Pet peeves 

A renter’s guide to finding a home with Fido

So, you want to get a pet. While Missoula is pretty pet friendly, not every place out there allows pets. Following are some tips on finding a home in Missoula for you and your pet.

Be up front about your animals

Most management companies offer homes and apartments that are appropriate for pets. But not every unit will allow animals. Some units will accept pets broadly, others have more specific rules, allowing just cats, for instance, or only dogs. Talk to the agent about your needs, and they will work with you to find a place that is satisfactory for you. Don’t think that you can rent a “no pet” property and sneak your feline or canine companion in. Your landlord will find out.

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If you are caught with an unauthorized animal, Montana state law section 72-24-422 (1)(b) states that the landlord shall issue the tenant a three-day notice to remove the animal. Section 72-24-422 (1)(e) states that if the same violation (unauthorized animal) occurs again within six months, the landlord may terminate the rental agreement with five days notice. Keep in mind, if you are evicted for an unauthorized pet, you are not relieved of your responsibilities under the lease agreement. You are still responsible for rent and utilities until the unit re-rents, or your lease agreement expires, whichever comes first. It is in your best interest to find housing where your pet is allowed.

Keep your records

Some landlords require copies of your dog license and vaccination records, some will not. Almost every landlord will want to know the breed of the animal, its age and if it is spayed or neutered. Some insurance companies do not allow landlords to rent to certain breeds of dogs because of the liability risk associated with the breed. Check with your landlord before renting a place or getting a dog to make sure the pet you are considering is one that is allowed.

Be prepared to pay additional deposit

Many landlords will require an additional up-front payment to cover any potential damage caused by your pet. This amount will vary, as there is no rule as to how much may be charged. Remember, this additional deposit is still considered a security deposit and is refundable as long as the unit is returned clean and undamaged and no money is owed to the landlord. Some landlords require “pet rent.” This is an additional monthly amount paid in exchange for the pet being allowed to live at the property. (Is Fifi’s company really worth an additional $600 per year in rent? Ask yourself this question before getting a pet).

Pet damage can be costly

If your roommate decides to go out and get a dog and you look the other way, it could cost you money, too. Most rental agreements are “joint and several,” meaning that you are just as responsible for any damage done by the pet as your roommate. For example, Joe decided to get an unauthorized dog and his roommates did or said nothing. The cute little puppy used the entire main floor of the house as a bathroom. Again, the roommates did nothing. When Joe and the gang vacated, the urine damage was so extensive that carpet needed replaced at a cost of $2,500. Not only did Joe have to pay for this, but his roommates were on the hook as well. Don’t let your roommate’s unauthorized pet cost you hundreds of dollars.

Again, Missoula is a pretty pet-friendly town and there are hundreds of units out there for you and your animal. Take the time to find a place where your pet is welcome. This will help to make sure your dog is in a place where he has a yard to stretch his legs and is not locked up in an apartment all day peeing on the carpet. A happy pet = a happy pet owner!

Lisa Gohrick is a licensed property manager for Garden City Property Mananagment (gcpm-mt.com).

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