You have a special kitty who has been traveling with you for months or years before setting up your next (or current) rental place. You and your beloved cat are the dynamic duo and you wouldn't dream of living somewhere without your feline friend. There's just one catch: the housing crisis makes finding well-placed pet-friendly living harder than it used to be. Your current or potential landlord may not be thrilled about the idea of your cat, or they may have specifically said that pets aren't generally welcome in the rental home.
Don't panic. Before you start thinking about sneaking in your beloved cat as a little fugitive in the apartment or house, remember that landlords are people, and people can often be persuaded with good manners and a good pitch. If you're worried about your kitty's tenancy approval, we can help. At least one of the six following tips can help you convince your current or future landlord to accept your beloved cat as your official feline roommate. Without having to sneak them into the home in a cat carrier disguised as kitchen supplies.
1) Check the Lease Terms
Before you take any drastic steps, take a look at your lease. It's actually possible that this is a non-issue and your cat will be legally welcome as long as he or she is well-behaved and doesn't cause any damage to the home.
- Cats May Already Be Allowed
The terms of the lease are more important than anything your landlord says in passing or writes in the home description. So check the terms of the lease. Many 'boilerplate' leases that have pet restrictions actually do still allow small well-behaved cats. This is because cats tend to -- overall -- be lighter weight and less destructive than dogs.
If your lease doesn't mention pets at all, then pets are not banned and you may be fine. If your only mentions dog restrictions, then your cat is legally fine. Your lease might even specifically permit a tenant cat.
- Lease Terms are Legally Binding
Remember that the lease terms are what you (and your landlord) are legally bound to obey. You follow what it says in the lease first, then whatever details your landlord wants to request. But if your lease says you can have a cat (or doesn't disallow cats) then your landlord can't legally penalize you or kick you out for keeping your kitty.
2) Ask Politely - As Early as Possible
Okay, so let's say your lease wasn't on your side. It's not too late to make a change. You might be able to get your cat through the door on good manners alone. Remember; landlords are people and can often be swayed by being asked nicely. Especially if you show every courtesy in making their rental house a home for your kitty.
Try to ask as early ahead as possible so you can move in with your cat and have a chance to alter lease terms before signing. Here's how to pave the way for a change of heart and lease:
- No Pet Surprises
Never surprise your landlord with the presence of your feline companion. Be sure to always ask ahead of time before bringing a pet on the premises. This is just good manners; after all, you wouldn't bring a pet to a friend's house without asking first, right?
Always ask ahead of time, as politely and formally as you can. Let your landlord know that you and the cat move together and it would be great if they'd approve your sweet well-behaved cat as a pet-tenant before you move in. Many landlords will say yes even if you don't expect them to. Especially if you show them every courtesy and cooperate with any little extras they may ask for. We'll cover those little extras further down.
- A Chance to Change the Lease
The other important reason to ask ahead of time is a chance to change the lease. The lease is legally binding and it's best if all terms are hammered out before you sign. That said, if your cat is coming to live with you after the lease is signed, it is possible to 'update' a lease on an addendum document signed by both you and the landlord.
3) Introduce the Landlord to Your Cat - Kitty Tenant Interview
For many landlords, meeting a pet can make or break a pet tenancy agreement. Landlords can tell a lot about a pet (or think they can) by meeting them and judging the animal's personality and behaviors. So handle this in a friendly way: Invite your landlord to meet your kitty before they approve him/her as a new pet tenant.
If you're arranging for a new home, you already need a few in-person meetings with your landlord to tour the place and sign papers. During the lead-up, mention that you have a cat that will be moving with you and offer to let your landlord meet the kitty before closing on the lease. Many landlords will be delighted to take you up on the offer and hold your cat for a few minutes when you come to tour the house or apartment.
A sedate and well-behaved cat is most likely to win the heart and confidence of your landlord and get permission for your kitty to move in.
4) Offer to Pay a Little Extra
The traditional way to deal with landlord fear of pets is just to pay more. Landlords are worried your pet will cause damage they'll have to pay to repair. Some are worried that pets will increase the wear-and-tear on a home faster than they've calculated for. You can usually offset these fears simply by volunteering to pay pet deposits and fees upfront. In fact, a little extra willingness to add a pet-deposit or pet-rent clause to the lease can change the minds of otherwise anti-pet landlords in some situations.
- Pet Deposits
The pet deposit is a classic way to deal with both welcome and half-welcome pets. The best type of pet deposit is the refundable kind. Like your security deposit, a refundable pet deposit is held just in case the pet causes damage that your landlord must pay to fix. And when your cat does no damage to the home, you get the deposit back on move-out.
However, non-refundable pet deposits (AKA: flat pet fee) are also very normal, so be prepared for either type.
- The 'Pet Rent' Increase
Some landlords would rather you simply pay a little more each month for your additional furry roommate. If you don't mind spending between $10 and $30 a month to keep your kitty in the rental home, then this can be a very workable bargaining option for landlords who are hesitant about pet residents in their rental homes.
5) Make Your Case with Documentation
Some landlords need more than to just see that your cat is well-behaved meeting strangers. Landlords who like to have everything documented and proven with a paper trail will appreciate seeing your cat's documentation and proof of good behavior before they approve cat-tenancy. Especially if they are making a special exception just for you and your cat.
Do everything you can to put together documentation on how awesome, reliable, and well-behaved your cat is as a roommate.
- Kitty Rental History
If your cat was a person, documentation-landlords would want to see their rental history. Instead, you share a rental history with your furry buddy and can use your own rental history as proof that the cat is well-behaved if you've been living and renting together for a few years.
Make a pitch to your landlord using your own rental history to prove that you have had no security deposit deductions (or normal minimal deductions) in the past few years and no negative comments or actions on your rental history in the years you've lived with your cat. This will show that the pet is well-behaved enough to not have offended previous landlords.
- Cat Medical Records
Get a copy of your cat's medical records from the vet. This doesn't really speak to your pet's behavior, but it can prove that they are healthy, fixed, chipped, and free of pests and parasites. In fact, a pet's consistent medical record proves more about you as a responsible pet owner than it does about your cat. A landlord wants to see that your pet is well cared for and that you would respond responsibly to any signs of illness or problem-behaviors your pet might display during your shared tenancy.
Plus, having extra paperwork on a pet just makes some landlords feel better.
- Plenty of Scratching Posts
Don't forget to mention that you've got cat-boredom covered with plenty of scratching posts and toys to play with. Some landlords are keenly aware that bored and lonely cats are more destructive than well-entertained cats. So show off your cat tree and assure your landlord that the kitty will have plenty to do other than scratch up the walls or sharpen their claws on the carpet.
6) Register Your Cat as an Emotional Support Animal
If your cat is genuinely helping you keep your emotions and sanity together (as they so often do) then you may be able to have them registered as an emotional support animal. This is a special kind of medically necessary pet, kind of like a seeing-eye-dog, that is exempt from many pet restrictions in rental homes and apartments.
To have your cat become an emotional support animal, you will first need to have a doctor or psychiatrist certify that pet ownership is necessary to your mental health, and that this pet is providing you the needed support. You will then need to register your cat as an on-record emotional support animal so that the paperwork holds up when you go to apply for rental homes and negotiate leases.
Landlords cannot legally turn away an emotional support animal.
Explore Your Rental Alternatives
Finally, be ready to look for home alternatives. This is normally where guides tell you to get a lawyer and fight your landlord for the right to keep your cat. But honestly, you don't really want to live in the midst of a legal battle with your landlord, or where your cat is so unwelcome that legal action is necessary. Do everything you can to persuade your landlord in a friendly and official way. Offer to pay extra, prove your cat is safe for the home, and obey the written policy of the lease.
But ultimately, if your cat is unwelcome, you're better off finding a landlord that can accept that you and the cat are a packaged set. Start looking for other rental opportunities with landlords and maybe even roommates who are cool with cat-ownership and don't need a lawyer to convince them that your beloved kitty is a trustworthy companion.
Here at Vertical Rent, we love your cat. Okay, we've never met your cat, but we can help you find a home, landlord, and roommates who will love your cat as much as you do. Some landlords need to be reassured that your cat is well-behaved. Some need a little incentive to take the pet-tenant risk. But ultimately, we know you can find a landlord who will be happy to have both you and your cat as a perfectly matched pair of great tenants. For more rental insights or help finding the perfect next place for you and your feline companion, contact us today!