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Pet welcome mat: Follow common-sense advice to find willing landlord

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Pet owners can boost their chances of finding pet-friendly housing if they follow the suggestions outlined in a recent government guide.

According to a December 2011 Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. report, Manitoba has one of the lowest vacancy rates -- one per cent -- in the country. It's not a secret that finding a pet-friendly rental unit is even more difficult. Discussions between landlords, government and pet experts have yielded two reports meant to help both landlords and tenants. The goal is to increase pet owner acceptance in rentals.

One information guide, Renting with pets: Information for tenants, outlines common-sense advice renters can follow to put themselves at the top of any landlord's list of possible renters. The most important tip for experienced renters is to get references. The guide advises, "The best references for you and your pet are letters from previous landlords."

Those who've never rented before can't offer a landlord a reference, and your mom's reference doesn't quite cut it. In a case like this, it is recommended to ask your veterinarian to vouch for you and your pet. The letter should explain that you are a responsible owner, have regular vaccinations or treatments, visit your vet when your dog or cat is sick and that your pet behaves well.

The website also advises you to write a brief explanation of your pet's history. This should include both health and habits. And for dog owners, include any obedience training. It's considered an asset. Also provide contact information for your veterinarian and anyone who could care for your pet while you are on vacation or during an emergency.

To improve your rental chances the guide notes:

1. Start your pet-friendly housing search at least six to eight weeks in advance.

2. Remain flexible with possible locations and types of housing (house, apartment etc).

3. Allow the landlord to meet your pet (especially advised for dog owners).

4. If accepted, make sure you have written permission to have a pet.

A pet damage deposit may be requested. You should receive a separate receipt.

For those who currently live in a non-pet-friendly residence, never sneak in a pet. It can get you evicted. Not only would this get you kicked you out of a rental unit, but this act will affect your chances at getting a pet reference meant to better your odds at getting another rental spot. This advice is also pertinent for owners who have one pet and wish to get another. Always consult your landlord before you adopt or purchase a new pet.

As a person who has been an occasional landlord and former renter, I understand both sides of this issue. When renters approach, I have never rejected a pet owner. That doesn't mean I haven't been burned. My husband and I have had to repair baseboards, decking, furniture and lawns. That said, I'd never discourage landlords from renting to pet owners. Some of my best renters were responsible pet owners.

To improve landlords' chances of finding a responsible owner, consult the government website: Renting to Pet Owners: a guide for landlords.

The report shows pet-friendly policies improve occupancy rates and may attract good, long-term tenants. This guide shows that the key to successful renting hinges on clear guidelines and expectations of pet owners.

Landlords should decide ahead of time which types of pets they expect will work best for their units. It's advisable to visit pet stores or shelters and learn about pets' needs and habits.

Where applicable, landlords should ask pet owners for proof of permits or licences. Because there are varied rules in different cities or towns in Manitoba, consult your local government to determine rules. This is especially important for banned pets, like some dogs and certain types of snakes. People who'll break government rules are less likely to follow yours.

Numbers matter, too. In Winnipeg, there is a limit of three dogs and three cats. But landlords may not want to house six pets in a bachelor pad. This is where those shelter visits comes in handy. It will allow landlords to better balance pets' requirements against the space set to be rented. It arms landlords with real knowledge rather than mere assumptions.

The guide suggests landlords ask a myriad of questions and meet certain pets, especially dogs. Understanding renters better increases the chance of finding responsible owners.

Pet damage deposits are legal. Landlords can only charge one deposit per renter. The deposit cannot exceed half a month's rent.

Outlining expectations is important to provide pet-friendly housing. Renters should have guidelines that explain expectations regarding noise levels, waste disposal/habits and general care for the rental unit.

Whether you're a renter or landlord, greater understanding of each other's needs will lead to greater pet-friendly renting success.

For further information, consult these sources:



Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 31, 2012 C5

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