Renters with pets face added hurdles, but show a willingness to pay more for the privilege

Photo (c) Oscar Wong - Getty Images

A pet 'resumé' could come in handy

As anyone with a pet knows, renting a place to live comes with extra hurdles if they want that pet to live there, too.

How big is the pet? How much does it weigh? How many pets do you have? Are you willing to pay a higher deposit?

Renters have little choice but to accept these challenges as part of the deal and respect a landlord’s reluctance on the other side of the equation – barking, shredded cushions, scratched furniture – as a price they have to pay for being a pet parent.

Interestingly enough, most renters are willing to pay more than $4,500 a year on top of their rent to have their pet in the residence, according to a new survey of 3,000 pet-owning tenants by AgentAdvice.com. But the survey also found that 18% of pet-owning renters admit to not disclosing their pet ownership to their landlords, equating to 7,747,601 illegal pets.

Two-thirds of survey participants thought it was fair for landlords to ask tenants to leave the property if it turned out they had pets which were not permitted and 58% said they would hesitate to get a pet because they are renters.

The result? Too many impasses, too few solutions.

"Caring for a pet is a responsibility that requires commitment and dedication, yet the current rental market often makes it challenging for pet owners to find suitable and affordable accommodations,” said Chris Heller of AgentAdvice.com. “Discriminatory pet policies and limited pet-friendly options not only place an undue burden on renters but also deny them the joy and companionship that pets bring to their lives." 

Finding a win-win

The analysts at AgentAdvice are convinced that all hope is not lost for pet owners. In their estimation, there are four proactive tips that a renter looking for a new place to live could take to try and convince their landlord to allow them to have a pet.

Talk to the landlord: If a landlord has a firm “No Pets” clause in their lease, it may seem like a dead end, but all hope isn’t lost, especially for renters who have been living in a place without a pet and are in good standing with their landlord. Providing documentation on your prospective pet's health history and training plans can strengthen your case, the analysts suggest, adding that many landlords will make exceptions for excellent tenants who are positive contributors to the rental community.

Be flexible: If a landlord has restrictions on the type or size of a pet, then they have the upper hand, but if the pet is just barely on the other side of those restrictions – say 30 pounds vs. the 25 pound limit – ask if they would be open to trying the 30-pounder on a limited basis to prove there’s no additional noise or damage. Again, a good relationship with a landlord can go a long way in convincing them that you’ll adhere to all nuisance-oriented rules.

Providing documentation:  To help make their case, renters can make a convincing case if they also offer vaccination history, training documents, a letter from their current landlord, vet records, spay/neuter records, and photos of the pet. They could even go as far as offering to meet a landlord in person – pet in tow – to show how well-behaved and non-disruptive Fido or Kitty is.

Offer to pay more: Whether it’s a larger deposit or an additional monthly charge, it might be just enough to convince some landlords who don't allow pets to make exceptions if you offer to pay extra. However, realize that pet deposits can be expensive, so be sure to have the necessary budget before making an offer.

Consider pet insurance or renters insurance: An additional option to convince a landlord that you're on the up and up might be to get renters or pet insurance. Every policy is different and there are no guarantees that it will cover everything, but it's something that might impress the landlord that you're serious about holding up your end of the bargain.

Have an emotional support or service animals? 

If a renter has what is considered an emotional support or service animal, they’re in luck because those types of animals are not considered pets.

ESAs provide emotional comfort to tenants with disabilities, and properly-documented ESAs and their owners are protected against discrimination by the Fair Housing Act. Meanwhile, Service animals are trained to complete tasks that their owners physically can’t, according to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). 

“In most cases, landlords must make reasonable accommodations for renters with ESAs or service animals,” Kasia Manolas at Avail explains. “This includes allowing them in the property, even if a no pets policy is in place. Qualified renters shouldn’t be rejected based on the fact they own an ESA or service animal, because this can be considered housing discrimination and could result in legal repercussions.”

Keep in mind that having a service animal or emotional support animal does not give you free reign to do as you please. There are specific ADA requirements that have to be addressed. Such as the animal has to be under the control of the handler; the animal must be housebroken; the animal should be vaccinated in accordance with state and local laws.

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