following suggestions may help convince a potential landlord of your commitment to your pet, your respect for the landlord’s property and your willingness to abide by the rules of the community.
- Make your request to have a pet to the individual or group who has the ultimate authority to grant you permission. Usually, this will be the owner of the house or apartment. The owner may, however, delegate the decision to a property manager or resident manager. Check to see if, in addition to your own landlord’s approval, you must also submit a written request to the building’s board of directors or a pet committee.
- Invite the landlord to “interview” your freshly groomed, well-behaved pet, possibly at your current home, to show that your pet has not caused any damage.
- Provide your landlord with letters of reference from previous landlords, condominium associations, neighbors, obedience instructors, veterinarians, or anyone else who can attest to your pet’s good behavior and your own conscientiousness.
- Ask your landlord if his or her no-pets policy is a result of a negative experience with a previous tenant. By addressing up front your landlord’s prior experience, you will gain insight into how to best present your own request. Consideration of your landlord’s position will encourage him or her to be more open to yours.
- Responsible pet owners take good care of their pet’s health. Offer copies of health certificates showing that your pet’s vaccinations are up-to-date, and maintain an active flea and tick control program.
- Have your pet spayed or neutered. An altered pet is less likely to create a nuisance.
- Offer to sign a pet addendum to your rental agreement that makes you responsible for possible damage to property, injury to others, or any pest infestation caused by your pet.
- Let the landlord know that you share his or her concern about cleanliness. Point out that your pet is house-trained or litter trained. Emphasize that you will always clean up after your dog outdoors and make sure that you do.
- Let the landlord know that you keep your cat inside and your dog under control at all times and that you understand the health and safety benefits of doing so.
- If you are seeking a rental unit in a condominium, request a copy of the building’s house rules pertaining to pets. Let the landlord know that you will abide by the rules set for the broader community and respect the concerns of residents who do not own pets.
- Once you obtain permission to have a pet, be sure to get it in writing. If your lease has a “no-pets” clause in it, simply getting verbal permission is not enough. The “no-pets” clause should be crossed out of the lease before you sign it and be sure it’s crossed out on the landlord’s copy, too.
- Invite the landlord to check on the pet after you move in, to make sure the pet is adjusting to his or her new home.
Adapted with permission from materials originally produced by the Hawaiian Humane Society.
You can take a number of specific steps to ensure you accept only responsible pet owners. Consider these tips, adapted from material originally developed by the Humane Society of the United States:
- Limit the number of animals per dwelling. Any person, regardless of the size of his or her home, can maintain only a few pets responsibly. Because pets often are happier and may behave better living in pairs, do not summarily restrict residents to only one pet per household. Establish reasonable limits based on the activity level of the pet and the care and exercise provided by the owner.
- Allow only traditional pets in your rental home or housing community. Limit residents to having cats, dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils, ferrets, mice, rats, small caged birds, and fish.
- Require that resident dogs, cats, rabbits, and ferrets be sterilized before they reach six months of age. Sterilized animals are much less likely to bite or spray urine. And they won’t go through noisy heat cycles. Of course, sterilizing pets also helps reduce pet overpopulation—and prevents pets from breeding in your house, apartment building, or condominium. Require written proof of sterilization from a veterinarian, and keep it on file. Make exceptions for pets if they are certified by a veterinarian to be too old or sick to undergo spay or neuter surgeries.
- Require that cats and dogs be licensed and up-to-date on rabies and other vaccinations. Dogs and cats should be licensed with the local animal control agency and vaccinated against rabies as required by state or local law. Require written proof of licensure and vaccination status, and keep it on file.
- Require that pets be kept under control at all times. Cats should be kept indoors or on a harness under direct human supervision while outdoors. Dogs should be on a leash and under human control while outdoors. If you lease a house or townhouse with a fenced-in yard, require that dogs not be left alone in the yard when the resident isn’t home.
- Require that cats and dogs wear collars with up-to-date identification at all times. In the event a resident’s pet escapes and becomes lost, this will make it easier to return the animal to his or her owner.
- Require that residents with pets follow a written set of rules related to the responsible keeping of pets in your rental home or community. These guidelines should include proper disposal of pets’ waste, and, for larger housing communities, use of designated “pet-only” washers and dryers.
- Do not require that cats be declawed or dogs be debarked. Responsible pet caregivers solve issues such as destructive scratching and barking through humane behavior modification.
- Evaluate prospective residents and their pets on an individual basis. Breed and size do not indicate a pet’s temperament or suitability as a member of your housing community or as a resident in your rental home. For example, weight limits for dogs are usually only useful for units on upper floors of apartment buildings that lack carpeting or other means of effective soundproofing. Be sure to evaluate each animal on his or her own merits.
- Require that prospective residents fill out a pet application form. If you decide to welcome pet caregivers into your rental home or housing community, require that they fill out a pet application form and supply you with a photo of their pet(s). See the sample Pet Application.
- Require that approved pet owners sign a pet addendum to your regular rental agreement. This addendum should state that the resident understands all stated pet-keeping policies, such as those mentioned in Step 7. It should also outline the steps that will be taken in the event a pet-related dispute occurs. Pet Addendum to Rental Agreement.
- Require a reasonable supplemental security deposit. If allowed by state and local law, require pet caregivers to remit an additional refundable security deposit specifically to cover any damage caused by pets. This additional deposit serves as further incentive to keep animals responsibly.
- Require that current residents who do not currently have pets inform you if they intend to acquire a pet. State in the lease that residents must get your approval to bring a pet into your housing community before they adopt a pet.