How to Talk to Your Landlord About Getting a Pet (Especially If You Live in a No-Pet Apartment)

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Credit: Viv Yapp

Finding an apartment that meets all your must-haves is tough — and that includes certain details like whether or not the space is “pet-friendly.” Many apartments either have a no-pet policy or a restrictive one that limits the kind of pet to only cats or small dogs, and often only with the landlord’s express approval. 

However, it could be in a landlord’s best interest to make their property pet-friendly. According to a 2014 survey, approximately 72 percent of renters own pets, meaning that a pet-friendly apartment is top of mind for many people when the time comes for looking for a new place. A study by FirePaw, an animal welfare research foundation, also found that renters with pets are more likely to renew leases on apartments that are pet-friendly — meaning that both you and your furry best friend have potentially found a home for the long haul.

If you’re hoping to adopt a new furry friend, but your current lease says otherwise, not all hope is lost. Shelter workers and housing advocates say it’s still possible to get some wiggle room on getting permission to have a pet. Here are their tips.

Double-check the apartment policy.

“For so many folks, it’s not just fun to have an animal — a pet is their closest family member,” Kristen Hassen, the Maddie’s Fund Director at American Pets Alive! tells Apartment Therapy.

She says the first thing you should do before you even start looking at pets is check the policy and then make an educated decision. That way you don’t end up with heartache or a commitment to a pet you can’t feasibly stick to.

If there’s no pet policy listed or your space is explicitly a pet-free apartment, it can be a really bad idea to adopt a dog or a cat behind your landlord’s back. That will only cause trouble with your landlord and you may be forced to return or rehome your new pet, or move on a short notice.

“Definitely do not try to hide the animal because I think that’s also going to create more stress for you and your pet,” says Alessandra Navidad, the CEO and president of the Arizona Animal Welfare League.

Communicate with your landlord.

Communication is always key when you want to work things out with a landlord. Navidad advises getting ahead of the game and bringing up the possibility of getting a pet before you sign the lease. But if you haven’t, you still have some negotiation power, especially if you’re on good terms with your landlord and are generally a good tenant who pays their rent on time and doesn’t cause disruption.

Oftentimes the major concerns landlords have can be quelled with some reassurance and facts. “Sometimes these policies are based on presumptions or they’re based on one bad experience,” says Elizabeth Oreck, the national manager of puppy mill initiatives at Best Friends.

According to the FirePaw study, pets usually aren’t the most destructive element in any given home, and the cost for any potential damages can be addressed through a pet deposit or pet fee. You can also get testimonials from previous landlords for your track record or offer to sign an agreement that states things like the pet will be leashed in common areas and you’ll pick up after them if they leave your place.

Presenting this information, as well as an assertion that you’re more likely to stay if pets are allowed, could help with negotiations.

“If you are considering moving because you want a pet and your landlord is telling you [that] you can’t have them, tell the landlord,” Hassen says. “Over the next decade those of us who rent are going to have to explain that great, responsible tenants have pets and we’re willing to do whatever we have to to keep them.”

Offer to let your landlord get to know your potential pet.

You should also show the landlord your plans for caring for the pet. This includes veterinary records (especially those that indicate the pet is spayed or neutered), any training and pet sitting plans, and contact information of the person who will take care of your pet should something happen to you, so it wouldn’t fall onto the landlord. 

“If you think there’s an opportunity for a landlord to make an exception… I would let the landlord meet the pet in person and see for themselves this is a pet they don’t have to worry about,” Olsen says.

If you’re hoping to adopt a rescue, it wouldn’t hurt to tug on your landlord’s heartstrings either with images, videos, and the backstory of the dog or cat. This combined with how you plan to commit to the animal’s emotional and behavioral needs could make all the difference.

Make sure your potential pet is cohesive to your lifestyle.

Once you have approval from the landlord, it’s important to consider your lifestyle before you adopt. Do you plan to be away for more than eight hours at a time? Are you still working from home to train a puppy or kitten? How much space do you have? For example, if you grew up with huskies but live in a studio apartment without air conditioning, adopting one yourself might not be the best fit. 

Hassen recommends those who have a busier lifestyle to look into older dogs that typically can more easily acclimate to new environments or cats that are relatively independent creatures. If possible, she recommends adopting from your local government animal shelter. “The animals there are in such need, and if people don’t go and adopt them they don’t have a second chance at life,” she says.

Olsen also recommends getting cats in pairs, as they are pack animals and enjoy playing and wrestling with one another. 

Credit: Viv Yapp

Get the proper training and tools.

Before your pet moves in and becomes a part of your family, make sure your apartment is equipped for pets. While some older dogs may be fine sitting around all day, both Hassen and Olsen recommend getting toys that engage the pet’s brain like a Kong that you can fill with peanut butter and freeze or one that requires them to work to get a treat. Oftentimes, a bored pet tends to get more destructive than a stimulated one.

“Pets are so much more like us than we think,” Hassen says. “They get bored and just like a young child, a young animal can’t be expected to sit quietly and not want to play and interact with the person they love.”

If you live somewhere without a yard, you need to be prepared to walk your dog frequently or hire someone to do so when you’re not home. If you’re adopting a younger dog, Navidad suggests finding low-cost training as well as getting your pet crate-trained so they can get used to being alone.

“If the dog is trained you’re going to be able to manage the barking,” she says. “In urban living, there’s a lot of apartments close together and you don’t want a dog who’s constantly barking.”