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Understanding Your Pet’s Rights as a Tenant

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Anyone who has ever loved an animal knows: your pet is more than a pet. Your pet is family. But while your perfect puppy or fantastic feline might have you dreaming of turning your house into a menagerie, if you’re a renter, your landlord may well have different ideas.

Unfortunately, bringing a pet into your home can be a tricky proposition when you’re renting a house or apartment. However, you and your pet do have rights. The important thing is to know what those rights are and how to exercise them.

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Plan Ahead (If You Can)

If you’re thinking of getting a pet, but haven’t yet made the leap, it’s a good idea to do your homework before you go out and fall in love with the first wagging tail you see. The first order of business is to examine your lease.

Chances are good there will be some kind of pet policy included in your rental contract. If it turns out that your lease forbids all pets, you’re probably going to be limited in your options.

Nevertheless, it’s not going to hurt to reach out to your landlord and see if you can negotiate an amendment to the lease. If it turns out they’re willing to work with you, though, you’re still going to want to get the details down in writing.

Make sure the document covers everything from the number and kind of pet you’re allowed to have, to the fact that the lease has been amended for that purpose only. The last thing you or your new addition need is to get kicked out because the terms weren’t clear or legally binding.

If it turns out that your landlord allows pets, there’s still the possibility that not all breeds will be allowed. There may be weight limits or prohibitions on breeds that are considered “aggressive.” Again, your best bet is to reach out to your landlord, discuss terms, and document everything.

Of course, getting the logistics worked out with your landlord is only half the battle. You’re also going to need to figure out what kind of pet is going to best fit your lifestyle. A Saint Bernard is probably not going to be a good idea for a one-bedroom efficiency apartment.  Likewise, a Jack Russell, with its boundless energy and love of attention, probably isn’t going to be happy being left alone while you work a 60-hour week.

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A Place for Us?

If you’ve already welcomed a little Bruno or Fluffy into your family, but you’re faced with finding new digs for yourself and your four-legged friend, then you might actually have more options than you realized. The fact is that many landlords, especially private property owners, consider pet owners to be a prime “target market,” simply because pet-friendly rentals are a huge draw. And, in general, once a landlord has accepted a pet-friendly policy, they’re unlikely to alter it unless some significant change occurs—and then, they’re far more likely to phase it out, rather than ending it suddenly.

So, of course, all of this can be a big point in your favor, but only if you play your cards right. Pet-friendly landlords are looking to ensure that your pets are safe and well-mannered. A 100-pound dog who is appropriately trained is going to be far more appealing than a 10 pound terror.

That’s why it’s a great idea to ensure your pet is ready to make a stellar first impression. If you have the time, an obedience course isn’t a bad idea to help smooth out some of those rough edges. Above all, though, arrange to have your prospective landlord meet with your little angel to demonstrate how well-trained she is. And be prepared to provide proof of vaccinations and consistent veterinary care.

Perhaps most important of all, though, is to avoid the temptation to rush the process. Trying to find the perfect rental home for you and your dog can be stressful, but rather than resisting the uncertainty that comes with transition, embrace it. There will be questions. There will be doubts and worries. But don’t allow anxiety to rush you into making a bad decision.

Trust that you know what you are doing. Trust that you know what is best for you and your family, human and non-human alike. And trust that you will find the rental house that you will transform into the perfect home for all you and all the little souls entrusted to your care.

The Takeaway

Renting a home when you’ve taken a pet into your family can make things a bit tricky. But if you know your rights, do your homework, and ensure your pet is included in the terms of any lease you may sign, then you can find the home that you and your four-legged companion can enjoy for years to come!

Jori Hamilton is a writer from the pacific northwest. You can follow her on twitter @HamiltonJori and see more of her work at writerjorihamilton.contently.com.

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