Many years ago, with a new job waiting several states away, we grabbed a weekend to find a rental close to the university where I’d be teaching. We scouted a few places and were lucky to find one that fit the bill, mailed in our application along with the requisite funds, and got the keys by return mail with a note welcoming us to town.
Fast-forward to 2016 when nothing’s casual about the rental property business. And if you have a dog—particularly a big dog—finding a pet-friendly rental can be downright challenging. If the rental ad suggests the landlord/property manager will consider pets, you’ll want to do everything you can to make the best impression possible. How? By creating a dog resume, of course!
Realtor.com suggests dog resumes “might be the next big trend in renting. And even if a potential landlord doesn’t ask for a CV for your canine, you might want to have one ready.” The goal, of course, is to demonstrate that you take your responsibilities seriously and have a well-behaved canine companion.
As a landlord myself, I’m happy to have tenants with dogs. My insurance company doesn’t discriminate by breed (some do, so check with your own agent), and their sole exclusion—no dogs with bite history accepted—matches my own preference for minimizing liability. That’s a reasonable standard many (most?) landlords and property managers might agree with provided other criteria are met. So, assuming your dog doesn’t have a history of aggression (which may require much more documentation to even be considered), let’s highlight the basic content you’ll want to include in your dog’s resume.
Get personal: Include a photo or two that shows your dog in the best possible light. Literally! No dim shots, or big dogs curled up in such a way the prospective landlord can’t easily see the whole dog. Add the dog’s name, age, weight, breed details, temperament, etc. Housebroken? That’s a must, and landlords will want to know. (Soiled carpets, damaged flooring, and dog waste left in the yard are unfortunately common problems in rental units.)
My insurance agent strongly suggests I require tenants to carry renter’s insurance with sufficient liability. Amounts and exclusions can vary by insurance company and locale, so check requirements in your own area. Let prospective landlords know you’re insured and that their property will be well cared for.
Some landlords and property managers place restrictions about breed, age, size, and weight. Be truthful and as accurate as possible. Misrepresent the facts and you risk violating the terms of your lease, losing your deposits, and even facing eviction.
Focus on wellness: Identifying your vet clinic is a good start. Note the name, address, phone number, website, and Facebook link (in other words, make it easy for the landlord to reach them). Include your veterinarian’s name; this helps demonstrate that you have a relationship with someone who’s important to you and your dog. Add in health status, flea/tick preventatives, vaccination info (including tag #), and microchip info (company name, chip #). My community requires all dogs be microchipped; consider this even if it’s not a “must” where you live.
Is your dog spayed or neutered? The Canine Journal suggests spayed/neutered dogs exhibit “overall behavior improvement” and are less likely to roam. That can translate into fewer headaches for landlords.
Have a groomer? Provide their name and contact info. Well-groomed dogs have shorter nails and that can reduce the chances for badly scratched floors. Plus, a regularly groomed dog won’t be riddled with fleas. (Trust me on this; flea infestations can be a serious headache for everyone involved.)
Oh, and add in contact info for an emergency caretaker, someone not living with them who’s able and willing to care for the dog if needed. You’re demonstrating care and attention to detail, and that’s something prospective landlords will appreciate!
Highlight training & activities: While obedience training isn’t a cure-all for behavioral issues, it can certainly reduce the potential for problems. If your dog completed a formal obedience class, list those details. If you or someone else trained the dog informally, list the specific skills and abilities that demonstrate good canine behavior. If your dog has earned the AKC Canine Good Citizen certification, you should absolutely highlight this, and be sure to add “CGC” after your dog’s name at the top of the resume.
As a landlord, I want to know your pet is well cared for. How do you keep your dog in shape and happy? Well-exercised dogs tend to be happier and quieter than those left alone too long. If you enjoy daily walks or playtime with your pet, mention that. If you’re away from home for long periods, do you have a family member, friend, or a dog walker who can spend time with your pet?
Share testimonials: You could attach references and letters, and that might be necessary if your dog has a documented history of aggression. Otherwise, consider short “blurbs” from your veterinarian, groomer, and neighbors as well as current and former landlords or property managers. Include the person’s name and contact info so landlords can follow up as part of their screening process.
Learn more: Whether you’re searching for an apartment, a condo, or a single-family residence, you’ll find good info in this 2012 article by Alex Bevk.
Here are two samples you might find helpful (click on image to go to original website):
And if all this seems too complicated, here’s a fill-in-the-blank template from RentLingo.com with cue questions to help you create your own.
Okay, dog lovers: have a renter’s experience of your own to share? What tips can you suggest to help others with dogs?
Landlords and property managers: what did I forget? What would you like to see from applicants and prospective tenants? Inquiring minds want to know!
Look for property with a view of the ocean.
Okay, I’ll bite (no pun intended). How does that help other renters with dogs?
The one thing that I can legally chase is the surf.
Regards from Gavin and Wyatt (the dogs)
Susan, what a great article! I managed an apartment building for many years in Silicon Valley, where dogs were not allowed. Honestly, nothing would have persuaded the owner I worked for to allow animals. That said, though, having a resume covering the points in your article, would definitely help.
I do know that some private landlords (as opposed to large complexes managed by private management companies) do consider dogs if they can collect a higher rent. So, in addition to the resume, I would advise also offering to pay a higher rent.
Pet fees are not allowed in all states, such as California. But, you can agree to just pay a higher rent amount at the start. Seems silly, but it’s legal to agree to a higher rent amount, but not legal to collect separate non-refundable fees (in CA). At any rate, if an applicant is trying to convince a landlord to take an animal, when they normally don’t, I’d advise to not only offer the pet resume, but offer a higher rent amount, too.
Additionally, I agree that showing a landlord that you have current renter’s insurance where you are living, will also be a selling point. If you currently have renter’s insurance, it shows a higher level of responsibility, in my opinion.
Wonderful article! Can’t wait to read your books!
Sue, thanks so much for your comment. Offering to pay a higher rent isn’t something I’ve heard about in my part of the world. I do know that some of the major apartment companies require a hefty deposit and charge a monthly “pet rent.” While I’m not personally comfortable with that, I’m open to requiring a higher deposit if there’s evidence from previous landlords of pet-related damage.
Care to weigh in on the “additional insured” vs. “additional interested party” debate with renter’s insurance? I’ve found arguments supporting both on the Web and even within my own insurance company.
Honestly, I’m not sure how the insurance issue works – or doesn’t work LOL. I guess I’d trust my insurance agent to tell me how I should do it, to cover myself best, as a landlord. As a renter, who always carries renter’s insurance, I wouldn’t care. None of my landlords have required insurance so far, but I’ve been asked if I do have it, and when I said yes, I was asked to provide a copy of my coverage, which I was happy to do.
So, I guess that puts me squarely in neutral territory on the subject LOL.
What a great idea !! Been looking to rent a house to have more space for my 3 boys (a bernese, an aussie and a mutt) and I am definitely going to try this. Thanks !