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  • Shawn F.

Negotiating Fido

Lucy in St. Nick Park

Is that even possible, you ask?! Anything is negotiable in NYC. In the current rental market, if you have great credit and impeccable financials, landlords are likely to be open to dealing. If you’re looking to buy, things might be a little more complex. But in either case you should start with the same step: a pet resume. Laugh all you want, this can end up tipping the balance in your and your pet’s favor. Get copies of vaccination records (and licenses for dogs); include reference letters from past landlords, house guests, or roommates; throw in some pictures of your pet hanging out with you and friends; and write a glowing letter of introduction. If renting, this can be used to negotiate price or deposit, or even the acceptance of a pet into a building that is strictly pet-friendly; if buying, this should be included in a board package.

A resume for a dog or cat: Only in New York, right?

Now for the search. Obvious starting place: Look for pet-friendly buildings first. If you don’t find what you are looking for, focus on listings that have been on the market for over a month. Narrow those down to buildings with smaller management companies, as larger companies are less likely to bend the rules. Then view those apartments with your own paperwork and your pet’s resume in hand. If you like the place, submit an application with an up-front offer to pay an extra pet deposit or additional security, and push the agent to see what the landlord says.

We have many landlords who would rather not allow pets, which makes sense. It means more wear and tear on the building, no way around that. But from the owner’s perspective, every rental is a gamble. A seemingly low-maintenance single professional might leave an apartment with holes in the walls and gouges in the floor, where a family with a dog, a cat, and a parakeet could leave the place better than they found it. When we are working for the landlord, we are helping her find the tenant she can trust with her investment. If you give us enough paperwork that shows you’re a tenant to trust, we’ll advise the landlord to approve your application. That goes for your pets as well.

Buying a co-op or condo, your options are more limited in buildings that don’t allow pets. The best course is to have your agent do some sleuthing about that building or board. They should be able to find a colleague that’s done business in the building, or a current resident, or a contact on the board, someone that can give a little more color on how flexible the building is about pets. You’ll want to have a solid answer before going to contract.

What not to do? Basically: Don’t lie. If you hide a pet in a co-op that is not pet-friendly you could lose the apartment, or the pet. For rentals, there are plenty of stories about people who have played the system, and won. There’s a law in NYC that states if you have a pet in a building for longer than three months without being called on it, after that a landlord or management company can’t do anything about it. For this to apply, the pet must be in plain view of everyone else in the building for that three months; no sneaking your Yorkie in and out of the building in a purse. People have gotten away with it, but it’s risky, and dishonest. We don’t recommend it. There’s also the notorious “Emotional Support Service Dog” routine; don’t go there either. The one place where you can afford to bend the truth a little bit: your pet’s weight. No one is going to weigh your dog before okaying your application. If he’s within a few pounds of the weight limit, we say let it slide. Anyway, it’s rude to ask someone’s weight, isn’t it?

Finding a home in New York is enough of a challenge, and including a pet in the equation can certainly complicate things. But we speak from experience when we say: It’s worth it. Take your time, be proactive, and make sure you’re working with a real estate professional that understands your needs and can help you navigate the process.

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