In a city where many people cannot afford to buy a home, renting is a must for many of us. But renting with a pooch pal is not always easy. And if you happen to have a dog on incredibly inaccurate "dangerous breed list"--ranging from pit bulls and shepherds to chow chows and dobermans--it may seem there is no hope when it comes to finding a rental place to call home.
The good news is, there is hope. Follow these tips for your best chance at scoring a home for you AND your pup!
1. Change your mindset from "my dog is not allowed" to "how can I convince this landlord to welcome my dog?"
Just because a rental is not listed as dog friendly or only accepts "dogs under 20 pounds" doesn't mean a landlord won't consider an exception to their rule. I am proof that minds can and sometimes are changed by making a strong case. Be prepared to do your homework and to pitch to landlords why having you and your pet will be an awesome decision. Worst they can say is no... but they might just say yes!
2. Give yourself plenty of time.
Moving is hard enough. If you have a large dog or a misunderstood breed, it is simply going to take you longer to find a rental that is willing to work with you. Making sure you are not in an urgent time crunch will help give you the time needed to prepare our pitch to landlords and to truly search and find the right home for your and your dog. Of course, life happens and sometimes we are forced to make a quick decision. In that case, it may be best to stay with a family member, friend or pet-friendly motel while you give your rental search the time and attention it truly requires.
3. Understand why landlords create "no pet" policies.
Most landlords that are against allowing pets don't do it because they hate dogs--in fact, many of them have dogs of their own! They simply have been burned by irresponsible pet guardians in the past, who have allowed pets to destroy their property. Go into the conversation with this in mind, and explain that you can understand the frustration that some people and their pets can cause. Be empathetic and listen to their concerns. Your understanding can go a long way toward starting the conversation off right.
4. Create a resume for your dog!
Before you roll your eyes and laugh out loud, let me explain why this is so important--and why it works! As a rental applicant, you have to fill out a renter's application showing why you are a strong candidate to rent to. Likewise, you should provide documentation of why your pet is an excellent housemate--and why the landlord won't regret this decision.
Obtain letters of recommendation from your dog's obedience trainer and veterinarian. If your pet has a Canine Good Citizen certificate or training completion, show it off! If you have previously rented successfully with your pet, also obtain a letter of recommendation from that landlord.
Create a flyer that shows one or two happy, appealing photos of your dog. Outline your pet's best "features"--does he know how to sit and stay? Is he potty and crate trained? Is he neutered and gets along well with neighbors? List his manners, commands he knows and all of his best attributes. If your dog is on the "restricted breeds" list, bring along statistics, facts and educational materials to show why breed-specific bans are not effective, and why screening each dog as an individual makes the most sense.
Also describe how you are a responsible dog guardian: that you always pick up your pet waste in public, that you will provide enough exercise for your pet so he does not destroy out of boredom. Describe how you plan to take care of the property and reassure that your pet will not become a nuisance to the neighbors or cause any trouble.
As funny as it may sounds at first, a proper dog resume not only shows your pet in the best possible light, but it also shows that you took the time do really do your homework and to consider the landlord's concerns--which shows you to be a highly caring, responsible individual.
5. Offer to bring your dog to the landlord for a meet-and-greet.
If the landlord agrees to it, bring your well-trained dog with you to meet him or her. While it may be easy for a landlord to say "no" on a brief phone call, it's much harder to say no when face-to-face with a kind, responsible guardian and a happy, well-mannered pooch pal! Have your dog perform a "roll over", sit/stay or some other obedience trick for the landlord to show off your pup's great manners, skills and lovable personality! And if you aren't able to bring your dog to the interview (for out-of-state moves, for example) at least have an adorable video on your phone that you can share.
6. Offer to purchase renter's insurance that covers your dog and offer to pay a pet deposit.
Be proactive in letting potential landlords know that you are willing to purchase renter's insurance that will cover any situations that might arise due to your pet. Also offer to pay a pet deposit as a show of good faith that you intend on keeping the home in good condition. These steps go a long way in showing a landlord that you are a responsible individual and that you are a confident pet guardian. I personally love Farmer's Insurance, as they do not have any breed restrictions on their renter's and home owner's policies (with the unfortunate exception of California). In fact, you'll find an ad for the fabulous staff at the Patrick Brown Agency for Farmer's Insurance in each issue of our magazine. (Not only can they help you create a policy that is right for any breed of dog, but they also give back to animal rescue in big ways--including helping find homes for the pets at the Mt. Juliet Animal Shelter!) State Farm and Liberty Mutual also offer non-discriminatory policies.
7. Be respectful and polite at all times.
Even if a landlord has harsh things to say about your breed or past experiences with pets, remain calm, listen well and politely advocate for your pet. Your calm, kind demeanor will go a long way in showing what kind of renter you will be. Even if the landlord does not budge from her policy, be sure to thank her for taking the time to hear you out. You'll have left the landlord with a much better impression of pet parents, and who knows--they might change their mind and contact you if their property does not move quickly enough.
8. Always be honest.
As tempting as it may be in a stressful, time-crunched situation, never try to hide your dog or sign a lease that doesn’t allow dogs or your breed of dog. You never know when a neighbor may mention or report your pet to the landlord, or when the homeowner may want to stop by for repairs or another reason. Don't risk getting evicted and winding up in an even more stressful situation. If you do your due diligence on the front end and give your rental search the time it requires, you will find the landlord who will welcome you and your furry family member!