Housing rentals in San Luis Obispo County accept a variety of demographics, but pet owners might feel less than accounted for.Â
Out of 145 Craigslist housing listings posted on Mar. 2, only 24 rentals allowed both cats and dogs.
According to the United States Census Bureau, SLOâ€™s rental vacancy rate was 3.63% in 2017, below the national average of 6.18% but near the California average of 3.49%. The average SLO County resident is faced with limited options for housing. Pet owners are even less likely to find available rentals that allow animals.Â
Amandine Sosinski, a SLO resident of three months, searched for pet friendly listings in the hopes of adopting a dog in the future, but a potential pet limited her options.Â
â€œWe couldn’t find something that would suit our needs, our finances, and the well-being of a dog,â€ Sosinski said.Â
Most rental listings Sosinski found didnâ€™t allow pets at all, and the few that did required an additional pet deposit and specific information about the animal, such as breed and behavior. Requirements like these leave prospective tenants with few options: adopt a pet prior to moving in, or forgo adopting until the time comes to move again. Both options are limiting, and the former may be impossible if current living situations arenâ€™t pet friendly.
Sosinskiâ€™s current residence allows cats, but owning a pet of any kind may cause complications should they decide to move in the future.Â
â€œIf we move, the cat might make it difficult,â€ Sosinski said. â€œWhich I find sad, as there are so many good pets waiting for a home in shelters.â€
Sosinskiâ€™s need for housing trumped her dream of owning a dog with her husband, so she abandoned her search for pet friendly housing after three months. Some tenants resort to workarounds in order to adopt or keep their furry friends, such as Kimberly LaMar Merilles, a Cal Poly alumna.
â€œI had wanted to bring my cat to SLO my sophomore year, but struggled to find a pet friendly apartment that was also reasonably priced,â€ Merilles said. â€œMost apartments very clearly stated in the applications that all pets, regardless of species or breed, were not permitted.â€
Merilles eventually took up residency at Mustang Village with her husband and two cats, and found a way around the complexâ€™s expensive pet policy.
Upon moving in, Merilles was informed that the policy required a non-refundable pet deposit and a rise in monthly rent. She was also given the option to register any pets as emotional support animals, which would eliminate the requirement for any extra fees.Â
â€œI requested a note from my nurse that essentially said, â€˜Kim’s mental health would benefit from owning and caring for an emotional support animal,â€™â€ Merilles said. â€œI presented the note to Mustang Village’s staff and they waived the initial pet deposit and the monthly dues.â€
The scarce availability of rentals that accomodate animals, and the extra costs that accompany the ones that do, both stem from the possibility of tenants not taking responsibility for damages caused by their pets. High pet deposits and increases in rent are measures implemented by landlords to ensure that tenants are trustworthy and responsible pet owners, but money does little to prove that.Â
Emily Cardoza, a local SLO resident and Scheduling Technician at Cuesta College, offered up a few ideas to reduce the amount of irresponsible pet owners in lieu of monetary compensation.
â€œIt might be as simple as a pet interview,â€ Cardoza said. â€œOr maybe a probationary period for the first three months.â€
Setting up a formal pet interview with the potential landlord is within the same vein as making a good first impression as a tenant. If the landlord decides that the pet is not a good fit for the rental and refuses to add the pet to the lease, their decision is based off of impressions alone, rather than if the tenant has the money to cover the extra fees.
â€œ[Pet deposits and increases in rent due to pets] make it so only people with more money can afford to live here with pets,â€ Cardoza said.
Cardozaâ€™s second alternative of a preliminary period offers the landlord enough time to assess the behavior of the pet and make an informed decision based off of the amount of damage the rental sustained within the timeframe.
Sosinskiâ€™s, Merillesâ€™ and Cardozaâ€™s experiences with rentals and pet ownership stand to represent the struggles that pet owners in SLO County face for the sake of their furry friends.
â€œPets become a part of your family, and play such an immense role in the lives of students and residents of SLO and the surrounding areas,â€ Merilles said. â€œBarring an incredible emergency, I would absolutely never move to a location that didn’t allow pets.â€