How to find a pet-friendly apartment

6 steps to renting a pet-friendly apartment

Renters really love their pets. According to a recent survey by Apartment.com, 72 percent of more than 3,000 renters polled said they have a pet — up from 43 percent in 2012.

Even better, 75 percent of renters without pets said they either don’t mind — or actually like — living in a pet-friendly apartment building.

And while it’s great news that more people are adopting pets (over half of respondents got their pet from a shelter) and the neighbors don’t hate us, renting with pets still isn’t easy.

Odds are, you’ll spend longer looking for a space. You’ll also pay more to move in and worry a lot more about keeping your landlord happy.

But you can still find a great space, even if you have a 68-pound ball of hyper fur like I do…

1. Finding pet-friendly spaces

Start by using sites that allow you to tailor your search for rentals that allow pets. For example, PadMapper, a site that pulls rental listings from multiple locations like Rent.com and Craigslist, allows you to search for both dog- and cat-friendly rentals.

But don’t limit your search to only ads marked as pet-friendly.

“Sometimes it’s simply not advertised, or a property owner may make an exception to a no-pet policy for a certain type or size of pet,” says Brenton Hayden, founder and chairman of the board for the property management firm, RentersWarehouse. If you love the place, just ask.

2. Convincing the landlord

Renting with a large dog or more than one pet can be tricky. Even if the landlord doesn’t have a specific breed or weight limit, you may be tempted to skirt the issue, sign the lease, and hope for the best. That can get you into trouble later on.

Instead, help your new potential landlord feel more comfortable about the pet (and you as the owner). “Photos of pets, pet interviews, and offering to pay a pet deposit will all help in getting accepted for a rental home,” Hayden says. “The more information a property owner knows about your pet, the better.”

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3. Navigating fees

Having a pet in tow means you’ll pay more at lease signing – and maybe more overall – than other tenants. According to the Apartment.com survey, nearly 80 percent of renters polled said they paid a pet deposit up front. Many renters are also asked to pay “pet rent” – a monthly fee for as long as you live at the property.

“The average pet deposit is $300 to $500, and pet rent is commonly $25 to $50 a month,”  says Kevin Ortner, CEO of RentersWarehouse. “In rare instances, I have seen pet deposits in excess of $1000.”

Typically these fees are in addition to your security deposit. And they’re nonrefundable.

To make sure you’re getting a good deal, ask about pet deposits or fees before you sign the lease. Also compare with other landlord’s prices to make sure you’re not overpaying. And if you can, find a landlord who doesn’t charge pet rent. Many don’t.

4. Signing the lease

While a verbal agreement is rarely a good idea for anyone, it’s definitely something to avoid when you have pets. In my younger renting years, I had a landlord who didn’t include my pet in the standard lease but assured me verbally it was fine. Less than four months later, he asked me to get rid of my pet or move. I moved — and learned my lesson.

Make sure your landlord includes your pet and any fees you paid in your lease. And don’t forget to “look out for any language that might discuss fines for pet misconduct or not cleaning up after your pets,” Hayden says.

If you think you might want to add another four-legged family member later on, discuss it with your landlord before you sign the lease.

“Some property owners will not allow a lease to be modified or accept a pet mid-lease,” Hayden says. If your landlord will, ask them to include a stipulation agreeing to the possibility in the lease.

6. Keep your landlord happy

Once you’re in, staying on your landlord’s good side will ensure you’re not evicted and increase your chances for an easy rent-increase-free time if you decide to re-up. And as any pet-owner knows, the longer you have a secure place for you and your pooch to live, the better.

To pull it off, Ortner has a few suggestions:

  • Keep the noise level down. Training your dog the “quiet” command will keep your neighbors happy, and happy neighbors don’t complain to the landlord.
  • Clean up after your pets. Don’t let litter boxes get too full. The smell is more noticeable to people without cats and if you walk your dog, bring poop bags.
  • Be courteous. Always keep your pet on a leash, don’t let children play with your pet without the parent’s permission and again, make sure you clean up after your pet.
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