Last month I had to find a new place to live quickly. Trying to find a good place to rent can be hard in the best of times. Doubly so if you have any pets. Triply so if you need a place ASAP. Here are a few things I learned while trying to find a pet friendly rental quickly (spoiler: you can’t be picky and it will cost you a ton.)
The rental market in this town is heavily (okay, almost entirely) influenced by the college. I knew that it would be difficult to find any place mid-year. Leases generally run from August-July, with the following summer’s leases signed by November. There is not a lot to choose from in mid-December.
Compounding this difficulty is the fact that I needed a pet friendly place. My babies are my babies and I’m not willing give them up or try to trick a management company. I know they will do less damage than 80% of the undergrads in this town, but landlords are somewhat (understandably) weary about renting to pets. When they do allow pets, the usual is a 2 pet maximum. I didn’t want to give up the dogs, and I am not going to give up my cat, so I just had to hope that I could talk someone into renting to me.
Identify Your Non-Negotiables and Then Lower Expectations
This part sucks but it was more important for me to have my animals with me than to find a place that contained every last thing I want in a home. I’ve watched enough HGTV to know that for every must have in a house there is a trade off for something not as great. A house in the perfect location will be over budget; a house under budget will need a ton of work…
In addition to being allowed the animals, I wanted a place that was walkable to work or had quick access on a bus line. The dogs shouldn’t stay in their crates the entire time I am at work, and it would be nice to use my lunch hour to pop back home.
I opened my search to both houses and apartments (though, apartments across the board don’t take 3 animals.) I didn’t care how many bedrooms. I didn’t care how many square feet. While I like modern kitchens I would never reject a rental just because the kitchen was outdated. I was even willing to move into a place without a washer and dryer inside the unit. I’ve never been to a laundromat before, but there’s a first time for everything!
I know what market rates for rent are around here and I wanted to keep my rent under $1,000. I could definitely find something in the $500 range without the animals, but again, the animals were more important and I expected they would cost me more.
Don’t Be Afraid to Negotiate NEGOTIATE
One good thing about trying to rent out of season is that the landlord kind of is at your mercy. Unless they want their property to sit vacant for the next 3-6 months, they should entertain reasonable offers.
After messaging a ton of management companies and landlords, I found a house two blocks away from my current house. I made sure that the 3 pets weren’t a problem and then set up a showing for the next day. At the showing I asked how soon I could move in. I was told “Oh, definitely by January 3rd.” I actually laughed in this woman’s face. I said “Oh no, I need to be in by the end of next week.”
I wanted to move in ASAP which is a landlord’s (and property management company’s) dream. The sooner someone is paying the rent the better for their bottom lines. I said I wanted to be in by the following Friday and that was approved.
The other thing I negotiated on was pet rent. First of all, I think the concept of pet rent is ridiculous when you charge a security deposit for pets. Especially if you charge $400/pet as a security deposit, like my place did. I am a landlord but I am also human and I would never charge for a pet above the security deposit.
My place wanted to charge $50 per pet per month. That’s an extra $150/month just for 3 animals that sleep most of their lives. No thanks. I asked for a reduction considering the huge deposit I was laying down and the management company agreed. They asked me how much I wanted to pay and I said $75/month extra. They quickly agreed which made me think I should have just said $50, but what’s done is done.
Provide the Landlord Some Kind of Incentive
I did have to employ this strategy this time around, but I have in the past. When Mr. Beach Life and I were looking for our first house (to rent) he did a majority of the scouting. One house showed up that was in a perfect location, so he called to ask about it. He reported back to me that the rent was great but they didn’t take pets. I asked him if he offered to put a pet deposit down and Mr. BL said he did ask. I called and offered an addition deposit and we moved in 3 weeks later!
My aunt’s friend’s daughter had terrible credit and rental history due to a bad marriage and a deadbeat husband. When she finally left the marriage she had an impossible time find a place to rent to her because of her credit and poor rental history. She was able to lease an apartment by paying a year’s rent upfront. (She was able to borrow the money from her mom and paid her mom back monthly.)
Obviously, most people don’t have a year’s worth of rent saved up. But if you can swing it, it’s worth a shot to ask.
See if Signing a Longer Lease Can Get You a Discount
My management company wanted me to sign a 18 month lease. I will likely live in my town for 18 more months but balked at the thought of signing a lease for that long. Instead, I signed a 6 month lease with option to renew for 12 months.
I’m afraid I missed an opportunity. It is likely that I could have asked for a reduced rent, maybe $25-50/month in exchange for a longer lease. Landlords don’t want to go through the expense of cleaning and advertising for new tenants and lose out on a month’s rent (sometimes more, sometimes less) if they can avoid it. I don’t know if they would have accepted my proposal, but what’s the worst that can happen by asking?
I feel very fortunate that I found a good house (old, but good) in a great neighborhood that allows me to keep my 3 pets and was under budget.
In sum: finding a good place to live when you have animals is difficult and it will require you to spend a lot of money. Don’t be afraid to ask for