Renting in San Diego as a pet owner

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Sometimes, San Diego feels like anything but America’s pet-friendliest city

Sally copyAdopting a 60lb, pit bull mix seven years ago was hands down, one of the best decisions I have ever made. Her name is Sally and she is the definition of innate goodness. Throughout the past seven years together, Sally and I have faced numerous roadblocks when looking for a place to rent here in San Diego. This was surprising (and frustrating), given our community’s reputation for being one of America’s pet-friendliest cities.

The first thing I learned was that the inflated prices of San Diego’s rental market affect everyone – including my dog. Status quo is that pet owners looking to rent will be subjected to additional costs such as a pet security deposit and monthly pet rent.

It also became immediately clear that due to my dog’s size and breed, apartment complexes were not an option for us. This is because a majority of apartment complexes in San Diego are not pet-friendly. The few that are will typically have one of two (often both) restrictions: a size restriction and a breed restriction. Not surprisingly, both of these categorize my dog Sally as an “unacceptable” and “unsafe” pet.

So individually owned rental units became our only hope. The reason for this is that typically, individual owners are in charge of a pet policy decision. Thus, unlike apartment complexes, individuals can be reasoned with.

For me, having to combat ignorance in such a progressive place and time is taxing on the heart. Despite this, I’ve chosen the approach I know to be most effective: compassionate and gentle education. Whenever I inquire about a pet-friendly rental unit, I offer the owner a package of extra information that I hope will transcend the barriers lack of knowledge has built. Here’s what that package looks like:

  • Get Pet Insurance: In addition to the standard rental application, credit report and background check, I also disclose that I have a pet insurance policy on my dog.
  • References: I provide past landlords as references to vouch for my reliability and cleanliness as a renter with a pet.
  • Meet and Greet: I extend an invitation for the owner to meet Sally so they can experience her wonderful disposition firsthand.
  • Highlight Positive Accolades: I share that my dog “teaches” public education classes at San Diego Humane Society. And I send over Sally’s resume, which includes her own personal and professional references. Yes, you read that correctly – I created a resume for my dog (view Sally’s resume).

As silly or superfluous as these measures may sound, they’ve helped tremendously in my rental search throughout the years. A good portion of the potential landlords I reach out to still end up closing the door on me, figuratively speaking. But eventually, I find someone who is surprised by Sally’s sweet disposition and the effort I’ve put forth to advocate for her, to graciously make an exception to their pet policy.

As pet owners, it is our joy and responsibility to provide for our pets. For renters here in San Diego, this responsibility often requires more from us. It requires being patient, persistent and choosing to offer education instead of exasperation. I know from experience that this is hard work, but I also know it yields amazing rewards. Rewards like finally finding a place to call “home” with your cherished pet. And, equally as important, the victory of a corrected misconception or a mind enlightened.

sally and ChristinaChristina is a proud dog mommy to Sally and passionate about pit bull advocacy and animal welfare.

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13 thoughts on “Renting in San Diego as a pet owner

  1. Mr. Echo

    I must say this was lovely to read and I especially enjoyed your recommendations for a pet package when submitting a rental application. You really opened my eyes as a landlord and I would be glad to have a responsible dog owner such as you for a tenant. Cheers!

  2. Movistar26

    Thank you for this! It has been really difficult for us having just moved from NJ. We will definitely try some of your suggestions.

  3. Demetria

    I have owned two large dogs for years (Shepard/Husky, 105 lb and Collie, 65 lb). The last four to five places I’ve lived (England, VA, CA) all posted ‘no pets’. ASK ANYWAY – if you take nice care of a home, realtor, property manager or whatever great things you bring to the table are always an asset and you may be able to persuade otherwise. I have always offered references as well. I am down to one older dog, and still run into challenges in San Diego as a renter as she is over 35lbs. Hunt early, they do go quickly and never be afraid to ask.

  4. Alisa

    As landlord I would love this much care being put forth, It shows what a possible great renter someone would be, As a side note, sometimes home owners insurance makes it difficult to rent to some dog owners due to the breed. I don’t think it is right. We do rent to dogs and their owners. 🙂 I look forwarding seeing some dog resumes on my rentals that are coming up in the next few weeks. I will be sharing this….

    1. Rivkacatholicaspie

      Adding on to your comment, it depends on the insurance company. Some practice breed discrimination in their home owners insurance, others do not. (I’m not going to list names, because it might be construed as advertising.)

  5. Cheryl A Smith, Pet Friendly Realtor

    I commend you for not giving up hope and for not giving up on Sally!!!

    All too often our San Diego shelters are bombarded with people saying “I am moving and can’t take my pet”. It’s a sad reality but one that can be avoided if you are persistent and look for help wherever you can get it.

    There are sometimes ways around pet restrictions and ordinances. But it takes patience and knowledge of the local laws that govern where you live or want to live.

    I wish you and Sally many happy years here in San Diego! And there’s always Dog BEACH!! 😉

  6. Paws Play San Diego

    A few of my clients also put together photo books of their pets and that goes over really well with potential landlords because they get to see what your dog is like. This is a great article and hopefully more landlords will keep an open mind when it comes to different breeds and large dogs.

  7. Drew M.

    It can also be beneficial to add that you have a dog walker who comes to exercise your dog regularly.

  8. Ellen

    There are good recommendations for pet owner. Meanwhile, I want to share my experience as well. As a person, who had to look for rental with a dog, I found pets resume very helpful. I learn about it from this article Pets CV helped me to get the apartment that I wanted. In this resume I included photos of my dog, description of its nature and habits, information about me as a pet owner, references from former landlord, veterinarian or pet trainer.

    1. Russo

      Just followed to your response and found another article on this blog about pet resume. Never heard about that. Making resume for your pet may seem humiliating, but if it works, why not? Guys, who had an experience in renting with the help of such pet cv, give a response. I’m curious about its effectiveness.

  9. David Smith

    I have a Chow Chow which makes things difficult when looking for new places to live since they are almost always on the list of restricted breeds. I’ll try your suggestions next time I move

  10. c

    The problem isn’t just pet rents. What I’ve encountered for the past 5 years is that the inventory of pet-friendly housing is MUCH lower than pet-free apartments. So first you have to hunt to even find a pet-friendly ad. And then when you do you find one you’re paying $700 more a month (regular not pet rent) for a place that’s in really SHITTY condition that the landlord knows they don’t have to EVER update because your options as a pet owner are so limited. Then you see ads for beautiful updated houses and cottages for $1200 month for people without pets. This is discrimination, Pet owners aren’t richer. And we shouldn’t be relegated to second-class slum housing for double the price. There should be a law that says you must rent equally to pet owners but you can have them pay a larger deposit and that they are liable for damage. Although my pet has never caused damage and I’ve always left my rentals better than when I moved in.


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