Finding an apartment can be challenging in South Florida, but even more so if you have a pet, especially a dog. In my case, I have two dogs and both of them would be considered on the large side. My older dog weighs 80 pounds and my younger dog weighs 45. So my choices are limited when it comes time to scour the classifieds for a new residence.
In South Florida, people move into the area on a daily basis, so landlords have the ability to be picky when deciding who they want to rent to. Many times, that inlcudes a serious bias against large dogs. Lots of landlords will rent to people with small dogs and cats, but renting with a large dog in South Florida can potentially pose a problem.
For the most part, I have been lucky with my past and present landlords, but it wasn’t without a lot of perseverance and hard work that I found these places in the first place.
My advice to you if you are thinking about adopting a pet? Even if your present landlord or apartment community is accepting of pets–think long and hard about the uphill battle you are going to face in the future when you need to relocate. Everyone who wants a pet should be commended for their desire to share their life with a homeless creature, but unfortunately, many landlords do not share our love of four-legged friends. In fact, landlords are often quick to say “no” to pets or exclude anyone from even inquiring about the subject by placing the words “No Pets” boldly in the ad.
Even though animosity towards animals exists when renting in South Florida, there are still ways to find an apartment with pets, although it is a bit more difficult. Do not give up and do not resort to giving your pet away because you can’t find an apartment after searching for a few days. Give it some time. Trust me, there have been instances when I have been at my wit’s end, but something always comes through.
Here are few guidelines to help get your apartment hunt started in Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade:
1) Palm Beach Post, Sun Sentinel, Miami Herald, Craigslist
Classified are a great place to look for apartments, and also the most obvious, but do not get discouraged if you are looking and you don’t see any listings that specifically state that pets are welcome. Many times, landlords will be on the fence with the issue, so if you call them and talk to them, they may say “yes.” You never know, they may have been attempting to rent the apartment for some time, so they may become more lenient as time wears on. Also, they may just like your voice and personality and decide that a person who seems responsible is probably a responsible pet owner. There is one drawback to renting an apartment from private owners–if they do accept you and your pet, they will probably ask for a large security deposit.
2) Rental communities are one of the best bets for people who own pets, especially large dogs. There are countless apartment communities situated in every area of South Florida and many of them accept pets. The great thing about these communities is that they are easy to find in the phone book or an apartment guide–I lived in one and it was nice not having to search high and low through the classifieds. The leasing agents will tell you everything they have available and then you decide which apartment model you’d like. There are drawbacks to living in an apartment community with pets. For one thing, these apartments are usually smaller than privately owned residences and you and your pets will have less room. Also, there is normally a two pet maximum per apartment. Although you can usually get into these communities with little down if they are running a rent special, the complexes sometimes charge pet rent which is an extra fee added onto the rent every month.
3) References are one of the most important things to arm yourself with when you’re apartment hunting, especially in South Florida. Because the area has a lot of people who move in on a regular basis from other parts of the country, it is important to show stability, and it is also a plus if you’ve lived in the area for a while. Make sure that you get a letter from your previous landlords who are familiar with you as a tenant with pets. Have the ex-landlord write about how you were a responsible pet owner, cleaned up after your pet, ad left the apartment in good condition. A glowing recommendation from a former landlord can do wonders to sway a future landlord who’s still up in the air about allowing pets.
4) There are many communities in South Florida that welcome big dogs, but my pick for the best community is Abacoa in northern Palm Beach County. Abacoa is a beautiful development that features a university, shops, restaurants, and a baseball stadium. The condos are all privately owned, but I just recently discovered that Abacoa is exceptionally dog friendly. You can find listings for Abacoa in the Palm Beach Post, on Craigslist, or you can contact a realtor in the area.