Pets, Landlords and the Great Divide Between the Two
Our furry friends. Our confidants, best friends, security blanket, and that one thing that no matter what is going on they are always happy we are home. That wagging tail, those big eyes and squiggly body as they wiggle around us waiting for us to say hello. Our pets are an integral part of our lives and for some people they may be the only living creature that someone truly feels themselves around. Whether it is a dog, cat, fish, mouse, turtle, rat, bird or even lizard. These animals are as much a part of the fabric of our lives as the homes we live in and the people that surround us.
So, what happens when the pets you love so much are suddenly the biggest barrier other than finances to securing a place to live. You’ve lived in the same house so long that you feel stable and secure. If you’re a renter- you pay your rent on time, the home you live in allows pets and you have no plans to move. Sure, a landlord could ask you to move out for various reasons should they decide, but for the most part you are in a situation that you think is not likely to change and you are secure with your pet, your family member.
If you’re a homeowner, you certainly have no thoughts of “what if we had to move?” You are settled in and the illusion of permanence has allowed you to acquire one, two maybe even three or four pets. You are certain you will be in this house for the remainder of your life, and even if not, it would only be because you would buy something else and still be in control of whether or not you can have your furry family member by your side. You are completely comfortable.
And then your house burns to ground. All of your worldly possessions are gone and all you have left is a completely traumatized mind, a broken heart, hopefully your loved ones-including your pets. At a time when you need your snuggly, furry, non-judgmental friends the most you suddenly have to let them go because to keep them with you means you will be homeless. You have no choice. The only real options are to leave your pet with friends if you have any that can take your animals or surrender them to the HARF Facility or the Humane Society.
It’s bad enough you lost everything, you’re trying to remain grateful and hopeful in what likely feels like a hopeless situation. You are hanging on by a thread to stay mentally afloat. Now is the worst time possible to have to give up your pet. But what option do you have? You are stuck in a hotel or stuffed into someone else’s house, wearing someone else’s clothes and getting hand-outs on a daily basis because you have no belongings to your name. You have no kitchen of your own to cook in, no clothes to put in the hotel drawers, not even one sentimental item to cling to. Everything in your world from housing, what you eat, what you wear is out of your control at this time. You can’t even go to the kitchen and make yourself a snack if you wanted because the only thing in your hotel room is a mini fridge, a cheap coffee pot and a mish mosh pile of donated items that are now yours. The situation is beyond tough, it’s unimaginable. It’s hell.
Now it has been a bit of a minute since the fire. The government and state are working tirelessly to work on solutions for housing. You’re starting to look for a rental so you can somewhat stabilize. Maybe you’re one of the lucky ones and still have a job, but maybe you’re one of the many and no longer have any income coming in. There are little to no available houses or condos for rent and the majority of them don’t allow pets.
But why is this? What are landlords so afraid of when it comes to renting to people with pets? Do they imagine a cat is going to constantly urinate all over the floor and ruin the flooring or carpet? Do they envision a dog chewing on baseboards and ripping up landscaping like a Tasmanian devil? Why do so many landlords that have pets themselves not allow pets in their rentals?
Sure, there are the cases where a pet owner is a terrible pet owner. They don’t clean up after them, they might not keep the property clean or well-maintained with a pet. But in my experience in years of working in real estate both selling and also managing long term rentals and vacation rentals- I rarely see cases where a pet has destroyed or done unthinkable expensive damage to a property. Yes, it happens. But it is not the norm.
What many landlords fail to understand is often times pet owners are the best tenants to have. They understand how hard it is to find a place to rent with a pet, so they do not relocate often. Like those with a HUD certificate, these can often be some of the best tenants because of the low turnover. They take care of the properties because they do not want to have to move and go back out into the world of competing for a rental. They keep homes clean because they do not want a landlord to do an inspection and decide that the house isn’t being kept properly so they do not renew their lease.
The landlords must do their part to ensure that their tenants with pets are maintaining the home. Regular 6-month home inspections, lock tight lease contracts and pet addendums, full pet deposit (if the animal is neither a service, therapy nor comfort animal.) By law, the pet deposit can be equal to but not more than one month’s rent. While that may seem high, in conjunction with a security deposit which is separate from the pet deposit- most damage that may be created by a pet would likely be covered.
The community of Lahaina that have lost their homes, their belongings and their dignity as well as independence should not have to also surrender their pet. At a time when what’s needed is comfort, softness and a lot of tears, letting go of a pet can often be a last straw of keeping themselves together mentally right now. The hope is that more landlords will soften their rigid mindset of no pets and begin to understand that now more than ever- we need to give these people every vehicle we can give them that will help them heal. And that means keeping their furry friends with them.