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A guide to finding housing for “Restricted breeds”
Finding rental housing can be tricky enough, but it can reach nightmare levels if you have a furry friend that’s been labeled a member of a “restricted breed,” a list that seems to grow longer and spread further every year. What exactly constitutes an “aggressive breed” anyway? The expression implies a pre-disposition to violence, so you’d think it would be the dogs who are most likely to bite someone, right? Not so much. The Journal of Applied Animal Behavior Science did a study of 33 breeds of dogs to determine the most likely to become aggressive. The article says, the most aggressive breed out of all 33 breeds studies was… (drum roll)… The Dachshund. That’s right, the wiener dog. The study found that “one in five dachshunds have bitten or tried to bite strangers, and a similar number have attacked other dogs; one in 12 have snapped at their owners.” Number two on the list was the Chihuahua, and Jack Russells came in third.
So where’s the Pitbull, Rottweiler, German Shepherd, and Doberman? Alas, the usual suspects are nowhere to be found. Nevertheless, they are the ones most commonly discriminated against on breed lists enforced by countless apartment complexes, leasing agencies, and insurance companies. Meanwhile, the dachshund of chihuahua fly completely under the radar….
The problem has a troubling effect. Austin Pets Alive reported that the number one reason people surrendered their pets in 2015 was due to housing breed-restrictions that left the families no choice other than to give up their beloved pup, resulting in over-crowded animal shelters. This is clearly a problem with no easy solution in sight, but in the meantime what can you do to find a place to live with your pet?
Since I’ve started doing real estate in 2014, I’ve found a few methods that better your chance of finding truly “pet-friendly” housing. If you’re looking for an apartment, there’s lists available of complexes that don’t have breed restrictions. Roscoe is one such growing apartment company. You can expect to pay a hefty pet deposit and fee, however – often around $400 refundable and another $400 non-refundable pet fee.
The group “Love-A-Bull” provides an awesome community resource and support network in the Austin area as well. I’m proud to be one of their preferred realtors and have helped a good number of their members overcome pet-restrictions and find housing. For a list of resources they provide, check their site here.
If you’re looking to lease a single-family home, duplex or townhouse, the path isn’t as clear and you will benefit from a realtor’s help. Finding a realtor who is willing to put in the extra time can be difficult, since there isn’t a lot of money to be made for agents leasing homes but if you can find a compassionate go-getting agent, here’s what I recommend…
First let them know what kind of place you need. A few basic search filters would include:
- How many beds/baths would you like?
- Maximum Price?
- Preferred part of town?
- Move in date?
- How many pets? Age and weight?
- Type of home? House, duplex, fourplex, condo, apartment, or all the above?
- Other preferences? (Need a washer/dryer, refrigerator, 1st floor only, are you using a guarantor, etc…)
Click here to read a summary of the process, but once your realtor plugs in these search items they will send you an email to access the MLS. This “MLS portal” will show you all the housing options currently listed that fall within your search.
I would also filter your search to remove homes that say: “cats only,” “under 25lbs,” “under 35lbs,” “under 50lbs,” as well as stating “breed restrictions” in the pet description. Many of the properties that remain on the list will still have breed restrictions, annoyingly, because often the listing agent will forget or simply fail to include it on the MLS… but it’s a good start. After you select your favorites options from there, your realtor will have to inquire with the listing agent to see if the landlords are willing to work with your situation. A lot of times their home owner’s insurance won’t allow certain breeds, which is frustrating but there’s nothing you to be done about those. For the rest, here’s some things I’ve found help some landlords get past their concerns:
- Offer to get renters insurance that covers pet liabilities.
It may not be necessary in the end, but it’s helpful to offer. This reassures them that if the nightmare scenario plays out of your dog escaping and rampaging the town, they won’t be on the legal hook (as much anyway).
- Get a friend or neighbor to write a quick letter/email testifying to the dogs good nature.
Letters of reference aren’t just for jobs and getting into college and they do help.
- Include Vet records.
In addition to showing that your dog is up-to-date on vaccinations and shots, it shows you are a pro-active and good dog parent.
- Include a cute photo.
Landlords who are “on the fence” almost always ask for a picture, so beat them to it and send one from the beginning. Something with your dog wearing a sweater or snuggling with kids is a bonus.
- Write a resume.
Introduce yourself and your family and give the landlord a better idea about your awesome family! This helps you jump off the page of an otherwise lifeless application. Include any details about training or events you’re dog has had or been a part of.
Outside of Austin and need help?
If you’re anywhere else in this wide-world, feel free to reach out and I may be able to offer a referral, otherwise you will need to ask around for an agent. Ask your friends for realtors they’ve used in the past, or Google and Yelp for highly-rated contenders. If you stuck looking on your own, it’s helpful to have a “script” ready to copy and paste to possible landlords and listing agents. With hundreds of possible housing options, it can be quite a labor of love to follow up on them so it definitely saves time. Here’s mine, from the agent’s perspective, of course. Edit yours accordingly:
“Hi, this is Wesley with JBGoodwin. Would your client at —(address)—— be open to approving a qualified individual with a friendly pitbull? They’d be happy to do a pet interview and are willing give an extra pet deposit if necessary, as well as acquire renters insurance that covers pet liabilities if that would help. They also have vet records and letters from neighbors testifying to the dogs gentle disposition. Thank you.”
Fill in the blanks and rinse/repeat. It’s a numbers game and you’ll get a lot more “no’s” than you’ll like, but persistence will pay off! I hope one day some type of dog personality test can be developed to allow dogs to prove that they’re not a threat and allow them to get the same opportunity as other dogs. In the meantime, the battle against breed discrimination is real.
Thanks for reading. Feel free to reach out and good luck!
WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN SEARCHING FOR A RENTAL HOME
Here is a quick guide I’ve put together for the leasing process. I hope it’s helpful! Please call or write me with any questions.
Steps to a successful home search:
- Have a realtor set you up a custom search for homes on the MLS. Select homes that look promising and let them know you’ve picked some favorites.
- Gather your supporting documents – Picture of your ID, a copy of a couple recent paystubs, pet records if applicable.
- Make arrangements with your realtor to meet up and tour your favorites homes.
- With your realtor’s help, put in an application at your chosen home. Pay the application fee and refundable security deposit.
- Wait for approval… (usually 2-4 days)
- Get approved! Sign the lease, get the key, do a walk-through, and move on in.
Taking a closer look at the steps…
Setting Up an MLS Search
During your real estate hunt, you should treat yourself to a link to the MLS (The Multiple Listing Service.) It’s the site Realtors use to list homes for sale and for lease, and where all the other popular websites like Zillow and Trulia get their information. While some other websites have nice features, they aren’t updated nearly as often often, so they will still show homes that have been sold or leased for several weeks… not at all helpful in a market that moves as fast as Austin!
A few questions to begin your search:-How many beds/baths would you like?-Maximum Price you’d like to include?
-Preferred part(s) of town?
-Move in date range?
-Any Pets? If so,what kind and how much do they weight?-Type of home? Single-family house, duplex, fourplex, condo, apartment, or all the above?-Any other preferences? (Need a washer/dryer, refrigerator, 1st floor only, using a guarantor, etc…)
Mark your favorite homes
Open the MLS link and mark any promising options with the heart or lightbulb icons to indicate they’re either a favorite or possible candidate. If you have any questions… like there is no picture of the backyard, or you want to make sure they include a refrigerator, I can call the listing agents to clarify and then we can make arrangements to go see whichever homes you’d like.
After our tour, whichever home you end up deciding 0n will ask for a few things, most commonly a picture of the front of your drivers license, and pictures of at least two recent paystubs for every working adult. If you don’t receive paystubs, you can use another other form of income verification like screenshots of bank statements, a recent tax form. If you’re just starting your job an employment letter will do the trick.
Some homes are vacant and available for us to drop-by pretty much anytime, while others are still occupied and will require anywhere from a couple hours up to a entire day’s notice, so be sure to mark every property you want to see or communicate them to me in advance, so I can make whichever appointments are necessary.
Depending who represents the home you choose, I’ll either send you an online application which you can fill out from your computer, or a link to the companies website. Their leasing company will charge an Application fee– usually around $50 each, and will usually ask that you bring a certified check to their office, unless they have the option to pay it online.
Many leasing companies will wait until after you’re approved to ask for the Security deposit, but some require it in advance along with the app fee. The security deposit is typically equal to one months rent, and it will be refunded at the end of your lease, minus any damages. Unless they have an online payment system, they’ll want both the app fee and security deposit as money order or cashier checks.
The Waiting Game
It usually takes 2-4 business days for companies to run your applications and get us an answer once we’ve delivered everything. The most common reason for delays are if they are unable to get a hold of your employer or current landlord, so give your boss and landlord a heads up that they may be getting in touch.
Most homes for lease require 3x the gross combined household income as the rent amount. So, if the home is renting for $1500, the combined income of all the tenants needs to be $4,500 or more a month.
–Credit and background check.
If your credit score has been damaged or has fallen below 600, they may decline you or ask for an extra security deposit. Some places are stricter than others, so it’s good to know where your score is in advance so we can double check to make sure they don’t have a minimum score policy, and will at least accept an extra security deposit. If you’re unsure of your score, check one of the free governmental credit sites for an update.
They may call your current and past landlords and see if there were any issues. -Background checks. This is what the app fee pays for, in addition to the credit check.
They may contact your employer to confirm your salary, and that you actually work there.
None of these issues are dead ends, but it’s always better for us to ask about any issues you may have before you pay the non-refundable app fees. If you think any of these factors may come up, please let me know so I can run it by them in advance. My job is to get you approved.
Home owners typically only accept applications for a start date within two weeks of the application date, or the day the home becomes vacant. (Owners don’t want their property to sit empty, waiting for someone to move in a couple months when they might find someone else to lease it right away.) This makes it tricky to look too far in advance, but occasionally homes will be listed several months out, so it’s always good to start looking sooner rather than later.
If you’re looking to move several months down the line, we can set your MLS portal to send updates as seldom as once a week or even once a month, so it doesn’t clog up your inbox too much. That’ll keep you in the loop until the time is right, at which point we can increase the frequency of the updates.
How do Realtors get Paid?
It doesn’t cost you anything to have a Realtor help you with your home search, so there’s no reason to not use the service. The home owner who is renting their home pays their broker to list and market their home, and part of that money goes to the agent who ends up representing the tenant they approve. It works the same at apartments, so if you end up finding an apartment or home on your own, please put our name on your application so we can get some compensation if we helped!
Wesley James Steck, JB Goodwin Realtors — 512-571-3180 — WesleySteck@JBGoodwin.com