2 dogs + 2 cats = rental nightmare?
March 30, 2007 7:53 AM   Subscribe

My boyfriend and I are moving to suburban Chicago with our 2 dogs and 2 cats. How best to find a home to rent that will be pet friendly?

When we first moved in together (in Milwaukee), we had a devil of a time finding a place that would take his two dogs. They are german shepherd/chow/??? mixes, 45-50 lbs apiece. Most places I called, even though they had "dogs OK" in their ads, just said "no" when I described the dogs. I guess they were expecting Chihuahuas.

They're extremely friendly and well-trained, to the point that they obey a 2-year old nephew who can pronounce "sit" and "down." They don't bark except when they're outside and another dog passes by. Even then, it's a "Hey, can I sniff your butt?" kind of bark, and they know the command "SHUT UP!"

Currently we live in a duplex near a university, and I guess the landlord felt that two 30somethings + two dogs + 1 cat (the kitten came later) was a better bet than a gaggle of undergrads. Even so, he was still pretty reluctant until he actually met the dogs. When we move to Chicago, we'd prefer to rent a single-family house, but I'd prefer not to go through the dozens of phone calls that end as soon as I give the dogs' breed and weight. Is there an easier way?

(Postscript: The cats have actually been far more destructive to our current residence, and we know we're going to have to replace a few things. If we list our current landlord as a reference, do you think he'd disclose this?)
posted by desjardins to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Craig's list "Housing Wanted", maybe they will call you.
posted by lee at 8:02 AM on March 30, 2007

Where in Chicago? If you're willing to consider the North Riverside/Brookfield area (less than five minutes from the end of the blue line at Forest Park), get ahold of me. My extended family is trying to decide what to do with my grandmother's house, which is totally pet friendly, and would love to have some tenants.
posted by klangklangston at 8:11 AM on March 30, 2007

some neighborhoods ban certain breeds (chows?)
posted by Salvatorparadise at 8:13 AM on March 30, 2007

Best answer: I have two dogs, and I eventually ended up buying partly because renting with dogs is just plain difficult, especially in college towns, and you end up making all sorts of other compromises because some slumlord allows pets.

Given that, I would suggest describing the dogs as "medium-sized mutts". Both german shepherds and chows set off aggressive breed warnings in many people's heads, and although 45-50 lbs is big for some, it is medium in doggie terms. If they've been to formal obedience training, stress that. Offer to put down an extra pet deposit.
posted by donnagirl at 9:15 AM on March 30, 2007

Chicago-specific advice: I'm not sure if it will be as easy in the suburbs (you don't say where) as it would be in the city, simply because there are not that many SFH rentals in the first place, although there will surely be between some and many depending on where you settle. It is pretty easy in the city; I have rented houses with dogs and it's pretty much the same as renting apartments with dogs - you just have to look at a lot of listings and make a lot of calls and demonstrate that your pets aren't going to trash the place and that you are going to pay for the damage they do and the wear and tear that they cause. That's pretty much the same everywhere, although it is so common for people to have dogs and/or cats and rent around here that it is probably not as big of a deal as places where you pretty much need to own to have pets.

I don't think that, either in the city or in the suburbs, it would be as hard as it sounds like it was in Milwaukee. It would be very easy in most neighborhoods of the city, but "the suburbs" are so diverse in culture and housing stock (and, to some extent, in other ways, too), it's really hard to say until you can provide a better idea of where you're looking. I would still start with The Reader and Craigslist, but they might not be as useful in, say, Elgin, as would more localized searches and word of mouth.
posted by jcwagner at 9:26 AM on March 30, 2007

Define "suburban" first. I live in a suburb of Chicago that is still pretty rural, and few landlords here would think twice at your pet situation.

I think the farther out you go, the better your chances, especially where the houses are on large lots where your [gorgeous!] doggies can spend part of their days outside.

And to further the advice about describing your dogs - I would leave out any mention of your dogs being part Chow. In my experience, Chows are the worst shedders on the planet. If I were a landlord, I'd rather have a watchful German shepherd in residence than a hairy beast like a Chow.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 10:05 AM on March 30, 2007

Best answer: As a landlord who has decided to allow dogs but no cats (marking being a big potential issue for us) - the best thing I think you can do is demonstrate upfront that you have your dogs covered under your renters insurance. Not for damages but in case they attack someone on the property (in which case the landlord is often liable). A good rental agreement will have a separate pet addendum specifically regarding this. Most folks we've talked to aren't aware of the liability issue or the low cost option of adding them to their renters insurance. Next two steps are providing impeccable references from previous landlords and allowing prospective landlord to meet your animals.
posted by rosebengal at 11:01 AM on March 30, 2007

Response by poster: Clarifications: BF will work in Schaumburg. I'm not sure where I'll be working, but there's a decent chance it will be downtown. We're thinking about the Elgin area for decent rents and accessibility to the train. My BF is adamant about not being east of 294 for traffic reasons. (He's native to Oak Park, so I'll take his word for it. Besides, he'll definitely have to drive, whereas I may be able to take the train.)

SuperSquirrel: Yes, the reddish one sheds profusely, but that's what vacuums are for.
posted by desjardins at 11:06 AM on March 30, 2007

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