The Holy Grail: Tips on Apartment Hunting with Pets in the San Francisco Bay Area!
Updated: Mar 13, 2021
In a city where dogs outnumber children, dog-friendly conveniences such as off-leash parks and pet-friendly restaurants have become selling points in some of San Francisco’s most beautiful neighborhoods. However, the struggle many pet lovers face is finding a landlord that loves their pets as much as they do.
As a relocation consultant at Move Bay Area, I regularly help individuals, couples, and families find homes with their furry (or feathery) friends. At this point, I’ve seen it all - dogs, cats, birds, and sometimes all three! However, when it came to finding a place for myself, my partner, and our two loving geriatric cats, I felt anxious about our ability to find the home of our dreams. With the rental market already daunting for the average renter, adding a pet or two into the mix can make the process that much more challenging. Landlords and owners often have misconceptions or bad experiences with pets. A pet-free tenant is more often than not, perceived to be preferable. You can quickly find yourself barking up the wrong tree if you are not honest and transparent with the landlord from the start. In the state of California, if the lease agreement specifically states no pets, the owner has a legal right to evict you if you violate these terms.
Maddie Moop, 17, Bay Area Native
Despite my ability to find other people lovely homes with their pets, when it came to house hunting for myself and my partner, myriad questions and concerns filled our minds with doubt. Will this limit our choices? How much of our wishlist are we willing to sacrifice? How much are we willing to pay in pet rent or a pet deposit? And most importantly, what happens if we can’t find a place? Suddenly a light bulb went on in my head - no wonder my clients pay me for this! This is such an emotional journey; having someone guide you along the way, clarify your priorities, and keep you focused on what matters is invaluable.
Jade and Molly, 12
After a few weeks of intense searching, we found a place that accepted our lovely cats. A beautiful, south-facing two-bedroom home in the East Bay with plenty of sunlight beaming through the front window for the cats to bask in. A mere $500 pet deposit was asked for each cat. We were all set, we found a home, and our pets were written into the lease.
For those who may be embarking on a similar journey, here are some tips on finding that special place with your furry ones. It worked for us and hopefully it will help you!
Tip 1: Understand your future landlords’ concerns
Most landlords fear tenants with pets. To a landlord, pets can mean irremovable odors, permanent stains, excessive noise, and even fleas. Misconceptions about pets often come from a previous bad experience or simply unfamiliarity. If you come across a unit that specifically states no pets, don’t be discouraged! This is your chance to market yourself as a responsible pet owner and your furry friends as well-mannered roommates.
Tip 2: Be prepared
Want to make miracles happen? A well-designed, comprehensive pet rental packet can go a long way. Remember, your competition is against tenants without pets. A typical pet resume, if you will, includes a detailed pet bio, a letter of recommendation, and current vet records. Now, while this may sound like your cat is applying for college, this preparation will set you apart from unprepared pet owners. The pet bio should be very detailed and debunk any misconceptions an owner may have about your pet or you as a pet owner. Be sure to not only add information about your pet’s training, temperament, and daily habits. Be sure to include who you are as a pet owner and how you plan to care for your pet if you do not work from home.
Yes, we're serious about that pet bio! (Source)
Tip 3: Act fast!
I recommend emailing your bio and pet bio to the landlord or property manager on the initial point of contact. It can help to offer a pet-deposit upfront to demonstrate the seriousness of your inquiry. The more information you provide, the easier it is for the homeowner to make an informed decision, and the less time you waste viewing units that won’t ever work out. This is a great way to begin building a relationship with your future landlord.
Alisa & Mojo, 2
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is pet rent? Why does it exist? How much does it usually cost?
Pet rent a nominal monthly fee to cover additional expenses incurred by pet-friendly buildings. Pet rent is added to your rental price and it typically costs between $25 - $125 a month. Generally, pet rent is required by apartment communities managed by companies rather than smaller individually owned units.
2. What is a pet deposit?
Individual landlords or apartment communities may ask for a pet deposit. This is intended to cover potential damages to the individual unit you are renting. In the state of California, a landlord cannot legally collect more than three months' rent, this includes the addition of a pet-deposit.
3. What are breed restrictions?
Often, apartment communities or individual owners will discriminate against larger dog breeds that are perceived to be aggressive and unsafe such as the - American Pitbull, German Shepherd, Doberman Pinscher, Rottweilers, and Mastiffs. Now while this may not seem legal, landlords in the state of California have a legal right to impose these restrictions.
4. What do I write in my pet's bio?
Create a detailed bio for yourself and your pet. Include a letter of reference from your current landlord or condominium association verifying that you are a responsible pet owner. As stated previously, provide answers to questions that a landlord may be concerned about such as temperament. Include written proof that your adult dog has completed a training class, or that your puppy is enrolled in one.
5. Should I be honest?
Never lie to a landlord about your pets. You can quickly find yourself barking up the wrong tree. Honesty is the best practice and can go a long way. If you are a responsible owner with well-mannered pets, it will show.
In all, be prepared and act fast. With the right mindset, you will be able to find the perfect home for you and your pet. If you are searching for the perfect backyard, a massive off-leash dog haven, or for a restaurant to bring your pet to on a sunny San Francisco weekend - check out these great dog-friendly San Francisco neighborhoods we recommend to pet lovers!
Noe Valley / Castro - these are neighborhoods where it is nearly impossible to find a place that doesn’t allow you to just stroll in with your dog next to you.
Sunset District - walking distance to Golden Gate Park and Ocean Beach. This area is comprised of mostly single-family homes with yards. I’ve always said, I want to make enough money to give my pet a backyard to play in.
Bernal Heights - With plenty of off-leash dog parks and pet-friendly businesses, this is a paradise for dogs and their owners. This is the only place in the city where you can bring your dog to the gym. I shih tzu not.