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Tips on finding a pet-friendly rental

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Nancy Simmons Starrs is president and founder of Apartment Detectives, a D.C., Maryland and Northern Virginia apartment search service. She writes an occasional column on rental issues.

Having pets can dramatically reduce your choices of rental homes. Regular rental properties that do allow pets typically have size and breed restrictions.

Condo and coops that allow pets typically have size restrictions. In general, most properties will not allow more than two pets per apartment.

Rental properties and individual owners will typically charge a pet fee or pet deposit up front. This is also sometimes called a pet move-in fee.  Pet fees and deposits can range from $250 to $750. They can also charge a monthly pet rent. Monthly pet rents can range from $25 to $75 per animal. At those rates, you are probably contemplating calling Purina or Iams to see if you can get your pet on a commercial to help pay the costs. The landlords charge a fee because they are taking risk that their property could be destroyed and they have to be prepared in case that happens.

Having a cat is a slightly less difficult than having a dog.

Individually owned properties are a good route to try when you have larger dogs or dogs that are a restricted breed. In either case, with an individual landlord, you want to be prepared with enough information to put the potential landlord’s fears to rest about accepting your pet.

Here are some tips:

• Bring your vet records. Any landlord in a rental building or an individual owner will want to see your pet’s recent medical records. They will need to see that your pet is updated on shots, is safe to live in the community and that you are a responsible pet owner. If you have these with you when you are viewing rental homes, this will show you are a responsible pet parent.

• Show landlord references for your pet and yourself. This is especially important with individual landlords. Having prior landlords write a positive reference letter about you as a tenant will go a long way. A reference should include how you were as a tenant and the state of the property when you moved out.

It would also be a benefit if it would include how well behaved your dog was during the term of your lease. If prior landlords won’t write a reference letter for you, their e-mail or phone contact information will suffice.

Pet references can come from your friends, your vet, your dog trainer or anyone who has spent time with your pet in any capacity. It can be anyone who can relay that your pet is well behaved and a landlord’s dream to have as a tenant. A reference letter is best, especially from someone who has worked with your pet like a trainer, vet, pet walker or pet sitter.

• Create a pet resume. It is a good idea to create a resume for your pet. Be sure to mention any training it has had. If your pet has done work as a therapy dog, even better, but this is not mandatory.

Tell them something wonderful about your pet’s personality. A picture of your pet is a good idea. Add any references for your pets to this resume. Mention your pet’s age and activity level and any positive breed traits that will make your pet the ideal tenant. Let the landlord know if your pet is spayed or neutered.

Mention what happens to your pet when you go to work. If you have a pet that is of a higher activity level, tell the landlord what you do to manage that so they are assured that your pet’s behavior will be fine in your absence. Explain that you always clean up after your dog. This will help the landlord put aside his fears and come to understand that your pet will be a perfect furry tenant.

Previously from Nancy Simmons Starrs:

How to land a great rental in the competitive D.C. market