(LIVING WITH PETS) Finding a suitable apartment to rent is typically a big pain in the behind. But looking for one that accepts dogs? Good luck. Having a pet, especially a dog, limits apartment listings by two-thirds. Those that are left are often pricier and therefore out of reach of most renters, which forces some guardians to surrender their pets. Why do landlords make it so hard to live happily ever after with man’s best friend? Read on for more on the hardships faced by renters and their furry companions. — Global Animal
Frank P. Jaklitsch and Bandit, his Rhodesian Ridgeback, in the yard of a house for rent in Pelham Manor. Mr. Jaklitsch, who is house-hunting, says landlords “hear 'dog' and turn me down,” a not uncommon complaint. Photo credit: Michael Kamber for The New York Times

New York Times, Elsa Brenner

FRANK P. JAKLITSCH, 38, recently divorced and looking for a new home, has weekend visitation rights with his two children — a son, 4, and a daughter, 3 — and full custody of Bandit, the family dog, the latter being both a curse and a blessing. The problem is that even though his owner says he is no more ferocious than a kitty cat, Bandit is a 116-pound Rhodesian Ridgeback, and when prospective landlords meet him, they tend to cringe.

As befits his profession as a lawyer, Mr. Jaklitsch is skilled at negotiating — in this case for the amount of rent, whether the costs of heat, hot water and electricity are included, and certainly for any extra fees associated with having a dog in an apartment. But everywhere he turns, he said — to Craigslist, to a site called hotpads.com or to landlords themselves — the response to his inquiries so far has been a resounding “No!”

“They hear ‘dog’ and turn me down without even knowing anything about Bandit, who, despite his appearance, loves people, kids and even other dogs,” Mr. Jaklitsch said. But one item on his “where-to-live list” is not negotiable: the 5-year-old pet he has raised since puppyhood. The dog, he said, stays in the picture.

With a budget of $1,700 to $2,000 a month, he is in the market for a small house or a two-bedroom apartment — though, being in residential limbo at the moment, Mr. Jaklitsch has returned home to live with his parents in Pelham Manor. He is scouring any and all sources for rentals that permit dogs.

His situation is not uncommon. According to Louis Budetti, the broker-owner of ERA Insite Realty in White Plains and Yonkers, “Owning a dog eliminates about two-thirds of the available rentals.” 

“Especially in this economy, when fewer people are buying and more are renting,” Mr. Budetti added, “landlords are increasingly in the driver’s seat and, as a result, they can call the shots.” His agency has a division that handles several hundred rentals a year, from studio apartments to high-end house rentals. 

Another challenge for Westchester searchers is that many of the available rentals are in small properties with owner/landlords who often live in. Even if they accept a dog, many resident landlords require an extra month or more in rent as security, and an insurance policy to cover any damage done to the property or people. (Cats generally do not face such rigorous strictures, Mr. Budetti said.)

Prospective tenants have a decent chance of success if they offer a solid employment history, as well as letters of reference from neighbors and previous landlords for both themselves and the pet. “Sometimes I even recommend that the landlord meet the dog,” Mr. Budetti said. “In general, the better prepared you are, the better your chances.”

Would-be tenants with animals may do better in apartment complexes, a number of which actually court pets, although they tend to be the pricier alternative.

At 66 Main and the Lofts at Metro92, two rental complexes owned by Metro Partners in Yonkers, many of the tenants are young singles who want a dog or cat to come home to after work, said Jessica Torres, the leasing manager.

“Allowing pets, especially dogs,” she said, “affords us a competitive edge with this group.” So convinced is the management at 66 Main and Metro92 that it hosts parties for dogs and other pet-centric events. It does, however, charge a one-time fee of $250, for both dogs and cats.

AvalonBay — which has 180 apartment communities throughout the country, several in Westchester — keeps a stash of treats in its management offices and even organizes pool parties for its canine residents at the end of each summer season, said Mona Stahling, the company’s vice president for operations.

Not all breeds or sizes of dog are welcome. Both Metro Partners and AvalonBay exclude pit bulls and Rottweilers, among other breeds considered to be aggressive. In addition, Metro Partners sets the upper weight limit for dogs at 50 pounds; AvalonBay does not have a size limit.

As for more exotic pets, they are often subject to restrictions. AvalonBay, for instance, does not allow monkeys, ferrets, rabbits, snakes or other reptiles.

Both Metro Partners and AvalonBay are relatively expensive — about $2,400 for a two-bedroom unit at 66 Main in Yonkers and at Avalon Willow in Mamaroneck, for instance — and therefore out of reach for many renters. Mr. Jaklitsch, for one, said he questioned paying that much for an apartment.

Sometimes, as Jonathan Langsam, 45, discovered, finding the right place to rent comes down to luck.

At first Mr. Langsam, a single father of two who manages a restaurant at John F. Kennedy Airport and also has an energetic golden retriever, tried to make do in a 500-square-foot apartment. When that situation grew untenable, he did his homework, combing Craigslist and other Web sites and poring over ads in local newspapers.

After three months of dead-end leads, he happened to be passing by a for-rent sign in Pleasantville, learned that the house had been vacant for three months, and struck a deal with the landlord. (He was not specific about his rent, saying only that it was more than $2,000 a month.)

“Sometimes no matter what you do or how hard you try,” Mr. Langsam said, “it comes down to a matter of being in the right place at the right time.”

The Langsam family, along with Latte, their dog, are finally happily ensconced in a three-bedroom one-and-a-half-bath colonial, their frustrating search behind them.

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