We frequently get calls from frustrated tenants who are looking to rent with a dog (or dogs). Most typically these dogs are over 15 pounds and/or an “aggressive breed” since those are the most common restrictions. It is a tough situation for both the tenant and the potential landlord. While we sympathize with the tenant and the fact that there are plenty of “aggressive breed” dogs that are well-behaved, loving animals, we also sympathize with the property owners who are concerned about damage to their property and liability issues that dogs can create.
While some properties have strict policies regarding dogs that are not flexible, some are not so strict. Here are our recommendations if you are looking for a dog-friendly property, or if you are thinking about asking your landlord if you can get a dog:
Looking For a Dog Friendly Property
Try focusing your search on single family homes and small plexes. Many large complexes and apartment communities have strict dog policies, but smaller-scale properties can be more flexible. Craigslist is a great resource for finding properties that are self-managed by landlords who might be sympathetic to your situation. *Craigslist is a great resource when used responsibly, but as with all business transactions, if it feels unprofessional or like a scam, it probably is.*
Do what you can to ease the fears of landlords who might be on the fence so-to-speak about accepting your dog(s):
- Obtain renter’s insurance (or volunteer to do so at move in) which will cover liability related to dog bites. The breed of your dog should not be an issue for the insurance company. If it is, you are with the wrong company.
- Be prepared in advance with references that speak to the dog’s behavior. A letter that includes a contact phone number is extremely helpful. Appropriate references would come from your doggy day care, a boarding facility or caretaker that watches your dog when you are out of town, a previous landlord who can attest that the dog didn’t damage the property, etc. A reference from a friend or family member won’t carry as much weight as a third party with a business relationship with the dog. Any certifications or training your dog has can be included.
- Provide a detailed dog plan. Not only is it helpful for the landlord, it is good for you and your dog. Write out a (factual) description of your dog’s daily exercise regimen, where the dog is kept when you aren’t home, and an outline of any time the dog spends at doggy day care. If your dog’s breed is known for specific quirks (like high energy) explain what you do to address those behavioral issues. Besides the risk of biting, a landlord’s nightmare is a dog that is cooped up in a house all day getting no exercise and directing its energy towards chewing the trim, having accidents on the carpet, and tearing up the yard. For example, if you paint a picture of a dog that gets frequent walks/exercise, is kept in a kennel when left alone, and has owners who are mindful of its breed quirks, your future landlord might be more open to your four legged friend(s).
- Volunteer to pay a generous refundable security deposit. If you are willing to put your money where your mouth is, landlords sit up and take notice.
- Be forthcoming with the facts. For example, since there is such a stigma with pit bulls, it is common for people to try to get under the radar by using the formal breed name like American Staffordshire Terrier, etc to describe their dog instead of just clearly saying that they have a pit bull. While using the formal breed name to describe your dog is not dishonest, the landlord will eventually figure it out and they will probably feel like you tried to mislead them – even if that was not your intent. If a landlord is going to reject your dog after hearing “pit bull,” they are unlikely to welcome your American Staffordshire Terrier with open arms when they figure out that it’s the same thing. At that point, you have probably lost trust which is key to a successful tenant/landlord relationship. The same goes for the size of your dog. Downplaying your dog’s size/weight can haunt you later.
Asking For Permission After Move In
Our first piece of advice is: Don’t just assume that because you have a nice landlord or because you are a good tenant they will let you get a dog. It is their prerogative to say yes or no for any reason they want, and it is your responsibility to abide by their decision. With that said, if you want to increase your odds of them saying yes, here are some suggestions for presenting yourself as a responsible potential dog owner:
- DO NOT WAIT TO ASK UNTIL YOU ALREADY HAVE THE DOG. Just don’t. That is disrespectful, very likely a violation of your rental agreement, and not a good way to get the landlord on your side.
- Seriously consider adopting instead of getting a puppy. Puppies are VERY hard on properties. Bathroom accidents, chewing, the list goes on. Adopting a dog allows you to do a good deed, skip the puppy phase, and hopefully skip some of the damage.
- Evaluate the compatibility of the dog. Some breeds of dogs are really appealing, but just aren’t suited to apartment life, or being alone all day while you are at work/hanging out with friends/living your life away from the house. If someone is asking you to take on a specific dog, or you come across one that is just too charming to walk away from, really think about what that breed’s needs are and whether your lifestyle meets them. For example, beagles are adorable, but they need to bark. A lot. Your neighbors will get very tired of it and you might find yourself needing to move or re-home your friend. Matching yourself with a compatible dog (regardless of looks or availability) can mean the difference between you resenting the dog, or you finding your furry soul mate. The internet is crawling with recommendations for dogs that are good in apartments. The American Kennel Club is also great resource for finding out the realistic needs of varying breeds.
- Be realistic about the mature size of the dog. Even if a dog isn’t an “aggressive breed” some properties restrict dogs by size/weight.
- Think about your future housing plans. You might have a landlord that is open to you moving in a pit bull, but if you are going to be relocating, it might be much harder to find a new home than it would be if you lived with an English Bulldog.
- Like we suggested to current dog owners, use all of the thought and research you have done to create a detailed dog plan. Not only does it provide the same benefits that we mentioned above, it also serves two additional functions for a potential dog owner:
First, it requires you to sit down and think realistically about what you would be committing to. Do you have time/energy/interest to exercise the dog as often and as long as it needs even if it is pouring down rain? Is this dog going to be a good match for your situation? Can you provide your dog with a place to go to the bathroom (that won’t reck the yard if you have one)? Is this dog going to be alone and lonely a lot?
Second, it illustrates to the owner that you are taking this proposal seriously and approaching it in a mature, non-impulsive way.
Following our recommendations requires an investment of time and energy, but in the end you, your dog, and your landlord will have a better relationship and you will all be happier for it.
Photo courtesy of pixabay.com