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Finding a home where your pets are welcome is a top priority for many pet owners looking for new digs. Though you can always make sweeping changes to a house you've purchased (like switching carpet for tile or fencing the yard), that's generally not an option when you're renting. And that means that for renters, it's even more important to find a home that matches your — and your pets' — needs as closely as possible from the very first day.
Though many of our tips for house hunting with pets hold true for those shopping for a rental as well, there are a few nuances potential renters will want to keep in mind. We asked Michael Downing, co-founder and COO of Swapt, an online platform that helps renters find the perfect apartments, including those that are certified as pet friendly, for some rental-specific tips.
"It might be obvious, but keep a look out for buildings that actively encourage pets," Downing says. Look beyond simple pet-friendly policies that allow pets on the premises and seek out on-site amenities like dog walkers on staff, a private dog park, a walking trail supplied with bags and trash bins, and dog washing facilities.
And if the building's pet policy is not explicit, don't make assumptions. "Be sure to get in touch with the landlord to ensure there’s a pet-friendly clause in the lease," Downing says. Find out about limitations on size and number of pets, as well as what the penalties might be for things like a barking dog.
When it comes to choosing a location, remember: It's not only the pet friendliness of the building that matters — location is an issue, too. Downing suggests contemplating how easily you can get home during the day. Can you run by the building on your lunch hour if you need to let your dog out or give your cat medicine? If you're new to the area and don't have someone who can help you out on occasion, this is an important consideration.
Be realistic as well about the amount — and type — of space you and your pet need, both now and in the future. If you have (or may one day have) an energetic, playful dog, a spacious living area as well as a nearby dog park are important. Likewise, if you have a large dog, a fifth-floor walk-up could be problematic if he develops joint issues as he ages and cannot manage the stairs on his own. Though cats are generally a bit easier to accommodate, you might want to look for a home with windows suited for perching — and, in the case of some cats, avoiding carpet could be a smart (security deposit-saving) move.
Finally, if you're in a market where the perfect place is hard to come by, be prepared to act fast. "Show that you and your pet are responsible tenants. If you’ve lived in another home with the same pet, have a reference letter that vouches for you both," Downing says.
Apartment living comes with its own pet-specific considerations, but that doesn't mean you and your pet can't live happily in a smaller space. And if you're thinking about adding a pet to your family, let us suggest some apartment-friendly dog breeds.
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