31 Tips to Finding a Rental with Your Targeted Breed

Posted by: on Mar 2, 2013 | No Comments

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It’s not fair, but it happens every day – many rental management companies and many private landlords do not rent to people with Targeted Breeds, such as Pit Bulls and Pit Bull mixes. Whether it’s due to an insurance blacklist or media hype, renters often have an uphill battle when they find they need to move with their Targeted Breed. While these policies are not BSL (Breed Specific Legislation), they certainly are breed discrimination.

Here are some tips, many that have worked well for us in the past and will hopefully help you in that search for the perfect home that welcomes your entire family, human and pet:

  1. Realize that it can take much longer to find a rental property that is going to be accepting of your Targeted Breed. Do not wait until the last minute to start your new home search! If circumstances require a hasty retreat from your current residence, enlist the help of friends or family members who may be willing to offer your pet a temporary home (this is an instance where having a crate-trained dog can really come in handy as people may be more willing to take in your pet if he can be easily separated from other pets or small children in the home with a crate). If friends or family members are not an option, consider a local boarding kennel (many require that your dog be altered and if they do allow intact animals, they may require a much higher daily boarding fee). Some boarding kennels may be able to work out a discount with you if you’ll be boarding for several weeks or months, but you have to ask first! If you will be leaving your pets with others, make sure that your pet is getting adequate exercise and attention, even if that means that you have to make several daily trips to provide that.
  2. Treat all interactions with a potential landlord the same you would treat a job interview. Wear nice clothes, comb your hair, brush your teeth, don’t argue and keep your emotions at bay. You want to show your landlord that you are the exact opposite of everything they might have come to expect from the stereotypes that many people have about owners of Targeted Breeds. If you have eyeglasses – wear them! Many people associate eyeglasses with being smart and a bit nerdy, it’s a stereotype that can work in your favor here. Men – leave the baggie/saggy pants at home. Dress to impress, remove all piercings if possible, cover up tattoos, wear plain (no huge logos or images) clothes and simple jewelry (if any). This should go without saying, but please don’t show up smelling like you were just hotboxing, it really doesn’t matter if it’s legal where you live or not, we all know it’s not universally acceptable yet.

    It's unlikely you'll be signing a rental agreement wearing this

    It’s unlikely you’ll be signing a rental agreement wearing this

  3. Are you friendly with your current neighbors? Are you leaving on good terms with your current landlord? Ask for letters of recommendation from them! Their letters should state your dog’s name(s) and give a brief summary of their interaction with them. They should also include the full name and contact information of the person writing the letter so that your new potential landlord can follow up with them to verify the information.
  4. Get renter’s insurance that covers your particular breed of dog. Both State Farm and USAA do not have breed restrictions and both offer renter’s insurance. You can even add your landlord as an additional insured if necessary.
  5. Neuter your dog and make sure he/she has the appropriate licensing for your area. Many cities require that your dog be licensed, proving that your dog has been vaccinated against rabies.  This is not the same as kennel club registration papers. There is often a discount given by the city for pets that have been spayed or neutered and you can find out about your area’s licensing requirements by contacting your local Animal Control/Animal Services agency. Fun fact: “neuter” covers both spay and neuter, only “spay” is specific to female dogs.  While we personally know perfectly responsible pet owners with intact pets, we understand that the prevailing opinion is that responsible owner = altered pet and having a dog that is both intact and a Targeted Breed will make finding a rental that much more difficult.
  6. Brush up on basic obedience and get those greeting manners under control. A jumping dog is not going to be cute or funny to a potential landlord and won’t make a good first impression. You are your dog’s best advocate so make sure she has proper training and manners when meeting new people.
  7. Offer to have your potential landlord meet your dog. If the landlord initially balks at your dog, don’t start yelling, “it’s all in how you raise them!“. A more effective approach is to calmly respond that you are a responsible owner and that you understand the reservations but would the landlord consider at least meeting your dog before making a decision?  After all, you are the very best tenant in the world, right?
  8. Get some professional recommendations applauding your dog’s stellar temperament. Did your dog pass basic obedience and have a snazzy certificate to show for it? Did you dog pass the CGC or ATTS? If not, try to get those done before you need to move. You can also find a professional dog behaviorist to evaluate your dog and provide you with their written results. Many dog rescues require an evaluation prior to taking a dog into their program and they may be a source to get an evaluation as well. Another resource is your veterinarian. Ask the doctor and staff to give your dog a little write up.

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    PBAM Board of Directors/Admin Stacey’s Rex with his CGC certificate

  9. Try to rent from a private party versus a property manager. Owner/Landlords have far more flexibility than a management company might.
  10. Offer to pay more rent or an additional deposit if necessary. I once paid $3,000 in addition to the normal deposit on a $750/month flat, which isn’t even legal for the landlord to accept in CA but my focus was finding a home that would take all of us and I’m happy that the landlord was cooperative.
  11. Don’t let “Pit Bull” be the first word out of your mouth when you call prospective properties. It’s important to build a rapport with the person you are speaking with, give them a few minutes to start to like you and trust you and consider renting to you before you announce that you intend to move in with a Targeted Breed. Remember, we are working against a stereotype here so it’s important to build that connection early on.
  12. Consider arranging showings before bringing up your dog, with a little creativity. When you make your initial call, do ask if dogs are considered but do not mention breed. Schedule the showing or go to the open house and once there and looking like a million responsible bucks and with the landlord right in front of you, charm their socks off and THEN mention the dog. If possible, have someone else go with you and wait with your dog in the car. If the landlord is receptive, offer to bring your well-behaved dog to meet them right then and there to seal the deal.
  13. Don’t blindly trust breed labeling. Did you get your dog from a shelter? Was your dog labeled as a Rottweiler mix? Well what is the other breed in that mix? Does your dog look like a Rottweiler and Golden Retriever mix? Great! Now when you call around, you tell them you have a Golden Retriever mix. You’d be surprised how many people really do not know what the different breeds look like.
  14. Always insist on your landlord meeting your dog, always. Make sure your dog’s name is on the lease or rental agreement. The last thing you want is for a year down the road, a shady landlord claiming that they didn’t know you had a dog, or weren’t aware of what kind of dog you have.
  15. Offer to pay the difference in insurance premiums if the landlord cites insurance concerns. If your landlord is covered by Farmers, for example, your dog may be excluded from coverage and your landlord will likely not be okay with that. Ask the landlord if they are willing to switch their coverage to a company that does not breed discriminate, such as State Farm and if that will cause their premium to go up, offer to pay the difference.
  16. Prove that your dog won’t damage the home by showing pictures of your existing home and proof that your security or cleaning deposits were returned. Offer to have the landlord visit your prior home if need be. Although many won’t take you up on it, simply making the offer shows you are serious and are willing to go over and beyond to find that perfect home.

    Better this than the carpeting!

    Better this than the carpeting!

  17. Have a plan for when you aren’t home and share that with your landlord. I’ve rented a few places because my dog is crated when I’m not home. My landlords know that I won’t be leaving my dog outside unsupervised to break the fence, bark all day and bother neighbors, dig up the yard, or chew up the sides of the house. They also know that my dog won’t be loose in the house where they could cause damage inside, either.
  18. Understand that things like cropped ears, spiked collars, prong collars, and chain leashes will likely be seen as intimidating. Now is not the time to try to educate, it’s time to find a place to live! Make your dog look as goofy and approachable as possible if you get a meeting with a landlord. Use secure equipment, but leave the potentially controversial stuff at home. Dress your dog in a cute t-shirt or feather boa around it’s neck. Skirts are funny and make people smile. Your male dog will get over it. You want to showcase your dog’s fun and sweet side and it’s hard to fear a dog with a tiara on its head, let’s just be real here.

    You know you want to rent to me!

    You know you want to rent to me!

  19. Leave the “custom” car at home (or around the corner). Yes, some of us drive a hooptie. While we know and you know that it’s not right to think of less than someone because of the car they drive, we know that it happens every day.

    Don't drive up to a showing in this bumping "Who Booty"

    Don’t drive up to a showing in this bumping “Who Booty”

  20. Don’t rely solely on craigslist for your search! Check the newspaper (yes, they still exist!), your local Pennysaver, hop in your car or walk your dog around your desired neighborhood and look for “For Rent” signs in windows or on lawn signs.
  21. Speaking of craigslist, they have a “Housing Wanted” section and you can post there too, being sure to highlight all that makes you pawsome! Capture
  22. Flyers can work to find dogs homes too! Don’t be shy, your dog is depending on you. Thanks to PBAMer Nikki for supplying the cute photo we used in this example:

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    Click on the image to make it bigger

  23. Since you have your handy flyer, be sure that everyone you know has a copy. Leave one with your vet, your groomer, your dentist, your hairdresser, your local pet stores. Landlords are people too and they go everywhere you go!  Laundromats and coffee shops often have community bulletin boards, as do some smaller grocery stores, bars, cafes, even community colleges and adult schools. Don’t forget your local dog park which is full of dog lovers and usually has a bulletin board.
  24. Do you have any volunteer or professional experience with pets? Make sure a potential landlord knows if you volunteer with your local rescue, humane society, or shelter. Such experience can help show that you are a knowledgeable and responsible dog handler.
  25. Consider a roommate situation. Another situation where crating will help, you may be able to find someone who is willing to rent out a room to both you and your dog, even for a few months to give you more time to find something more permanent.
  26. Join meetup, find local dog groups, and post that you are looking for a rental there.
  27. Find dog rescues in the area that you want to move and email them to ask if they will do a courtesy posting for you on their facebook page. Many are also linked to twitter so you’ll get exposure there too.
  28. Set up your own fanpage on facebook to let the world know that you are looking for a rental and fill it with cute photos of your dog and you. Treat your page like a regularly-updated resume: all content should be something you wouldn’t mind a potential employer knowing about. If you do obedience training, show off all those down stays. You can even post videos showing how well behaved your dog is. Add the facebook page link to your email signature and your flyer, too.
  29. If you are emailing landlords, create a separate email account just for that. A landlord will not be impressed by pitbull420@email.com or sexypitbullbitch@email.com email address. Yes, landlords DO notice things like this! Setting up another email address is free and easy so no reason not to have a more g-rated address for taking care of business.
  30. Don’t forget your local animal care agency and/or SPCA. They may maintain a list of pet friendly housing, they may be willing to post your flyer, they may be willing to give your dog an evaluation or even share your need on their social media sites. Keep in mind that these groups, just like rescues, are often very overworked so you may need to walk in to their lobby to speak directly with them but they do see the sad repercussions of the difficulties involved with renting with pets so many are more than happy to help you as much as they can.
  31. Know your credit score and try to maintain a good number. Even if you aren’t planning to move soon, start fixing your credit now so if you ever need to move, you’ll be all set. If your credit is challenged, now is the time to start asking trusted friends and family members if they would be willing to co-sign for you or to work on saving up to offer to pay rent a few months in advance (this generally only works with private landlords, however).

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