Rent Week continues with Alex Casey on the woes of owning a pet as a renter, and ways you can convince landlords that furry flatmates are fine.
Here is a concise list of things I have managed to do inside my home as a human adult woman:
1) Tripped down the stairs holding a giant blueberry smoothie and coated the cream carpets, cream curtains and white walls in deep purple blood splatter like some kind of fitspo Dexter.
2) Did a backwards roll off a couch when I was drunk and put my big toe through the wall
3) Slightly scorched a kitchen wall with actual fire whilst trying to stew a humble pot of apples
Here is a list of things my cats have managed to do:
1) Meow softly
2) Look cute
With that in mind, I know I’m not alone in the frustration of scrolling through endless properties that bark NO PETS, and dealing with property managers who look at you at you like you just threw up a jellyfish when you casually drop the fact that you might have some small furry flatmates waiting in the wings. Why people are rocked to their very core by this revelation, when 64% of New Zealanders are pet owners, is beyond me. We are world leaders in pet ownership, which is a fact that I find extremely cute.
What’s less cute is the fact that only 14% of landlords allow pets in their rental properties, ignoring the fact that millions of people in New Zealand will be in cahoots with rentals for longer than a few months, or even a few years. In fact, most of us have been led down the aisle at gunpoint to join with renting in holy matrimony for the rest of our lives, without the possibility of a divorce in sight. What a shame we aren’t even allowed to put up a painting or plant a lemon tree in our new marital home.
And GOD HELP YOU if you decide to bring pets into the equation.
My partner and I have only had our cats for a year and a half, and have been looking and applying for our own place to rent throughout. Whilst I’ve been endlessly parading around open homes in posh blazers I never wear and staring into empty cupboards thoughtfully, I’ve also been noting down the various pieces of advice that landlords, property managers and pet owners alike have been passing on. Here are all the tips I’ve collated on how to convince a cruel and harsh world to allow your cat to set its tiny cat foot inside the precious mouldy, drafty, damp, uninsulated rental of your dreams.
Get a pet referee
I shit you not, this is a very real thing and a very effective thing. Just like you need to provide employer references, character references, an etching of your face in a slice of toast and a small vial of your urine, it’s a good idea to get someone to vouch for the character of your furry mates. Landlords want to know that your cats aren’t going to spray everywhere, tear up the carpet and presumably take over the world like that evil Russian one in Cats and Dogs.
You can also go one step further and make them a CV if you are that way inclined… But who would ever bother doing that….
Give them the ol’ Puss in Boots eyes
Some people in my online cat support group (all of the Internet) advised getting the landlord to meet your pet first, but does that mean you have to bring them to the viewing in a cage? Seems OTT. Good idea in theory – who doesn’t love a soft kitten??? – but if you have erratic rescue cats like me then you never know which way it’s going to go.
Take note from the old lady who swallowed a fly
One of my friends once did a Trojan Horse move inspired by the nursery rhyme. They moved into a flat with the (secret) cat, then casually mentioned there was a mouse problem. Offering to sort the problem out themselves, they wheeled out the cat to eradicate the invisible mice. Then bring in a dog to sort the cat problem, a capybara to sort the dog problem and a horse to sort the cabybara problem.
Offer the landlords everything you have
Okay, it’s important to note that a landlord charging you a pet bond is actually illegal, but many many people in my criminal underbelly circles advised that offering extra cold hard cash is the only way forward. Landlords seem to be constantly terrified that your cat will tag the walls, rip the curtains up and leave to join The Parnell Pussies with Anne Batley-Burton.
Obviously, not everyone is in the position to pay extra when forking out bricks of gold to cover the regular bond as it is. We definitely weren’t, because cats are fucking expensive as it is, man. Zelda once refused to do a crap for five days at the vet and cost us about a million dollars. It might be the most expensive cat poop that’s ever been dropped. At least our landlord didn’t have to lose sleep about her pooping on the carpet for a few nights (she’s never done that + is an angel).
Pets? What pets?
You know the drill, just get a big ol’ trench coat and chuck your kits in it like a bunch of circus folk. Or you could wrap them in up in a stroller but be careful because heaps of landlords hate little kids too!
Once I was shockingly instructed by an actual property manager that lying about my cats to the landlord and hiding them away when inspection rolls around would be totally fine. I refused. Lying is notoriously bad and history has shown it makes your nose grow heaps, plus how do you stay cool about the giant cat palace you’ve got in the corner of your bedroom?
Shave them and blame a naked mole rat infestation
Only have one cat
Another thing I’ve been told more than once is that landlords might stretch to accommodate one cat, but certainly not two. “You should think about only having one,” a woman on the phone cooed down the phone to me, as I wept gently at another tenancy offer rejected.
YOU SHOULD THINK ABOUT ONLY HAVING ONE???
And if your cat is actually a dog…
Peace be with you but it’s time to pack up and move to Mars. Matt Damon managed to survive, you should be fine.
This post is part of Rent Week, a series about why the experience of renting a home in NZ is so terrible, and whether anything can be done to fix it. Read the entire series here.
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