Renting with Dogs

I have been quiet around here lately. That’s because Mike and I have been busy moving our entire lives onto a mountain in the middle of nowhere. After a year of painstaking apartment hunting, we finally found the perfect place to call our very own.

Mike standing on the front porch to our new place.

It hasn’t been an easy road to get here, and the number one factor was that we have two dogs. Two large dogs. Two large dogs who are inarguably at least part pit.

Trying to find a place that allowed one large dog was hard enough. Finding one that would allow two seemed downright impossible. Apartment complexes were pretty much out of the question. The ones that allowed pets at all either had a weight restriction on dogs or limited households to one large dog. Herbie could pass as less than 50lb, but there was no way that 75lb Julio was going to slide in unnoticed. We did find one complex that would allow two dogs with no weight restriction, but they had a strict no-pit-bull policy.

So what do you do if you have dogs and need to find a place to live? Here’s are some things I found helpful in our quest for a Herbie and Julio-friendly abode.

Finding Pet Friendly Places
Trying to find a place for rent with dogs is initially not very different from trying to find a place without them. In this day and age, there are plenty of websites that make finding listing pretty easy. Many of these websites have a check box about pets, so you can narrow down your results based on what animals you have. The three main website that Mike and I browsed were Trulia, Craigslist, and Zillow. Of the three, Craigslist had the widest selection of dog-friendly listings.

We also did some old fashioned searching in local papers, classified booklets, and flyers at the grocery store, etc. Unfortunately, many of these listings didn’t specify whether they allowed dogs or not. It was quite overwhelming.

Perhaps the best method of finding places that will allow dogs, and specifically¬†your dogs, is word of mouth. That’s how we found three of the places we went to look at, including the one we ultimately moved into. Word of mouth gives you a chance to find places that aren’t listed, and it gives you a leg up on other people who are looking to rent. Plus, having someone put in a good word for your pets never hurts!

The other thing that helps when looking for places that will allow you to rent with dogs is looking at non-standard rentals. By that, I mean look deeper than apartment complexes or room rentals. For example, Mike and I spent a lot of time looking at carriage houses, apartments on farms, and duplexes with fenced in yards. These options meant finding people who were likely pet friendly, as well as properties that would give us exercise options for our two very active pups. Entering ‘carriage house’ into the search bar on Craigslist really gave us some great results!

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Approaching Places That are on the Fence
In the hunt for a place to live, we found a few places that allowed dogs and many places that had a flat out ‘no pets’ policy. We also found a slew of places that would do pets on a case by case basis, or that didn’t specify what pets they would allow.

There was a lot of calling, asking, and rejection, but there was also a startling amount of people who were willing to be flexible or make exceptions. For example, we had one man who would allow one small dog, but after talking to me for twenty minutes, was swayed to allow our two not-so-small ones. We were on the receiving end of a lot of, “Well, it might be a little cramped for two dogs, but you can come look and decide for yourselves,” which was really quite generous of many of the landlords.

There were a few things I found that really helped convince those undecided individuals that they really would be ok with having both my big dogs come live on their properties. The key to swaying a potential landlord’s opinion is to be proactive.

The biggest thing that really seemed to sit well with people was my offering to provide references for both dogs. These ranged from my veterinarian to co-workers who know my dogs. The most influential of these references was our previous landlord, who spoke highly both of our dogs’ personalities as well as our responsible attitude when it came to pet care and property upkeep.

Along those same lines, TU’s own Lindsey swayed a landlord’s opinion about her dogs by presenting him with “a ‘dog resume’ with [her] dogs’ training, titles, and awards lined out in resume form with a picture at the top.” Canine good citizen certificates would go far in this department as well.

Herbie says, "Won't you make an exception for this face?"

Herbie says, “Won’t you make an exception for this face?”

If you have a well-behaved dog who makes a good first impression, it is also a good idea to invite a potential landlord to meet your pooch. Seeing firsthand how quiet, friendly, and obedient your canine companion is could sway someone who isn’t convinced they want to rent to dog owners.

Of course, not all dogs are perfectly behaved (looking at you, Julio). It’s important to address common concerns with a potential ¬†landlord. Bringing up possible problems and how you plan to address them shows initiative, and can assure a fence-sitting property owner that you are a responsible renter. For example, we explained to our land lord that Herbie is trustworthy and is left loose in the house when we’re not home. Julio, on the other hand, has a lot to learn still. He is crated whenever we aren’t home. Hearing that our new dog will not be unsupervised in a newly renovated apartment put our landlord’s mind at ease.

Along the same lines, it’s a good idea to explain your daily routine to your landlord. Common concerns to address are barking, waste management, and exercise routines. If the property doesn’t have a fence, will your dogs be leashed? Do you plan to pick up doggie doo that is left around the property? Is your dog exceptionally quiet or will barking be a concern? For example, our landlord doesn’t care if the dogs run around the farm during the day, but his pet peeve is stepping in dog feces. “I don’t care how many pets you have as long as I dont’ step in it!”

Outlining your daily dog-keeping plan serves a dual purpose. It helps your landlord understand that you take responsible ownership seriously and it weeds out properties that will not be a good match.

Of course, the most powerful motivator in any negotiation is money. The thing that seemed to sway a lot of landlords who weren’t sure about having dogs in their rentals was offering an additional pet security deposit. One thing that turns property owners off to dogs is the potential for damage to their premises. Knowing that there’s a chunk of money put away specifically for scratched floors, chewed doors, and odor removal can put a wary mind at ease. In a best case scenario, your dogs do none of those things and you simply get your money back at the end of your lease.

In our own personal experience, the willingness to pay an additional deposit was often enough to get us an invite to view a property. Many of those landlords turned down the offer for extra security money, but showed a visible attitude change toward our dogs when we put the offer on the table.

Be Honest
This should go without saying, but honesty really is the best policy when it comes to finding a potential rental.

It’s tempting to tell little white lies or exaggerate your dogs’ good points, especially when you’ve been looking for months and nothing has come along. However, you have to keep in mind that renting means being tied into a lease, a long term commitment to a place and the person renting it. Sooner or later, your landlord is likely to meet, or at the very least see, your dogs.

If you said your dog was 45lb, and he’s actually 80lb, somebody is bound to notice. There’s no faster way to sour a relationship than by being dishonest. You might get away with listing a pit bull type dog as a lab or pointer mix, but you might run into someone who sees right through your bluff. Then, even if the person is fine with pit bulls, you’ve made a very bad impression by trying to cover it up.The same can be said for your dogs’ bad habits. You may be able to cover them up, but in the event that the truth is revealed, you come out looking pretty foolish!

My personal opinion is that it’s better to miss out on a place by being honest, than get one based on a lie only to find out it’s not going to work out. Remember, if you get evicted, it’s not just you who ends up homeless! The only thing harder than finding a rental with dogs is finding a rental with dogs and a short deadline.

Renting is a tricky business, made more difficult by owning dogs. However, there are a lot of opportunities out there if you know where to look and how to bargain. The good news is that landlords are human. No two are the same, and few things are truly set in stone. Showing initiative, being responsible and honest, and being proactive can open a lot of doors… figuratively and literally.

Herbie, Julio, and Mike enjoying our new living room. We should probably get a couch for the humans too.

Herbie, Julio, and Mike enjoying our new living room. We should probably get a couch for the humans too.

12 thoughts on “Renting with Dogs

  1. Agreed about being honest with your situation. I know how I would feel about someone if I discovered they had tried to pull the wool over my eyes.

    It took Isaac and I long while to find a place, too. 99% of the struggle came from finding something that would allow three dogs, two of which are 70 lbs+. We found a lot of the landlords willing to work with us, and that was appreciated. Unfortunately sometimes “working with us” meant saying yes to the three dogs, but increasing the amount of the dog deposit way past our means. (One wanted a $600 per dog nonrefundable deposit! We ended up paying $300 per dog, and we get it back!)

  2. We’ve only done vacation rentals with Dog Mob, and our experience has been that yep, offering more money is definitely the tactic that works best. A lot of landlords are flexible about what they’ll allow if you can be flexible about what you’ll pay.

    Unfortunately this is, for obvious reasons, not a universally helpful strategy.

  3. Knock wood I’ll be in this house (which the bank and I own) ’til I die, but I remember the days of looking for a place to live with 3 dogs (2 Siberian huskies and an English bulldog) and a cat, and it was tough. We ended up in a cottage (read: 7-room house) on an estate. This is all great advice, and fwiw, I’d rent to you guys anytime. (If I were, you know, a landlord.)

  4. I have two 60+ lb. pit mixes, a cat and I foster for local rescues. I invited my landlord to what was my current home to see how we all live. I also shared that I had renter’s insurance with an additional liability clause written in to cover anything that may happen because of the dogs. I got the new place and have a great relationship with my landlord. Be honest, be proactive and be responsible.

  5. Oh man, I feel this. I search FOR-EVER for a dog friendly apartment that would take my two small dogs, so I can’t imagine looking with two big dogs. The resume is an AWESOME idea. I swayed my current landlord by directing her to our blog where I told her she could find the good, the bad and the ugly about my life with these dogs. I’m lucky that my blog happens to focus on how to keep your home from looking and feeling “doggy”.

  6. I feel your pain. Glad you got somewhere in the end. Two years and counting for us. One problem we’ve come across is that the landlords who are ok with dogs are renting awful run down places. Still looking…..

  7. As a proud ‘mama’ of a pit bull type, when I rented out my townhouse I advertised it as dog-friendly as long as the renters could show proof of insurance coverage for the dog. My tenants have tiny dogs (!) and have unfortunately not followed your final “be honest” point >:( I wish I *had* found a large-dog family to rent to, they probably would have been more conscientious!

  8. when we went to go look at the house that was to become our home – the listing said NO pets… the last tenants had caused the landlords to change their minds about renting to – pet owners – BUT we didn’t let that stop us… after the initial walk thru – we KNEW we HAD to rent this place… it was just outside of the city limits with property – which for us with a crew of two pitties, AND the intent of adopting more – we knew that ANY breed discrimination issues would be ENFORCED inside the city limits…

    the landlords had said NO pets… on our second trip to look at the house – we brought the dogs with us – AFTER taking them on a nice long tiring walk… and in their cutest collars we introduced them to our future landlords… not only did the landlords say that we have the “nicest” dogs – but they were WILLING to rent to us IF we would agree to an ADDITIONAL security deposit for the pets – which we were able to make in payments… it’s not easy renting with fuzzy babies… but don’t give up!!!

  9. When we approached our real estate agent to ask permission to adopt our first dog, she flatly refused – she wouldn’t even ask the home owners opinion. Luckily, we had the opportunity to talk to the home owner, describe the sort of dog we wanted, our experience with dogs, and our plans for being responsible dog owners. Being an animal lover, he didn’t have a problem. He even wrote a letter to the real estate agent stating his permission.

    Prior to this, we have always rented with two cats. We ALWAYS put in the cats’ “resumes” (that include written references from previous real estate agents) with our applications. The ONLY time we were knocked back for a property was when the idiot agent confused one cat called Jaguar for real, actual jaguars… The error was cleared up and we got the property (though admittedly with reservations about our agent’s intelligence).

    I think responsible pet owners aren’t offered enough opportunities. Landlords and property agents are (naturally) wary of irresponsible owners, but frequently they don’t look into the people (and pets) before them.

    Now, as a potential landlord I have no qualms renting to responsible pet owners. From my own personal experience, I have seen far more damage done to properties by families with young children than responsible pet owners. I’d much rather ask an additional bond for damage done by a rampaging sixteen year-old boy or a nappy-free, un-toilet-trained toddler than for a large lazy dog who wants to sleep all day!

    Dom, I hope you’ll be happy in your new place. I feel bad for you that it took so long to find your new home, but hopefully it will be worth the wait.

  10. Great post, Dom. I am so happy to be a homeowner with rental-hunting days behind me for now. I moved several times with my two previous dogs, hovering around 50 pounds each and Lasya being a Chow/GSD mix, so a lot of places were ruled out for us, too. I had the best luck with carriage house/duplex type rentals as well. When I was looking to buy, some condos and townhome complexes still had no-pet policies!

  11. There are a number of cities here in RI tha have bans on certain breeds as well as insurance companies that will not issue a homeowners policy if there are certain breeds of dogs kept on the property (usually the larger breeds and APBT) or if they will issue a policy the cost is astronomical. This is what often prevents landlords from allowing pets (or certain breeds). I live in a large complex that allows pets, with a deposit, but they do restrict the breed per their insurance company and also the city ordinace than bans pit bull and pit bull types and crosses. Unfortunately that is the reality that we pet owners have to live with.

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