Cat in a "no pets" apartement
June 15, 2014 7:27 AM   Subscribe

I moved to a new city and am renting a cool place. The catch is "no pets". My parents are taking care of my cat but I miss him terribly. My landlord lives in another country and never checks up on the place. Would it be a terrible idea to fly my cat over here without my landlord's knowledge? What's the worst that can happen?
posted by sabina_r to Human Relations (28 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Have you asked your landlord specifically if you, specifically, can have your specific cat?

I'm living in a "no pets" apartment with a dog right now. When I moved in, I told my landlord, look, I NEED to have a dog in my life, so if I can't have a dog here I can't move in. He'd rather have me with a dog than have to keep looking for someone responsible to fill the apartment.

Of course, it's kind of a gamble, and I was 95% sure he would say OK, and in the small chance he said no I was ready to walk away. YMMV.

I would not bring a secret pet in if you have explicitly agreed to no pets unless you want eviction proceedings brought against you. My brother was thisclose to getting kicked out of his apartment a few years ago when he brought home a dog. (My parents had to take it at the 11th hour.)
posted by phunniemee at 7:39 AM on June 15, 2014 [5 favorites]

Sneaking in the cat is a bad idea. Knowingly and intentionally breaking your lease can open you up to being fined, evicted, or sued if your cat causes property damage.

So, yeah, those are some pretty negative consequences. Don't sneak in the cat. It's not right, and it's not worth it. (And as someone who has helped to manage a property before with a reasonable 2 pet limit, it was infuriating to have residents who would break the rules and have pets that caused damage.)

Them's the breaks when you own pets. Some landlords just do not want to deal with allergens and property damage that comes with having pet owners in their property.

I would suggest you handle it the right way- go to the landlord or manager, ask if you can bring in the cat, explain how important it is to you, and offer to pay an additional deposit as well as pet rent. By that, I mean offer the deposit and rent up front. Ask around other complexes to see what's reasonable- for example, out on the west coast, I'm paying $400 as a deposit and $40 per month now for my cats.

Also, the smaller your complex, the more likely the landlord might give on the rules, especially if you offer extra money. Those monolithic corporations rarely give on rules, but a single landlord might. It's worth a shot to ask!
posted by Old Man McKay at 7:42 AM on June 15, 2014 [5 favorites]

I, also, had a dog in a no pets apartment. I offered the landlord a $200 nonrefundable damage fee. I lived there 3 years with no problem and also received a 'dog reference' when I left because the dog caused absolutely no damage.
posted by donaken at 7:44 AM on June 15, 2014 [7 favorites]

Depends on the legality. But even if they can't technically evict you for having a pet (same as they can't in Toronto) it could still cause you issues down the line - neighbours more in touch with the landlord than you may mention it, for instance.

You could risk it, but I'd put aside extra money for repairing any damage your cat may cause, which can double as your 'moving fund' if they find out. I'd risk it if it were me, but I don't know the legality of where you live.
posted by Brockles at 7:44 AM on June 15, 2014

See if you can find out if other tenants have pets. If they do, then it should be safe for you to bring your kitty, but it's a good idea to keep it on the down-low. We've had 3 successive "no pets" apartments now, and we've never had a problem keeping our kitty, but we don't mention it to the caretakers if we can avoid it. It means hiding kitty away if the caretaker has to enter your apt., but it's workable. Good luck!
posted by Koko at 7:44 AM on June 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Agreed that sneaking him in would be bad, but could there be some impending reason your parents can no longer take care of your cat, and maybe use that as a way to open the door to an exception?
posted by jferg at 7:44 AM on June 15, 2014

I think I've mentioned this somewhere before, but one of my former landlords had extremely severe cat allergies. I believe they could cause him to have ER-worthy asthma attacks. He let me foster a rescue cat because he was a nice guy, but he had our apartment professionally scoured clean after we moved. So, that'd be one thing to consider. If I had very bad cat allergies, I'd be pissed if I moved into a pet-free apartment, only to find the previous tenants had a cat, anyway.

Also, my cats are permitted on our current lease, but one of them developed worsening health issues, and has made uncountable disgusting messes in the last few months. I suspect we'll be on the hook for replacing the carpet, if our hypervigilant cleaning measures don't work well enough. We really can't afford to replace a carpet. We can barely afford all the cleaning supplies that it takes to keep up with her. Paying for that kind of damage after sneaking in a disallowed pet, might have worse consequences.
posted by Coatlicue at 7:54 AM on June 15, 2014 [5 favorites]

The time to do this is before you sign the lease, but here's what we've done with great success in each of our "no pet" apartments:

*Create a pet resume for your cat(s). The goal is to convey the sense that you are a very responsible pet owner, and your cat is a pet that will not damage their space. It should include an adorable picture of your cat, brief description of him/her as well as the following information:
- Who takes care of the cat when you're out of town (actually name the catsitter and/or the boarding place, even if you have to pick one off yelp)
- Name of the vet, address and phone of the vet
- References of previous landlords that will serve as your cat's character references. If you have never done this before, you may need to get your parents to do this, but don't say they're your parents.

We have a 100% success rate on this, occasionally paired with offering an increased deposit. Usually they start by offering something like $250 or something non-refundable, I counter by offering double but fully refundable if there is no sign of feline presence when we move out.

Oh, and for next time - have several printed out pet resumes that you take with you in person. Don't do this over the phone, but after you've done a tour of the place and are ready to apply for the apartment, ask them about whatever you need to ask about including pets and physically hand them the pet renter's resume while explaining what a dutiful cat guardian you are.

Now that the cat is already out of the barn - I'd email the landlord and ask for permission and offer an increased deposit. I would not mention that you already have the cat and it is waiting at your parent's house.
posted by arnicae at 8:13 AM on June 15, 2014 [13 favorites]

This really, really depends on where you live. Landlords love to put 'no pet' clauses on leases, even in jurisdictions (like Toronto, where I live, mentioned above) where it is flat-out illegal to do so.

Consult your local landlord/tenant authority for clarification first. Then just straight up ask your landlord. If it's legal to forbid, and if you sneak it in (thereby breaking the lease), you can be in for a peck of trouble.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:19 AM on June 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yes, it really depends on your location. As fffm mentions, there are places in Canada as well as the US in which lease clauses forbidding pets are either illegal or unenforceable, and therefore your landlord would have no leg to stand on if you had your cat in the apartment (aside from refusing to renew your lease when the term expires). I would google yourcityname + pet clause + rental lease and see what comes up before making any final decisions.
posted by elizardbits at 8:24 AM on June 15, 2014 [3 favorites]

Oh here's another tip - does LL own the rest of the apts in the building? I'd try to determine if anyone else has pets. If not, expect there is a non-zero chance they'll rat you out if they hear the cat meowing or anything.
posted by arnicae at 8:24 AM on June 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

I would ask and offer to pay a pet deposit fee.

Datapoint: I rent a NO PETS home and my landlord is just fine with me having FOUR cats (what can I say; Kinetic Jr. has a tendency to rescue critters and I can't say no.)
posted by kinetic at 8:27 AM on June 15, 2014

If you sneak a cat in you will never be able to request any repairs on your apartment without fear of discovery.
posted by bigbigdog at 8:37 AM on June 15, 2014 [8 favorites]

I would not sneak the cat in, especially if you are going to go through the trouble of flying him to you - if it didn't work, you'd have to fly him back. I can't imagine that would be good for him.

I would contact the landlord and explain that this is a family adult cat - emphasize that it is not a kitten - that needs a home and that you would be willing to pay an additional security deposit for him to stay with you. I have done the extra security deposit for my cat with success at what was supposed to be a "no pets" apartment. If you have proven yourself to be a good tenant so far, most landlords will work with you.
posted by NoraCharles at 8:41 AM on June 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Agreed that it is risky, and you should check the laws of your area before proceeding, and be prepared to accept any consequences .... but in some places it may be a more reasonable risk than others.
posted by Koko at 8:44 AM on June 15, 2014

You could also get a prescription for an emotional support animal. If you don't have a local doctor who can write the prescription for you, there are many places online that will get you one for a small fee. You could also offer to pay an additional security deposit.

With cats, most landlords are scared of potential messes outside of the box (cat urine is a pain to clean, especially if it gets into the subfloor). I would emphasize that your cat has fastidious litter box habits if you talk to your landlord.
posted by Ostara at 8:47 AM on June 15, 2014

Going against the grain here: absentee landlords aren't in the habit of suing/evicting people who pay the rent on time IME, and in most places I've lived having an animal isn't an automatic eviction (usually refusal to remove one was though). If this were a dog I'd say no, talk to the landlord, because you'll be walking it several times a day through the common areas where everyone can see. But a cat? I don't think I've ever lived in any apartment building that didn't have cats in the windows, regardless of what the lease said.

For a dog I'd clear it with the landlord first but this seems to fall into the better to ask forgiveness than permission department to me. Obviously assuming your cat isn't going to shred and pee on everything.
posted by bradbane at 8:54 AM on June 15, 2014

You could also get a prescription for an emotional support animal. If you don't have a local doctor who can write the prescription for you, there are many places online that will get you one for a small fee.

Please don't follow this advice unless you really truly have some kind of documented issue. Missing your cat is one thing, but needing the comfort of a companion or therapy animal in order to function is something else entirely.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 9:06 AM on June 15, 2014 [16 favorites]

Some landlords "no pets" rule really only means No Dogs. Some landlords have a no pets rule so that it is easier to evict a tenant whose pet becomes a nuisance. Dogs are the usual target of a no pets rule because they bark and disturb the other tenants.

Talk to your landlord before you bring the cat in. Make sure it is okay with the landlord. He may just laugh and tell you sure if it is a quiet cat.

The worst that could happen is that your landlord lets himself into your apartment while you are out so that he can deal with some emergency repairs such as a flood and your cat disappears as a result.

Again, nightmare fuel, but if the apartment has had an animal with distemper in it, it is not safe for you to bring your cat in until over a year has passed. (At least that was the current veterinarian advice back when the subject last came up for me.) Your landlord could have come up with the no pets rule because of something like this. Much easier for him to say "No pets" than to admit that "The apartment is possible infected but not to worry at all, it will only kill cats." This is totally, totally unlikely but who wants to worry about it?

Clear it with your landlord first and make sure that you are prepared to lose a large damage deposit. It took our cat one week with a kidney infection to destroy our downstairs floors. Three of them need to be replace entirely because the hardwood is now warped and discoloured. Even a wonderfully well behaved quiet cat can wreck havoc if it gets sick.
posted by Jane the Brown at 10:10 AM on June 15, 2014

We don't have enough information to tell you what will happen if you bring in the cat. But, to be honest, I would be concerned about flying the cat. It's very stressful for them, and things can go very wrong.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 10:57 AM on June 15, 2014

In my renting experience, "no pets" was there to make inter-neighbor pet related squabbles easy. Dogs causing complaints? Lease says no pets. Problem solved.

I have never seen nor heard of a landlord preemptively making someone get rid of a pet unless a situation escalated to having to do something. Even minor damage is recoverable.

I'd say after a few months of showing you're a good tenant, you should be able to tell this same story to the landlord, promise the cat is well-behaved, offer a deposit, and not have a problem getting at least a "well, what I don't know won't hurt me <wink wink>" kind of answer.
posted by ctmf at 1:22 PM on June 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

I just emailed the landolord to ask, offering to pay a pet bond. Fingers crossed!
posted by sabina_r at 3:28 PM on June 15, 2014 [5 favorites]

Several years ago I snuck an illicit pet into a no-pets apartment--and got told on by the cable lady! The building management offered cash rewards to anyone (but mostly directed at utility and other service workers) who reported a violation. This was a corporate landlord situation, so maybe not the same situation you're living in, but something to keep in mind all the same.
posted by rhiannonstone at 3:31 PM on June 15, 2014

In Australia, "no pets" is kind of a bullshit rule that is either loosely or strictly enforced, depending on your landlord/real estate agency. I've been in a couple of places that are "no pets" and I've had a cat or two (depending on when it was) and the worst that I've had is "You need to put this in writing to see if the owner approves" and then I just didn't put it in writing and it was forgotten about by everybody. But now, we don't move if we can't find a place that allows our cats, or we move into a shittier place so the cats can come with us. I'd never make that compromise. If my cats can't come, then I don't move. If that means I have to live in a horrible shithole with a useless, unresponsive landlord, then so be it, as long as the kitties are okay.
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:54 PM on June 15, 2014

I find enough surprise, we're coming into your apartment notices on my door for the next day that I wouldn't risk it. Ditto if you have an unexpected disaster like a flood.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:52 PM on June 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Some anecdata: I adopted a cat in grad school; we inherited him from a fellow student who had to give him up because they lived in no-pet housing. Landlord was known to be somewhat lax in paying attention but inflexible about known infractions. I'm a bit hazy on the dates, but I think they'd lived there 2.5 years and he was about 2 years old, i.e. they'd had him there 2 years without landlord problems. But then the landlord found out and gave them a choice: give up the cat, or move out (including substantial lease-break fees). They didn't have to pay a fine/fee at the time, but I think the landlord tried to screw them over on deep cleaning fees when they moved out a couple of years later.
So, say you move your cat in without telling the landlord. Landlord finds out. I think that there's not a legal way for the landlord to charge you a "you broke the rules" fine. But, you can have cleaning fees or other fees against your security deposit, you can have the cat evicted and have to send it back to your parents, or you can be evicted (bad for your credit rating, your ability to get another apartment, your sanity, and you lose all deposits). So the worst case is pretty bad, but not really that likely.
posted by aimedwander at 7:25 AM on June 16, 2014

It depends on where you live. In Ontario, for example, 'no pet' clauses are void and unenforceable.
posted by hepta at 12:39 PM on June 16, 2014

Well, after talking to the owners and thinking about it for a few days, my real estate agent said YES!!

I am very glad I asked and done it the right way. Now I am putting my kitty on the first plane :)
posted by sabina_r at 5:07 AM on June 17, 2014 [9 favorites]

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