By Isabel Alvarez
I am in the process of moving. Between my small home business, my dogs and my many hobbies, I have officially outgrown my one-bedroom condo.
I started the process of finding a slightly larger place around the holidays. Apart from the obvious issues with our area’s high rents, small spaces, parking challenges and so on, I ran into trouble trying to find a place that would affordably welcome my two dogs.
As a pet sitter, I spend a lot of time in other people’s homes. I understand that some pet parents will allow a perfectly manicured carpet to become a toilet, look away when a kitchen cabinet becomes a chew toy and learn to tolerate their dog’s incessant barking.
And I don’t blame landlords for avoiding families unable or unwilling to properly look after their property. They have to protect their investments. Likewise, I don’t question their need to keep potentially dangerous dogs out of their community. They must abide by the policies set forth by their association or management company, as well as those mandated by the local government.
Furthermore, I don’t think that a significant pet security deposit would be out of line. I do, however, question the reluctance to consider an applicant merely because they share their life with a fur-kid. And I feel that raising monthly rent on a pet owner simply because they have a pet is abusive.
Not all pet parents are the same. Sure, many of us would like to have a tidier home that is not covered in pet hair. But the majority of pet owners take pride in our pets, our homes and our families’ quality of life. We maintain our homes, raise our pets with care and do our best to respect our space and community. We also vacuum a lot.
As a landlord, I accept pets into my rental property. I ask questions about the pet’s size, age, possible aggression, crate training and so forth. I also ask to meet the pet if the potential tenant is looking to move forward. I recognize that pets are, as we all are, individuals. I therefore treat them as such.
Take my dogs, for example: Titan and Sox have been potty trained for years. Doing their business in the house is not an option. They fully understand that they are to hold it until we go outside. They are so diligent in their commitment to this house rule that they would make themselves ill before having an accident in the house. In this case, I almost wish they weren’t so well trained.
Additionally, other than their ritual feeding dance, which happens for about two minutes twice a day, my dogs lounge on the couch or on their beds when they are indoors. They rarely bark, chew only what’s acceptable and respect all boundaries, even when watching neighborhood dogs walk by from the comfort of our balcony. I know them well enough to know they are dying to kick off a barking contest — but they don’t. They simply know better.
I found myself explaining my dog’s proper upbringing to many of the potential landlords I contacted. Yet, I quickly realized that they were reluctant to listen — either outright against the idea of letting pets onto their property or only willing to accept them with an astronomical monthly fee.
As a proud pet parent navigating the dismal process of pet housing discrimination, I couldn’t help but think about my friend’s 2-year-old son, who recently pooped on the carpet because he refused to use the potty. I thought about another friend’s kids: They removed the dirt from a potted plant and smeared it all over the living room.
Pets get a bad rap because of irresponsible pet parents, but they usually are no more dangerous to private property than a child with a crayon and a vivid imagination. They cause no more wear-and-tear than a house full of kids with dirty sneakers. And they certainly make less noise than the screeching baby that recently moved in across the hall. Just ask my dogs — they were terrified.
After this lengthy and discouraging process, I can’t help but ask: Are landlords charging child rent or kid fees? Of course not, that would be illegal.