Advice on Finding a Dog Friendly Rental Apartment in New York City
Pet Friendly Apartments
Finding a a dog friendly rental apartment in New York City can be a challenge. Landlords, property managers, and condominium and coop boards often put a number of obstacles in your way. Apart from outright bans on dogs, the most common roadblocks are restrictions based on weight and breed. These bans seem arbitrary and unfair to dog-owners like us, but it’s important to put yourself in a landlord’s shoes. She may have had bad experiences with animals in the past. Her insurance company could be the source of the restrictions. Or she may simply not like dogs. Despite these complications, there are a number of things you can do to make your search for a pet friendly rental apartment easier.
Give Yourself Plenty of Time
If you think it’s going to take a month to find a rental apartment, double that when looking for dog friendly options! Everything about finding a dog friendly rental apartment is likely to be more time-consuming. At the very least, you’re going to do a lot more research than you would if you were searching without a companion animal. But you may also face steps you hadn’t considered. For example, to satisfy a condo or coop board, you may have to put together a pet resume, get letters of recommendation, and then meet–with your pooch by your side–members of the board for an interview. All of that takes time. (Read this recent article from the New York Times regarding interviews.)
Do Some Real Foot-Work
Turn off that computer and hit the streets to gather intel. Check out, in person, the neighborhoods you’re interested in, take walks around the area with your pooch and look for buildings that have lots of dogs walking in and out. Once you’ve identified these areas, go to local dog parks and quiz folks you meet there to find out how they found their apartments. If your dog fits the dreaded “restricted breed” category or exceeds weight limits, look for people walking that breed or similarly-sized dogs and chat them up. Call local rescue organizations, humane societies, and animal care and control groups to see if they have any advice about pet friendly buildings.
Visit a real estate office in the neighborhood you’re interested in, and find a knowledgable, pet friendly real estate professional. Corcoran Real Estate Salesperson (and happy dog owner) Vivek Batra says:
One of the first questions I ask a client, rental or sales, when I go over their search parameters, is whether they have a pet. Your broker should have the experience and knowledge about the buildings that you are considering moving into when it comes to something as important as your pet. He’ll be able to tell you what each building’s policy is–whether it’s “No Pets,” “Cats Only,” or “Dog Under 25 Pounds”–and guide you accordingly. Having grown up with dogs and on the verge of adopting one very soon, I know how important my four-legged friends have been to me… and to my clients. Do yourself a favour and use an expert to find you and your dog a pet friendly environment!
In addition, a good real estate salesperson should have solid relationships with management companies and condo and coop boards in buildings throughout his coverage area and should be able to advocate on your behalf if need be. He will know all the rules regarding pets in buildings in the neighborhood.
Nothing beats talking to real people to get good, solid information!
(For more about Vivek, click here.)
Once you’ve pounded the pavement, you have my permission to log back onto your computer and pour through all the resources you find online. All of the major real estate websites and companies will have advice on how to find pet friendly homes. When you search online, use the terms “pet friendly” or “dog friendly” or “dog friendly rental apartment.” Check out the websites of local rescue organizations, humane societies, and animal care and control groups to see what resources they might have. Research local laws. You might be surprised at what you will find. For example, New York City has something called “The Pet Law.” Without getting into too much legal jargon, it is a law that heavily favors tenants with animals.
My fourth piece of advice runs counter to everything you’ve been taught about tackling challenges! Our parents always told us there were no obstacles we couldn’t overcome, right? I’m are going to recommend, very strongly, the opposite. You should follow the path of least resistance and avoid fighting time-consuming, losing battles. If a building’s board has a “No Pets” policy, take it at its word.
Odds are you could run into considerable trouble trying to get an 75-pound Weimaraner accepted if management says “No Pets Over 25 Pounds.”
Your baby is the sweetest Rottie ever and the building you are looking at doesn’t allow Rottweilers, then why would you want to live there?
This isn’t to say it’s impossible to challenge these rules. One building I lived in in New York City had Pit Bulls on its list of verboten dogs, and yet we had three, wonderful, friendly, super sweet Pitties in residence. One day I saw a Doberman Pinscher in the building; I was amazed that this beautiful, though admittedly intimidating-looking dog was living there. I asked the owner how he’d gotten her in. It turns out a resume, an obedience class diploma, letters of reference, and an in-person interview did the trick.
I also know of a woman, an attorney, who wrote a very powerful letter to a prospective “no pets” condo board explaining why they should allow her to move in with her Shih Tzu. The board acquiesced under the might of her compelling and moving argument (and probably some pressure from the condo owner!) Your best bet, however, is to deal with buildings that have liberal pet policies. You are going to want to live in a place that welcomes your pet, no? Also, look for independent landlords. It is easier to appeal to an independent landlord than to a management company or a condo board.
Be prepared to advocate on behalf of you and your pet. As mentioned above, sometimes things like pet resumes, letters of reference, documentation from vets, and obedience class “diplomas” will be required by landlords. Start thinking about gathering up such documents when you start your search. If the landlord wants to meet your dog, make sure he’s well-groomed and well-behaved. There are even coaches out there who can help prep your dog for his interview. Also, promote yourself! Make sure your new landlord knows that you are a responsible pet parent. Let her know that you share her concerns about pet safety and cleanliness and that you’re willing to go the extra step to calm any concerns she might have.
Tell the Truth
My last piece of advice is to be honest!
Do not lie about owning a pet.
I have had a few clients who have tried to smuggle in small pets into “No Pets” buildings–after claiming to not have one–under the misconception that the neighbors or the building management won’t mind a small dog or a cat. Always a bad idea. It invariably leads to problems down the line, including having to move out.
If that happens, you’ll be faced with the search process all over again. Do things properly from the get-go and find you and your pet the perfect dog friendly rental apartment.