Tips for Finding a Pet-Friendly Rental Home

Find a place both you and your four-legged friends can call home.

Finding a pet-friendly apartment may not always be easy, but with nearly half of renters owning a cat or dog, pet owners are starting to find more welcome mats, especially in an economy where landlords are eager to fill vacancies.

According to the Humane Society of the United States, an estimated 49.4 percent of U.S. renters have pets, but depending upon the city and landlord, finding a rental apartment or house that will allow pets is not guaranteed, unless the pet is a service animal.

"There aren't a lot of pet-friendly apartment buildings in Los Angeles," says Joanna Varikos, a television and film professional who relocated to L.A. from New York in February for a sunnier climate. "I have a toy Pomeranian named Meelo, who's about 6 pounds. Whenever landlords say they won't allow a dog, I say he's smaller than a cat and well behaved. I promise I'll pick up after him when we go outside for him to go to the bathroom."

Joanna eventually found a guesthouse in Hancock Park that allows dogs, but says the search was quite frustrating. She says the key to convincing a landlord to accept your pet is to present yourself as a responsible tenant who will not disturb the neighbors or not allow the dog to damage the property.

"It's important to be mindful of the neighbors, and not let dogs run around a lot, especially if you have hardwood floors, because your neighbor downstairs will hear," Joanna says. "If you and the dog are going to play with squeaky toys, do it outside the apartment because it makes so much noise."

Need a place both you and your furry friends can call home? Follow these tips for finding a pet-friendly apartment:

Step 1: Search for Pet-Friendly Pads

Pet owners can find pet-friendly rentals through websites like Craigslist;, which aggregates apartment rental listings, locates them on Google maps and notes whether pets are allowed; and through apartment management companies. Community apartment guides that may be found on newspaper racks at the grocery store and rental agents are also good sources.

One website that specializes in identifying pet-friendly apartments is Thirteen years ago, Alex Dobrow, the site's founder, was forced to leave an Atlanta apartment complex that had a 20-pound restriction on dogs when he inherited a 120-pound Doberman-shepherd mix.

"I ended up buying a house, and started this company as an apartment locator for people with pets," says Alex, who now lives in Kill Devil Hills, N.C. "I advise pet owners who have dogs that are breed-restricted in many apartment complexes to look for individually owned properties. Those landlords may be more open to larger dogs, but no one wants to accept bad-tempered dogs."

Breeds that are often banned from apartment complex rentals for aggressive temperaments include Doberman pinscher, pit bull, rottweiler, German shepherd and Akita.

Step 2: Present a Healthy, Well-Behaved Pet

Alex says many apartment communities require a pet interview, so owners should be prepared to submit paperwork that shows a pet's vaccinations, dog license and obedience training certificates for on and off leash.

Christian Bryant, president and owner services manager of Coldwell Banker Mountain West Property Management in Salem, Ore., says his firm handles 225 to 250 rental units, including both apartments and single-family houses.

"We're a pet-friendly area of the nation," Christian says. "At least 60 percent of our tenants in the Willamette Valley have pets, and within our inventory, about 90 percent have a cat or dog. For us, we prefer dogs over cats. The mess a dog makes can be cleaned up. With a cat, the flooring may have to be replaced because their urine is a lot more acidic and it's hard to get rid of the smell."

Step 3: Prepare for Fees and Restrictions

While renters without pets are charged a one-month rental deposit, pet owners must pay a month-and-a-half deposit, Christian says. Nationwide, apartment complexes generally charge an upfront pet fee, which may range from $20 to $700, with monthly surcharges that run $15 and up.

"Dangerous dogs are restricted because the property owner's insurance won't cover them," Christian says. "If someone moves in with a classified dangerous breed and the dog attacks a neighbor, the owner of the dog would be held liable, but the property owner could be held liable as well, since we approved the tenant for move in."

Christian says the properties he manages also have restrictions on exotic pets. Snakes, for example, must be less than a foot and a half to two feet long and be kept in an enclosure that the property management can inspect.

"Birds are the least favorite of any animal, as far as damage is concerned," he adds. "We only approved two pet owners with birds, and only because we did a surprise inspection at their current home. Bird feces are highly acidic, and they like to fling their feces outside their cage. So in order to keep a clean house with flooring that's free from damage, the birds have to be cleaned up after daily."

He says the biggest complaint made about dogs is barking, especially during the day while the owner is gone. Second on the list are owners who don't clean up dog waste.

Step 4: Negotiate With the Landlord

What do you do if you find the perfect rental home, but the landlord won't allow your pet? Try convincing him otherwise by offering a larger deposit.

"It's within an owner's rights to say they don't want pets on their property," Christian says. "So if you fall in love with a property that doesn't allow pets, all you can do is offer a very large deposit.

"The only exception made is for service animals, like seeing eye dogs. We can't charge extra deposits for them, but the renter has to prove the pet is a service animal with a doctor's statement. The most important thing is to be open and honest about your pets. Don't try to sneak a pet in when it's not allowed."

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