Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Renting with pets

AKA: Suzanne naively assumed that a young, hardworking, clean, non-smoking, well-referenced married couple could find a decent place to live within a reasonable commute with a minimum of effort.

It's moving time in my household. When internet and local listings came up short, we took a Sunday and literally drove through every residential area in 6 small-to-medium-sized rural towns with a combined population of about 40,000 people looking for For Rent signs.

There were 20 places available. If you had any pets then there were 5 available. If one of your pets was a dog over 20 lbs, there were 3 places available. And if you had a dog of any size that looked like its pedigree contained pit bull, Rottweiler, or chow, then the number of available rentals was zero.

I'll come back to breed bias later. First, about that pet bias:

When we were applying for one of the apartments, I expressed to the manager how happy I was to find a place where I could bring my pet. She said hers was the only apartment complex in the area that allowed "large" dogs (Zelda is 33 lbs). "And it's silly," she said, "in all the years I've done this job, small dogs cause more damage than big ones." She laughed, "and don't even get me started on what children can do to a place."

Bingo. My opinion is now officially validated by someone in the business.

Pet Connection had a good article about this a while back. http://www.petconnection.com/blog/2007/04/30/looking-for-a-rental-your-dog-better-be-good-and-probably-small/

I think pet bias and breed bias from landlords (and insurance companies) stem from the same thing. There's certainly no data that says dogs of a certain breed or size cause more damage or are more dangerous than others or are more destructive to property than other factors (like kids). I'm not disputing a home owner's right to set these restrictions, but I do dispute the logic behind them.

The most expensive damage done to my current rental was caused by my husband. The wear-and-tear caused by my pets pales in comparison. Yet nowhere on the rental applications did it ask if you owned a careless husband.

One of the other apartments I called told me, "we technically don't allow pets, but all you need to do is get a note from a doctor that you need your dog as a companion and you can keep it. Any doctor around here will do that for you, it's no big deal."

If I was in a position to choose between hmm, bending the law, and losing a beloved pet, I wouldn't think twice. And the result is the same as if the place had just allowed the dog in the first place. I don't think this is a situation that's useful for anyone. Not the animals, or the renters, or the property owners.

In the end, if we wanted to live in a place that wasn't too small and/or falling down around us, and allowed all our pets without any "fudging" on the application, there was only one rental to choose from. It was (you guessed it) the most expensive and barely in our price range.

This is yet another reason why I cannot wait to buy a house.


ChrisJ said...

For about a dozen years, my DH & I moved 6 times. Four of those moves were from state to state (following my DH's first post docs and jobs), one because we decided to move closer to my DH's lab and the last was due to the house we were renting was sold. We had 2 and later 3 collies (average weight: 60 lbs).

So for each of those moves, we had to get a rental and, honestly, we never had much trouble. I think what helped is that we never looked at complexes but always rented from individuals. When going for the first visit to check out the place, we would bring along the "Collie Resume" - a loose leaf notebook holding obedience school graduation certs, show photos, obedience titles, and, most importantly, recommendation letters from past landlords.

We're now landlords (have an apartment in our lower level) and I can tell you from both sides of the issue that what landlords dearly want is an easy tenant - one that will pay on time, not have all sorts of issues and not be a hassle. The more the prospective renter can reassure the landlord that they are easy tenants, the more likely they'll be to give you a chance.

Anyway, as landlords, we welcome any & all pets permitted under zoning. We've found pet owners to be the best tenants as they tend to be reasonable & easy-going. Since animal friendly rentals are in limited supply in this university town, we haven't had to advertise but instead our rental has been passed down by word of mouth.

CyborgSuzy said...

Ah, if only more landlords were like you. It's the very fact that you're in short supply and don't list that we drove around all day (that's how we found our last rental). There were several that had big fenced yards. None allowed pets, period. Except one, who said she might allow an outdoor-only dog.

I would have loved the opportunity to prove to a landlord that we were great tenants, but they wouldn't even let us get a foot in the door.

Retrieverman said...

I love those outdoor only people.

You didn't tell your potential landlords that you have a snake, right?

Retrieverman said...

My grandpa had a very liberal policy for dogs at his rental properties, but then someone brought in a Dane and it tore up a bunch of things.

Now he's very skeptical about dogs.

This dog was purchased from some idiot who kept it tied up all day, and then her new owners decided to keep her shut up in the house all day-- loose. The dog had bad separation anxiety. You would, too, if someone kept you on a short chain for first six months of your life and then you arrive at this farm house and the neighbors have this nice yellow dog who likes to play with you.

People who don't understand dogs ruin it for responsible people.

CyborgSuzy said...

I think the key word there is "idiot". It's true they ruin it for the rest of us. I wish more landlords would see that it's the person, not the pet, that's actually causing the damage.

I don't see landlords outlawing cooking stoves because SOME people are irresponsible with pots of boiling oil.