Many people rent. Unfortunately, most not by choice. Rentals can be very stressful. In many cities, apartment rentals can cost more than mortgages and for much less space. Problems with parking, old appliances, noisy neighbors, extra fees, deposits, and instability all add to the difficulties. For many with pets, this becomes more of a problem. Although many pet owners are responsible and clean, they are penalized when it comes to finding housing.
Pet policies such as pet limits—only one animal, pet rents (sometimes $50-$100 per month per pet), additional nonrefundable pet fees $150-$250, refundable (maybe) pet security deposits $150-$350 per animal, weight limits (no animals over 20#), ‘breed’ restrictions (all dogs but poodles, labradoodles, and chihuahuas prohibited) – all cause additional problems for people who own animals.
For many people, animals are family. Responsible pet owners spend more on their pets than many people spend on their children. Veterinary bills are incredibly expensive—a simple spay or neuter can cost $300-400. Routine dental surgery on a cat is over $1000. Diagnostics for an animal emergency – can easily cost into the thousands. If you are single and have animals, this is even more challenging. High rental costs, extra fees, veterinary bills, and breed restrictions all add to the stress. Unfortunately, some of the best people are penalized by landlords and property management companies.
Owners of rental properties who don’t allow animals or with too many pet restrictions cause animals to be relinquished to shelters. Some people choose to live in their cars rather than give their animals away. For the animals, it’s traumatizing. The animals are uprooted and the homes and people they know vanish. Millions of animals are killed yearly in shelters and animal control facilities across the country. Many of these animals end up at shelters due to the difficulty in finding pet-friendly housing.
Fees: There are no ‘smoking’ fees or ‘children’ fees. There are no ‘noisy neighbor’ fees or extra nonrefundable deposits for single college age males or for multiple individuals living in one unit. Although sometimes there are tenant restrictions such as no more than four people in a two bedroom flat or apartment, they are not charged more—even though they can do more damage.
Screaming kids, parties, multiple roommates, and toddlers can all cause noise problems and property damage for those who live in apartments. And yet, there are no extra fees and not nearly the penalties or restrictions that responsible pet owners face.
As an animal behavior specialist, I’ve rented. I’m quiet, clean, responsible, and have quiet calm pets, and yet have always paid more than noisy and destructive neighbors. I’ve seen many animals dumped at shelters because of foreclosures and many wonderful people with animals—who they love dearly and who their animals depend on—struggle and/or unable to find nice housing. Landlords and management companies are hugely responsible and need to change anti-pet or no-pet policies to be more accommodating to people with animals. Responsible pet owners are good people and are more often than not responsible tenants.
What landlords can do:
- If you own a condo in a community with a board (even if you are not a landlord)—get on the board and help to change policy so that the community is pet-friendlier or so pets are permitted.
- If you own property and rent it, make it pet-friendly.
- Require animals be spayed or neutered and require veterinary records or a letter as proof.
- Charge only refundable pet security deposits and eliminate non-refundable pet rents or pet fees.
- Have leash-policies that must be abided by. Large complexes can provide dog parks.
- If you charge extra fees, be fair—add fees for young children, multiple people in a unit, and smoking.
- Eliminate ‘one-pet only’ policies. Not only can having one animal be more problematic—there can be more instances of destruction and separation anxiety, it is also cruel. Just as many people have more than one child, people have more than one animal so they can keep each other company. If there are additional animals, charge additional security deposits.
- Instead of having blanket rules, allow pets on an individual basis. It’s perfectly fine to request vet records, ask that animals are up to date on vaccinations and/or require them to be spayed or neutered. If they are too young to be spayed or neutered, ask for a refundable deposit which is returned to the tenant once the animal is fixed.
If you are a renter with animals:
- Find private landlords and meet with them, offer to provide veterinary records and sell yourself.
- Offer to pay an additional security deposit.
- Have realistic expectations. You may have to downgrade or live in a less desirable neighborhood and in a lesser quality apartment or apartment complex. Unfortunately, when you have animals and rent, the options are far too often either run-down apartments or super pricey, expensive ones.
- If you have family who are receptive, ask them to take care of one or two animals at a time—rotate animals if you have pet restrictions in your apartment and/or offer to pay friends or family members for their care. Slowly look for individual rentals that are pet-friendlier. Most leases are for 6 months or a year. Short term leases are very overpriced so have realistic expectations and let people know the time lines.
- Although it’s not without risk, if all else fails—you may have to smuggle them in. Many large apartment complexes don’t check or oversee all apartments. If you have pet-friendly neighbors, most won’t tell. If your animals are quiet, you can keep them in a separate room if the management company or landlord has to enter and request that they only come when you are on the property. If management or the landlord needs to enter, make an appointment for them and then board the animals for that day.
There are millions of renters with pets who struggle. Although it doesn’t resolve the dilemma, if you are a renter with animals in this position, you are not alone.
Landlords, developers, and apartment management companies have to be more compassionate and fair to people with pets.
© 2017 Alana Stevenson. All Rights Reserved.