Lack of pet-friendly rentals leave some dog owners out in the cold
By Charles L. Westmoreland | Southeast Living
Juneau is a dog-friendly town, just look on any sidewalk, trail or beach for the proof. From the doggie day care centers for pampered pooches to the dog treats offered at coffee shops and banks, Alaskans love their dogs. But finding a dog-friendly rental in Juneau can be a “ruff” and lengthy process.
Most rental units here don’t allow pets, and that could be driving some people away. Sander Schijvens, CEO of Wostmann & Associates, Inc., an information technology company with offices in Juneau and Anchorage, said a couple of his employees have had trouble finding a pet-friendly rental in Juneau despite months of searching. One is considering leaving Juneau and perhaps telecommuting from Southcentral Alaska or another Southeast community. “The reality is that with a small business you’re also a family, and I want to do what I can to help out,” he said. “You never want to lose a good employee” because of housing issues.
Schijvens said that having an uncertain housing situation can be stressful and a distraction for employees. Two of his 30 staff currently are having trouble finding pet-friendly rentals. One difficulty, he said, is that those new to town don’t know where to look. It’s not uncommon in Juneau for a rental to become occupied with new tenants before ever being listed. And during a search on Craig’s List most of rentals listed explicitly stated “No pets.”
“It seems the best way to find a place is just to know someone,” Schijvens said.
He isn’t the only professional to have available housing be a thorn in his company’s side. A 2010 study by the Juneau Economic Development Council found that more than half of businesses surveyed considered available/affordable housing to be a key issue among employees. But knowing the right people certainly helps, said one Juneau renter.
“I was surprised how difficult it was to find landlords willing to rent to a pet owner. Juneau is such a dog-friendly town,” said Meggie Reinholdt, a 28-year-old case manager who moved to Juneau in 2008.
Reinholdt said even when she offered to pay a pet deposit or additional monthly rent for her Golden Retriever Dexter but that “no one seemed willing to take a chance.”
“We missed out on some amazing places because of having a dog, even though this is a great town to raise one,” she said. “We must have been rejected by dozens of potential landlords. We dreaded having to ask the question, ‘Do you allow pets?’ We knew the answer would be ‘no.’” Reinholdt said that she, her boyfriend and their Golden Retriever Dexter eventually found a pet-friendly rental after deciding to work with a property manager in Juneau. The property manager was able to convince an out-of-town homeowner to rent to them, she said.
“We love living in Juneau but it’s a shame it was so difficult to find a pet-friendly rental in such a pet-friendly town,” she said. Stacey James, a 23-year-old seasonal worker who moved to Juneau in May, said she spent months searching for a pet-friendly rental before deciding to leave her Labrador-mix Hunter with friends back home in Washington.
“I love to hike and Hunter keeps me company, and I wish I could have brought him here,” she said. “Everybody in Juneau has a dog except me. I could never stay here though without Hunter. He would definitely like it here though.”
One local property manager who asked their name be withheld said there are several reasons why landlords don’t rent to pet owners. “When someone owns the home they usually just don’t want to take a chance the pet owner isn’t responsible,” he said. “A pet deposit will only replace carpet in one room.” The property manager said condo associations and apartment complexes usually have different reasons for prohibiting pets.
“With multi-unit housing it’s often about concern that a dog will be a nuisance to neighbors, either by barking all the time or having a dog owner who doesn’t clean up after the animal.”
“But there are landlords who have pets and understand how difficult it can be to find a place. I’d recommend calling property managers around town. We have contacts and can lend a hand with searching.”