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Hunting for the Elusive Pet-Friendly Apartment

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Dog sitter in San Francisco [Photo: nicolò]

And you thought training them not to pee in the house would be the hardest part of pet ownership. Despite being one of the most pet-friendly cities in the country, finding a pet-friendly rental apartment can feel like searching for the Holy Grail. You love your pet, but finding an apartment that loves them back will take a lot of searching (and probably some extra money). It's not totally hopeless though, if you just know where to look.

Archstone SOMA [Photo: Archstone]

Some large corporate apartments allow pets, but be prepared for breed or size restrictions and hefty deposits, sometimes even additional monthly rents. Pretty much all of the Archstone complexes allow cats and dogs, but they require a $300 pet deposit and fees of $50/pet/month (plus the SOMA location has breed restrictions). Parkmerced allows pretty much any kind of pet, and they'll probably be pretty psyched to have all that green space to run around, but there are fees there too. The Avalon communities all allow pets, but they have the $500 deposit, $50/month, max 2 pets policy too, and some pretty broad restrictions on breeds.

Studio in the Tendernob [Photo: SFRents.net]

Certain property management companies maintain a pet-friendly policy across some or all of their buildings. SFrent.net follows a pro-pet policy, allowing "demonstrably well-behaved pets." They charge $300 deposit per pet and require you to fill out a form with references for your pet; however they don't allow large dogs above 50 lbs or certain breeds. RentSFNow also has some pet-friendly listings, but navigating their website is a little iffy, so try calling them instead to find out which buildings allow them.

Your best bet is to scour Craigslist postings with that handy 'Cats' or 'Dogs' checkbox marked. This will insure that the poster has made the conscious decision to advertise the apartment as pet friendly. But beware - these listings often aren't cheap. A quick search this morning showed the cheapest listing that allowed both cats and dogs was a $1950 studio in-law in the Sunset.

Walking a dog in the Mission [Photo: torbakhopper]

Speaking from experience, you might have better luck with a small building that's owned by a small-time landlord - meaning someone who owns only one or two buildings as a side investment, not managing multiple buildings as a career. Often times these types of landlords are more flexible about pets, since they're not falling back on some corporate policy. Also, check out neighborhoods farther from downtown - think Sunset, Richmond, Ingleside, Outer Mission, etc. Since these hoods tend to have a lot of pet owners already and many properties feature back yards, landlords tend to be a bit more lax (this is a generalization, of course). In the same vein, search for locations near parks, especially ones that have off-leash dog runs. Landlords know that green space is a big draw for pet owners, and that you'll be willing to pay extra to take your pup to a park across the street.

Whatever you do, don't sneak your pet in without permission - its grounds for eviction. When it comes down to it, landlords just want to make sure that pet owners are responsible, because they have no interest in replacing carpet soaked with cat pee and chewed up woodwork. If you do fall in love with the most perfect apartment of all time, or the place you're looking at has breed or size restrictions, you might have some options if you prove to the landlord that you are a responsible mature pet mom or dad. Tomorrow we'll feature how to draft a pet resume (yes, you read that correctly) to prove your pet is worthy of that new job a place to live and wow your potential new landlord.