For time immemorial, dogs have been our furry companions. In most countries around the world, dogs are as much a part of the family as our siblings, parents, and children. But while we would love to bring them with us wherever we go, there are laws abide that dictate whether we can cohabitate with our canine pals.
If you are an existing dog owner (or would like to become one), convincing your landlord to allow a pooch to live in your house or apartment can be tricky. Some landlords will have strict policies about owning pets — and for good reason. However, this doesn’t mean that having a dog is impossible. There are several ways you can broach the subject and negotiate your existing lease agreement.
Living with an Emotional Support Animal
If you rely on your pet for emotional support, you may be able to have them exempted from typical housing restrictions. Once you have the required documentation, a landlord can not legally refuse your emotional support animal (ESA) accommodations.
It’s important not to abuse this avenue, though, so it’s only an option if a mental health professional issues a letter that verifies that you have a genuine emotional, psychological, or mental health condition that your animal provides assistance with. If you think you could benefit from an ESA, USSA can help you throughout the process.
Otherwise, you’ll need to abide by any pet restrictions in your lease, or negotiate them with your landlord.
Review Your Lease
If you’re about to sign a lease or have already signed one, the first thing you want to do is check the clause for pet ownership. The lease will likely state whether the pet agreement is flexible or if it’s set in stone.
If it’s the latter, don’t be discouraged! This doesn’t necessarily mean that negotiation isn’t possible. However, it does mean that you will need to prepare for the possibility that your landlord will turn you down despite your best efforts.
Remember that property owners often have legitimate reasons for not accepting pets. This can include a history of irresponsible tenants who damaged the furniture and the floors, and who had a reputation for disrupting their neighbors due to their pet.
If you’ve lived in the property for a while as a responsible tenant, you may be able to review the lease again and negotiate with your landlord. Before you approach them, however, there are a few preparations you can make in advance.
Do Your Research
Aside from reviewing your rental agreement, it’s also worth doing some research about pet ownership laws in your state. This includes investigating any laws that might help you amend your current lease agreement.
For example, the state of New York has a 3-month law that states that no-animal clauses are considered null if the tenant has been living freely with their pet for a certain period. In other words, if you decide to cohabit with your dog in a normal way for 3 months (i.e., no sneaking them in and out) and your landlord doesn’t say anything, then any pet ownership agreement in your lease is considered unenforceable.
While all states and cities will have different laws around tenancy agreements, it’s worth researching these ahead of time before you approach your landlord. Who knows? You may just find a legal loophole that works in your favor.
Approaching your landlord to discuss the possibility of allowing a dog takes a bit of planning. To ensure that you’re adequately prepared, make sure you collect all the necessary documents first. This could include the following:
- Letters from your previous landlord(s) indicating that your dog was well-behaved and non-disruptive to the neighbors
- Records of any training or obedience classes your dog has attended
- Vet records, including check-ups and vaccinations
- Spay or neuter records
- Any other letters of recommendation from housemates or neighbors
- Photographs showing a well-kept apartment during and after your lease period
The more materials you have on hand to support your case, the better. After all, collecting the right documents will prove to your landlord that your dog is a worthy tenant.
On the other hand, if you have yet to adopt a dog, it’s also worth mentioning that you intend to register them at the vet and will ensure they receive adequate vaccinations and training.
Write a Request Letter
While it may be tempting to call or speak to your landlord right away, put the request in writing first. A letter formalizes the process and allows you to properly state your case and provide evidence of your dog’s character. A permission letter also gives your landlord time to mull over the idea, rather than feel pressured in person.
To get the most out of your permission letter, there are a few key things to include.
Address Potential Concerns
As mentioned earlier, landlords have specific (and often valid) reasons for not accepting pets into their building. By addressing these in the letter, you demonstrate a willingness to find solutions to their concerns.
Their biggest worry will be your responsibility as a pet owner and how well you keep them under control. They’ll want reassurances that the property won’t be damaged and that you won’t become a disruptive and noisy neighbor.
To put their mind at ease, propose adding pet insurance to your renter’s insurance to show you’re preparing for any incidentals. Your landlord will be comforted by the fact that you’re taking steps to alleviate their concerns.
Another thing to add in your letter is a willingness to pay a pet deposit (and even pet rent) if the lease does not include this already. Pet deposits can cost around $200 or less, while pet rent is usually around $35 per month, though both figures can also be much higher. An offer of compensation can go a long way toward demonstrating your responsibility as a pet owner and your eagerness to negotiate.
Suggest Adding a Pet Addendum
If your rental agreement doesn’t include a detailed pet addendum, you could also suggest adding one. A simple pet addendum will cover things such as the description and breed of your pet, as well as any damage deposits, fees, or pet rent that are due. A pet addendum also allows you to clearly state the rules so that both you and the landlord know what is expected.
Outline Your Intentions
Another important thing to include in your letter is how you intend to care for your dog. This includes stating that you will provide adequate food and exercise and that you intend to clean and maintain the property to the best possible standard. You could also reiterate here how you intend to train your dog to be quiet and neighborly with others. And, if your dog isn’t already housetrained, you should mention how you plan to ensure that they are.
Suggest a Meeting
Before you finish your letter, it’s a good idea to suggest a meeting to discuss the matter further. Be courteous about their time and how you want to come to an amicable agreement about bringing a dog into your home.
Speak to Your Landlord
With the letter done and dusted, you can then prepare to speak to your landlord in person or over the phone. Whether they’ve arranged a time with you and vice versa, it’s best not to pressure them or make them feel cornered into a decision.
Remember to Negotiate
During your talk with your landlord, try where possible to be flexible. Don’t go all-in with guns blazing, ready to justify why you should have a dog. If you’ve already gone through the process of sending a permission letter, you’ll want to hear their response first. After all, the property is theirs, and they have the right to be hesitant about this decision.
By keeping the conversation open, it creates space for you both to settle the matter and explore your options. This could even include an agreement about restricting certain dog sizes. Some properties will want to prohibit larger dogs to be safe, so if you have yet to adopt a pooch, this is something you’ll need to consider.
Other things that improve your negotiating power is if you’ve lived in the property for a while and have been a sensible tenant. Demonstrating that you’ve paid your rent on time, have kept the property in good shape, and have a strong track record of reliability will put you in good stead with your landlord.
Another important thing to remember during this process is to manage your expectations. Don’t be too attached to specific outcomes and trust that you’ll find a way to reach an agreement. If you only expect the perfect scenario, you could end up in a heated argument, rather than a friendly conversation.
Prepare for the possibility that your landlord may remain unconvinced, or may become willing to talk but still hesitant. Either way, you should prepare for any outcome and come up with solutions that will help you move forward. The last thing you want to do is become belligerent because your landlord hasn’t completely sided with your way of seeing things.
Arrange a Meet & Greet
Another way to move forward is to set up a meet and greet with you and your dog. This can sometimes be a tricky scenario if your dog behaves unpredictably with certain people; but, if you’re able to show that you have control over your pet, then it might just turn the tide in your favor. An in-person meeting might even lead to the landlord bonding with the dog, which is an even better outcome.
If your landlord doesn’t agree to meet your dog, you could provide a summary instead. This could involve a few photos and a description of their breed, age, temperament, and training. The more they know about your dog and can see how much care you’ve put in, the more likely they are to change their mind.
Living With Your Dog
If you’ve reached the final stage and are now living with your canine friend, congratulations! However, be sure to honor any agreements you’ve made with your landlord, whether it’s through an amended lease or an informal handshake.
Make sure you follow whatever new rules you’re expected to abide by and ensure that your dog is well-behaved and respectful as much as possible. It may have taken a lot of work to get to this stage, so you’ll want to respect your landlord by adhering to any new policies they’ve put in place.
Persuading a landlord to allow a dog into your home can be a challenging task, but not an impossible one. The more you prepare your case, manage your expectations, and demonstrate how well you take care of your pooch, the better chance you’ll have of convincing them to allow them into your house or apartment. Remember, the best way to navigate a tricky situation is to be flexible and open wherever possible. Good luck and happy negotiating!