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How to Find a Pet-Friendly Rental in Madison

Pet ownership is at an all-time high. According to the American Pet Products Association’s 2011-2012 Pet Owners Survey, 64% of U.S. households have pets.  Admittedly, this doesn’t necessarily make it easier to find a pet-friendly rental in Madison: we property owners are a little behind the curve on this trend.  Read on to find out why property owners are reluctant to allow pets and to read our top tips for landing a pet-friendly apartment.pet_infographic-resized-600

The pet owner’s survey found that 70% of dog owners and almost 60% of cat owners viewed their pets as a child or family member.  Yet to others – such as property owners or apartment neighbors – a pet can be a nuisance.  Here’s why:

  • Risk of damage.  A pet can truly wreak terror on an apartment.   Cats with claws (or dogs with a chewing problem) can scratch woodwork, drapes, carpet – you name it.   Pets also can carry fleas, may smell rather horribly, and sometimes make a heckuva lot of noise.  Naturally, we’re not referring to your pet.  But many tenants have ruined carpets and interiors with their destructive pets, leading to a whole host of issues with the property owners.
  • Noise, marking and poop. Besides damaging properties, pets can make a lot of noise.  A property owner would rather not deal with ongoing noise complaints from your neighbors.  And no one enjoys the smell of cat litter or urine stained carpet, or stepping in dog droppings that haven’t been picked up from the common areas (or the carpet!).

These typical objections, and any other bad encounters a property owner has had with previous pet owners, can make finding a pet-friendly rental difficult.  But it can be done.  In fact, you may even be able to sway a property owner that’s sitting on the fence when it comes to pets.  The key is to sell yourself – and your pet.

Here is a list of items you can do to improve your chances for renting with pets.  These tips come from the Humane Society, who also wishes it was easier to find pet-friendly apartment rentals here in Madison:

  1. Build time into your search.  Finding an apartment that accepts animals will take you some time.  Don’t wait until the last minute to conduct your search.  A good six- to eight-week cushion is the smart time to start your search.
  2. Reach out to pet-friendly resources.  Instead of combing through the rental properties website, why not connect with resources in your community?  The Humane Society likely has a listing of pet-friendly resources.
  3. Cut your losses.  You may have dreams of living in that luxury-apartment downtown, but if the building has a no-pet lease, you’re out of luck.  Understand that your first (or second, or third) choice might not be available.
  4. Think small.  Instead of reaching out to property owners with multiple apartments who have a strict no-pet policy, check out owners who rent out private houses or smaller condos.  They’ll be more likely to deal with you on a case-by-case basis.
  5. Find the decision-maker, and find out why it’s “No.” It’s important to deal directly with the owner, not the property managers or anyone else acting as a buffer.  If you make contact with the person at the top, find out why there is a “no-pet policy.”  Was it an isolated incident that spurred the decision?  What specifically is the objection?  If you can get to the reason behind “no,” you may be able to build a case for your pet.
  6. Prove it.  If you find an apartment with an owner that may accept pets, you need to prove that your animal is an upstanding member of the Madison rental community.  This is very similar to the job search process.  The owner wants to see the character of the pet, and ensure there hasn’t been trouble in the past.  He or she will need:
    1. A letter of reference from your current landlord, giving credit to you and Fido for being responsible renters.
    2. Proof from your vet that your pet is healthy.  That will definitely include proof that Fido has had all of his or her shots (as have you.)
  7. State your case.  Imagine you’re applying for a job, except instead of selling your skills and expertise, you’re promoting your pet.  Provide all the information you can about how your pet is a model citizen.
  8. Set up an interview.  Besides all the vet info (including details on your flea protection program), ask if you can stage a one-on-one pet interview.  Bring your pet along, and demonstrate how responsible and friendly the animal is.  Perhaps even stage a few scenarios, such as knocking on a door, to assure the property owner that peace and quiet will be maintained.
  9. If you get a “yes,” put it in writing.  After all your hard work and proof that your pet is just the sweetest, don’t settle for a simple thumbs up from the property owner.  You’ll need it in writing, to prevent any complications down the road.
  10. Don’t get sneaky.  It may be tempting to sneak in your pet, but you’re truly playing with fire.  Not only will you be overly stressed that you animal is about to spill the beans, you also could face financial penalties if the jig is up.  Search harder instead of getting sneakier.

Every pet-rental situation is unique, and every policy may have shades of grey.  Be prepared to do a lot of legwork before you find the ideal rental.  However, as the survey says, pets are part of the family, and they’re well worth the extra effort.

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