Pet-Friendly Rentals: Difficult but Not Impossible

Dog and cat
Well-mannered pets and conscientious owners may still find a home in no-pets rental units.

Seventy-five percent of renters own pets, according to a recent survey, and most say they have struggled to find pet-friendly apartments and single-family homes.

Many landlords won’t allow pets, and those that do often require pet deposits or added monthly fees. For many renters, pet policies are as important as location and amenities when it comes to finding a place to call home.

The Humane Society of the United States offers guidelines for pet owners facing objections from landlords and from condominium and homeowner associations. First and foremost, the Society says, is to understand why many housing communities reject pets.

Landlords or property managers may not necessarily dislike pets. They may have had bad experiences with irresponsible pet owners who didn’t safely confine their animals or pick up their feces, sneaked pets in, or left ruined carpets and drapes when they moved out. They also may be worried about complaints from neighbors about barking dogs.

The Humane Society recommends that you gather proof that you’re a responsible pet owner and make your request directly to the owner of the house or apartment, although you may be directed to a property manager. Let the landlord, manager, or homeowners association know that you share their concerns  about safety and cleanliness.

Promote yourself, and promote your pet, too. Offer to bring your pet to meet the owner or property manager, and prepare a resume for your dog or cat.

Yes, a resume. The San Francisco SPCA’s website has a sample pet agreement and resumes for dogs and cats. The resume gives particulars about an animal, including obedience training, compliance with licensing laws, and references from former landlords. “The resume should stress traits that make the pet a ‘good tenant’,” the SPCA says.

The SPCA also offers advice for landlords. It recommends that pets be limited to standard domestic animals suited for apartments, such as dogs, cats, rodents, fish, and birds. Rules should be clear on whether pets should be kept inside and whether a dog should be kept on a leash in the community areas.

The website of San Francisco’s Nolo Press digs into the fine print of pet agreements and notes that some landlords may choose to ban certain dog breeds or animals above a specified weight limit. Also, landlords may allow tenants’ pets but not those of guests.

Pet policies may be overruled, however, if a tenant has a disability and keeps service or support animals.

State and federal laws give broad protections to disabled tenants even if there is a no-pet policy in force. And while most laws refer only to service animals, federal and state court cases have expanded that legal protection to assistance and emotional-support animals.

Go to the website of San Francisco-based PAWS (Pets are Wonderful Support) for a clear explanation of the rights and responsibilities of disabled persons and their service and support animals. Other organizations with useful information online include Disability Rights California, the California Apartment Law Information Foundation, and the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law.

Legal issues aside, the real estate pages at AOL includes smart advice for pet-friendly living, including upholstering your home with fabrics that are durable and easy to clean, avoiding plants that are poisonous to pets, and taking steps to ensure that your dog or cat doesn’t get entangled in drapery tassels or cords.

And lastly, the folks at, which commissioned the survey mentioned at the top of this story, have compiled a list of the best pets for apartment living. Do you want a dog? Pugs are quiet and don’t need much exercise. Cats require little more than a litter box. Hamsters are small and quiet, but they are most active at night. Guinea pigs thrive in pairs.

(Photo courtesy of Jimgskoop, via Flickr.)

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