pet-friendly hotel or B&B is easier than ever before these days. But what about when it's time to move house entirely? Lots of landlords and co-op buildings prohibit dogs (because of barking/damage), cats (permanent effects of cat pee), or pets above a certain size; other apartment complexes limit tenants to a single approved pet, and dorms generally cap pet ownership at dwarf-hamster-size or smaller, if they allow furry friends at all. (NYU, for example, permits fish in a tank smaller than ten gallons, and that's it.)
Looking for a new apartment is stressful enough without thinking you'll have to hide Tigger in the dishwasher (or worse, leave her behind – a study by the National Council on Pet Population and Research found that moving was the most common reason owners gave up their dogs, and the third most common reason they gave up their cats). Avoid the agita and get a new home you all can enjoy with these 7 tips:
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Shop smart. The Humane Society has a nifty list of apartment locators and local humane societies that list pet-friendly places. If you're working with an agent or realty company, let your contact know about your pets, and that you only want to see properties that will allow them.
Look good on paper. Just like you would with your financial documents like W-2s and credit scores, put together a good case for yourself as a model pet parent. The Humane Society recommends getting a reference from your present landlord; a certificate of completion from a training class, if you have a dog; and a letter from your vet stating that you take your pet in for regular check-ups, and have had him fixed and vaccinated for rabies. Landlords and future neighbors want to know that your pet isn't smelly, noisy, scary, destructive, or infested with anything; providing evidence that you've left previous apartments' moldings, floors, and interpersonal relationships in good condition is key.
Prepare to spend a bit more. Read the lease carefully (which obviously you should do anyway); buildings that allow pets in the headline may double up on your security deposit in the fine print, or increase it if you increase the size of your brood. A few landlords make pet-owners' deposits unrefundable automatically. Extra fees like that may seem worthwhile to snag your dream 2BR with tons of sunlight, or it may not; just make sure you know what you're getting into. And speaking of that…
Ask for a guarantee. If a condo board has granted you a special dispensation to keep four cats, or a landlord has made an exception for your Chihuahua, make sure it's in writing, in your lease or contract or in an attached rider.
Know the rules. We once lived in a 20-stories-plus building where dogs could only use the service elevator – and it stopped running at 10 PM. Any canines who needed potty breaks after that had a choice: take the stairs, or use wee-wee pads. We were very glad we had cats. So, before you sign on the dotted line, make sure you know what's okay for your pet and what's not. If there's communal outdoor space, can your dog use it? What about the pool -- can he jump in? Is it locked and/or covered to prevent pet drownings? Are other pets in the building friendly? Is it all right to use the "people elevator" late at night? Will you have to provide your own window-safety hardware in a high-rise building? A building that "allows" dogs, then makes your life a haze of rules and regulations, might not fit your furry family.
Don't lie. Some brokers and landlords may not want to work with a three-dog parent, and that's okay – plenty of others will. Plus, the most perfect, beautiful rental in the world won't be that enjoyable if you're constantly paranoid that a yip, hiss, or poop is going to get you in trouble. Lying about your pet-owning status on the forms isn't worth it. (Same goes for back-dooring a pet you adopted after you moved in. Owning a pet does require some prep; part of that is living in a place that allows them. Wait 'til your lease runs out first.)
Don't let it come down to a choice between roof and woof – take some time, do some homework, and you can find a great pad where everyone's welcome.
Got any other tips to share? What about landlord or lease horror stories involving your pets? Join us in the comments, or share on Twitter – we're at @YahooShinePets.
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