When my roommates and I unanimously decided that we were going to get a puppy, I started scouring the web for tips on pet ownership in New York City. As is usual on the Internet, what I found was a lot of disagreement. Angry residents were in uproar about their building becoming a dirty, noisy madhouse by suddenly allowing pets. Meanwhile, pet owners told horrific tales of pet eviction and harassment by other tenants. Both sides furiously attempted to illustrate their frustrations with one another even though the problems were probably caused by a few irresponsible individuals.
The fact is that some apartment buildings need to be pet-friendly while some apartment buildings need to be pet-free, but that does not mean that there can’t be a healthy middle ground. So for the sake of keeping the peace within that space, here are some tips for Pet-Friendly Apartment Hunting as well as some ways to demonstrate responsible pet ownership to your potential landlord or condo board.
Prepare A Pet Résumé
When it comes to the decision of whether or not to allow pets, landlords, rental managers, and condominium boards are mainly concerned with keeping their properties in good shape and their tenants happy. So unless a building has a strict no-pets-allowed policy, proving that you are a responsible pet owner and that you have a well-behaved pet is usually all it takes. Here are some tips from the Humane Society:
- Medical Care: Get a letter from your veterinarian affirming that your pet has been vaccinated and has been kept up to date with yearly shots. Additionally, landlords may want to see documentation that your pet has been spayed or neutered, as sterilized pets tend to be quieter, cleaner, and less aggressive.
- Current Landlord Letter of Reference: Your case will be significantly more compelling if your current landlord is willing to vouch for your responsibility as a pet owner. Letters from directly adjacent neighbors can also provide further confirmation.
- Certificate of Training: If your dog has completed a training course or your puppy is currently taking one, including a copy of the certificate provides further confidence in their behavior and in your proactivity.
- Size/Breed: Including this information can be crucial. Even in pet-friendly buildings, many will not allow dog breeds that tend to be aggressive (Doberman, Rottweiler, Pit Bull, German Shepherd) and have strict regulations regarding the weight of pets. Occasionally landlords and condo boards are willing to make exceptions, but if you are having trouble with your specific pet due to these factors, try asking owners with similar pets or reaching out to a local dog club to see if they have a directory.
Never withhold how many pets or what kind(s) you actually have from landlords or rental agents and especially don’t let an agent do it to ease the sale. It creates a huge waste of time for all parties involved and passes the lie on to you if you sign the lease. It is much better to be open about your pet ownership and spend a little extra time finding a place that is welcoming to your specifics.
It may be tempting to sneak your pet in to avoid getting turned down or having to pay a Pet Fee. It may even seem like no one will notice, however it is an incredibly risky idea. If you are found out, you could face eviction and may lose your security deposit along with the cost of any other damage that could be attributed to your pet (even if they didn’t actually cause it).
If there isn’t already a Pet Fee for your building, you can offer to pay a slightly higher security deposit if the barring factor is that your potential landlord is worried about the condition of the apartment. But as with all security deposits, photo document the place prior to moving in to make sure you aren’t charged for any damage done to the apartment before you arrived.
The Pet Law
In order to get around a No-Pets clause, some people look to the Pet Law, which gives the tenant legal right to keep their pet if the landlord fails to enforce the No-Pets rule within 90-days. The requirement on this law, however, is that the landlord or their employees must have had knowledge of the pet for the entire period and that the keeping of the pet was “open and notorious”. Proof of this requires careful documentation and the risk of relying solely on this law is generally not worth it, though it does protect pet-owners that received permission in the event that they did not get their agreement with the landlord in writing or if apartment policies have changed during their residence.
Pet Addendum/Lease Rider
Because written leases supersede all oral agreements made between tenant and landlord, you should always get written permission for your pet as a part of the lease. If the lease contains a no-pets clause, make sure it is removed from every copy before you sign it.
For the sake of your relationships with your neighbors, it is important to maintain a clean and reasonably quiet apartment, which includes spending adequate time with your dog so that they don’t feel lonely and bark when you’re not home. Also, your cats may like roaming around the building, but perhaps some of the tenants don’t approve. Being considerate of your neighbors will keep the complaints away and keep your landlord comfortable with allowing pets.