Renting With a Pet

Finding Animal-Friendly Rental Housing

You’ve probably heard heartbreaking stories, or experienced the reality yourself: You need to move and can’t find suitable rental housing that will accept your pets. Far too many pet caregivers have felt forced to give up their pets because they thought animal-friendly housing wasn’t available.

But with planning and a few compromises, you can find animal-friendly housing in virtually any area of the country. Your pet is worth the extra effort!

Below are tips that will assist with finding housing where your pets are welcome.

Search pet-friendly rentals: You may start by checking Zillow, The Apartment List, Lovely, or Craigslist for pet-friendly rentals in Napa and the surrounding areas. Please note that these sites do not include all pet-friendly rentals available in the area. 

Check your insurance: Many insurance companies deny or cancel homeowners and rental insurance for certain dog breeds or breed mixes. Be sure to check with your existing insurer before bringing a new dog into your home.

Give yourself enough time. If possible, start to check ads and contact real estate agents and rental agencies at least six weeks before you plan to move.

Understand why many housing communities reject pets. Put yourself in the shoes of a landlord, housing manager, property owner, or condominium association board member for a moment. They may have had bad experiences with irresponsible pet owners who didn’t safely confine their animals or pick up their feces, who snuck pets in, or who left ruined carpets and drapes when they moved out. They may be worried about complaints from neighbors about barking dogs and wonder how they are going to deal effectively with pet owners if problems arise. All these concerns are legitimate.

That’s why people looking for an apartment, house, or condominium to rent must be able to sell themselves as responsible pet owners, committed to providing responsible pet care and being responsible neighbors.

Be realistic. It’s probably futile to try to sell yourself and your pet to a large rental community with a no-pets policy. You’re more likely to be successful if you focus on places that allow most pets, allow certain pets (for example, cats or dogs weighing less than 20 pounds), or that don’t say, “Sorry, no pets.” Individual home and condominium owners may be easiest to persuade. Ideally, look for a community with appropriate pet-keeping guidelines that specify resident obligations. That’s the kind of place that’s ideal for pet owners because you’ll know other pet caregivers there also are committed to being responsible residents.

Investigate why. If you run up against a no-pets policy, ask if it’s there as the result of a negative experience with a prior resident. If you know what your landlord is afraid of, you’ll be better able to distinguish yourself from that past tenant and address specific concerns head on.

Build your case with evidence. The more documentation you can present that shows you’re a responsible, conscientious pet owner, the more convincing your appeal will be to your future landlord. Gather up the following documents as a start:

  • A letter of reference from your current landlord or condominium association verifying that you are a responsible pet owner.
  • Written proof that your adult dog has completed a training class, or that your puppy is enrolled in one.
  • A letter from your veterinarian stating that you have been diligent in your pet’s medical care. Include documentation that your pet has been spayed or neutered and vaccinated against rabies. Most veterinarians routinely fulfill such requests for their clients.

Go straight to the top. Make your request to the individual or group with the ultimate authority to grant it. Usually this will be the owner of the house or apartment. The owner might delegate the decision to a property manager or resident manager, though. Check to see if (in addition to obtaining the landlord’s approval), you must also submit a written request to the building’s board of directors (or association, in the case of a condominium community).

Be a clean freak. Let the landlord, manager, or condominium board know that you share any concerns about cleanliness. Point out that your pet is housetrained or litter-box trained. Emphasize that you always clean up after your dog outdoors, and that you always properly dispose of your pet’s waste. Many landlords are concerned about fleas, so be sure to let your prospective landlord know that you maintain an active flea-control program for your pet and home.

Promote yourself. Responsible pet owners make excellent residents. Because they have to search harder for a place to live, they are more likely to stay put than people without pets. Lower vacancy rates mean lower costs and fewer headaches for landlords and real estate agents. Let prospective landlords and managers know that you understand that living with a companion animal is a privilege, not a right.

Promote your pet. Offer to bring your pet to meet the owner or property manager, or invite the landlord to visit you and your pet in your current home. A freshly groomed, well-behaved pet speaks volumes. Emphasize that you take the same pride in caring for your home as you do for your pet. Provide written proof that your pet is spayed or neutered and is, therefore, healthier, calmer, and less likely to be a nuisance. Make it clear to the landlord, manager, or condominium board that you keep your cat inside and your dog under control at all times and that you understand the health and safety benefits of doing so.

If you can’t arrange for a meeting, consider making a short video, a resume for your pet, or scrapbook with photos of your pet in his or her current home. Scrapbooks and résumés are unique ideas that are guaranteed to make a strong, yet positive, impression.

Be willing to pay a little extra. Tell your prospective landlord or resident manager that you are willing to pay an extra security deposit to cover any damages your pet might make to the property.

Get it in writing. Once you have been given permission by a landlord, manager, or condominium committee to have a pet, be sure to get it in writing as part of your rental agreement. Sign a pet addendum to your rental agreement. Comprehensive agreements protect people, property, and the pets themselves. If your lease has a no-pets clause, verbal approval won’t be enough. The no-pets clause should be removed from the lease (or crossed out and initialed) before you sign it. Be sure it has been removed from or crossed out on your landlord’s copy, too.

You may be required to pay a pet deposit, some or all of which may be nonrefundable. Be sure to discuss deposits and monthly pet-related fees in advance, and confirm these fees in writing, too. Request a copy of any house rules pertaining to pets. Let the landlord know that you will abide by the rules set for the broader community and respect the concerns of residents who do not own pets.

Be honest. Don’t try to sneak your pet in. Keeping an animal in violation of a no-pets rule contributes to the general inclination of landlords not to allow pets. You also may be subject to possible eviction or other legal action.

Adapted from the Humane Society of United States.


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