Finding a decent rental property isn't easy, and it's especially hard when one of your family is four-legged. Owning a dog earns you the cold shoulder from many prospective landlords. And even if you strike it lucky and find a great place that allows you to keep the whole family together, your dog may become a hidden liability.
Did you know that if visitors are injured by your dog while on your rental property, you can be held liable for their medical, surgical, and legal bills, plus covering their loss of earnings? Scary isn't it? To make matters worse, insurance companies that once offered this kind of financial protection as part of renters insurance are wising up to the risk and some are no longer providing coverage. This could mean you are in the unenviable position of thinking you have coverage, when according to the small print, you don't.
You're looking for an ideal place to rent: in a safe neighborhood, near a good school, and with a yard out back. After weeks of searching you find it. So how do you convince the landlord that your four-legged friend is really Mother Teresa wrapped in fur? The answer is to think like a landlord and ask yourself what worries him.
From finding a place to rent to staying financially secure, here are 7 tips to take the headaches out of renting with your canine companion.
#1 Give Your Dog a Good Name
The property owner has responsibilities to other tenants and the neighbors. For instance, if your dog barks all night, then it's the landlord who gets an earful. So be proactive and prove your pooch is a model citizen.
How do you do this? Assemble a dog reference sheet, that's how.
Make a document that lists his good points, such as how he excelled at dog training class and visits senior citizens in a rest home once a month. Also, include a character statement from your previous landlord or the neighbors. A few cute pictures never did any harm, especially if they show him as part of the family and make it personal for the landlord.
#2 Show You are a Responsible Dog Owner
Statistics show that pet owners stay longer in one residence. This is great news for the landlord, as long as he is convinced you will make a responsible tenant. Again, prove to him that pet owners are above average when it comes to responsibility by showing him how organized you are.
Compile a file pertaining to your four-legger and his care. Assemble documents such as training certificates and his veterinary records, including vaccination, neutering, microchipping, and worming. The message you are giving is that you understand responsible dog ownership and are not about to let your pet run wild.
#3 Knowledge of State Law
A big worry for the prospective landlord is his liability if your dog bites someone. Prove to him that you are aware of and accept your liability under state law (which varies from state to state – so do your homework first).
Dog owners are currently in a double-whammy. While state laws are tightening up and canine liability insurance is mandatory in some areas, at the same time rental insurers are wising up to the financial risk and some are no longer covering dogs in the home. Demonstrate your knowledge of state law by taking out dog liability coverage.
#4 Dog Liability Insurance
Many landlords aren't prepared to take the risk of being liable if a tenant's dog bites someone on their property. In actual fact, you are usually liable as the dog owner, but the landlord may be afraid that you don't have the ability to cover a costly claim and he will get dragged into a financial dispute.
Ease his worries before they start by taking out canine liability coverage. Show the landlord the certificate of insurance. This proves to him that you are financially equipped to deal with a worst case scenario, which takes the pressure off him.
#5 Check and Double-Check
It used to be true that renters insurance covered dog bite liability, but things are changing. You may assume you are covered, but always read the small print – some policies offer only a low level of coverage, while others may exclude certain dog breeds. Never assume. Check and recheck the policy, and if necessary, take out additional coverage or go with a specific canine liability policy.
#6 Know Your Limitations
Again, beware of hidden liabilities. Be aware that canine liability coverage generally does not cover your dog if he is ill or injured. For this you may need separate pet health insurance. Nor does liability coverage generally pay for damage to the rental property (that is why you pay a deposit).
#7 Black-Listed Breeds
Most difficult of all is if you own one of the "dirty dozen" breeds that are counted as dangerous or prone to aggression. You may struggle to get coverage for your dog if he is a bully breed, including Rottweiler, Doberman, Chow Chow, German Shepherd or one of the other black-listed breeds.
Pets are part of the family, but renting with a dog can prove to be a headache when it comes to keeping that family together. By following these seven simple tips, you can prove to a landlord that you are a responsible dog owner and his ideal tenant, and you can all live happily ever after.