All too often animals arrive at Dakin Humane Society because of conflicts with current or future landlords. In fact, “moving” or “current landlord” remain one of the most common reasons animals become homeless, nationwide.
It doesn’t have to be that way. See below for tips for renters and landlords to encourage pet-friendly housing.
Tips for Renters
Be persistent in your search for pet-friendly housing. Finding a pet-friendly rental will generally take longer than finding no-pets housing and may require living outside your first community of choice. Communities with tight rental markets (i.e., college towns) are less likely to have an abundance of pet-friendly housing.
Here are some more tips:
- Consider having a “pet resume” for each of your animals to help sell the idea of renting to you. Your resume should include:
- Pertinent details about your pet (age, breed, vaccination history, spay/neuter status).
- Information about crate or obedience training. Have a graduation certificate from your dog’s training class? Include a copy!
- Present clear information on where the animal will be housed during the day or when alone and if professional dog walking or day care services will be utilized.
- References from previous landlords.
- Stress the traits that make your pet a good tenant.
- If you have a cat, consider keeping her indoors only to avoid conflicts with neighbors, destruction of landscaping, and to keep her safe.
- Offer proof that your dogs and cats have been spayed or neutered, and stress that sterilization surgery makes a healthier and better-behaved pet…and thus a better tenant.
- Pledge to keep your pets groomed, clean, free of fleas, up-to-date on vaccinations, licensed, and healthy.
- Be responsible with your landlord’s property.
Here are a couple of sites to help you find pet-friendly housing in your area.
Apartment List: https://bit.ly/2GD26nO
A Note about "Pet Deposits"
Massachusetts General Laws, c. 186, s. 15B, prohibits a landlord from collecting any money in advance of a new tenancy other than the first and last month's rent, a security deposit in an amount equal to or less than one month's rent, and the cost of installing a new lock.
If your landlord is already requiring these advance payments, he cannot collect a "pet deposit" or any other type of deposit. But he can charge a higher rent for people with pets or additional tenants or other factors that may add to wear and tear on the apartment.
Service Animals in Rental Housing
It is illegal for landlords to prohibit service animals from rental property, even if that rental property is otherwise not pet-friendly. In 2011, HUD issued a memo stating that dogs without specialized training, animals other than dogs, and "emotional support" animals must be allowed in housing settings under the Fair Housing Act and Section 504.
If you want to explore your rights to have an assistance animal in rental housing, contact the Massachusetts Fair Housing Center at 413-539-9796.
Tips for Landlords
People with animals tend to stay in rental housing longer, are often willing to pay more for the right housing, and can be some of your best tenants. These guidelines can help landlords find great, animal-loving renters while protecting their own property from damage and irresponsible behaviors:
- A written agreement with the tenant about having pets should spell out expectations and rules, including repercussions for failure to comply.
- Limit pets to those standard domestic animals suited for the environment (urban or rural) where the rental property is located. Specify the types and numbers of pets allowed. Be aware of your town’s ordinances about limits on the numbers of pets in a household.
- Set clear rules regarding how and when pets may be allowed outdoors. Many apartment communities prefer an “indoor only” restriction on cats, for instance, to help protect landscaping and wildlife populations while preventing the growth of outdoor cat colonies. Rules should specify that dogs be kept leashed in the building or in other community areas.
- The rules should call for dog waste to be picked up and disposed of in a sanitary manner and for cat litter to be put in sealed bags before being placed in the trash.
- Behaviors common to sexually intact cats and dogs can lead to property damage and create a nuisance for other tenants. Consider requiring that all cats and dogs above the age of six months be surgically sterilized. Dakin’s Community Spay/Neuter Clinic can make this surgery affordable for any household.
- Require that tenants with pets provide contact information for their veterinarian and an emergency contact.