Who Let the Dog Out?: Roommate’s Pets and Your Responsibilities

in Roommates on by

Living with your roommate’s pet is generally fun in the beginning—at least until you realize you’re the one who is constantly having to let the dog out. Even if your roommate promises his or her pet won’t interfere with your life, it will. Even the most responsible of roommates cannot control all aspects of a pet’s behavior.

Fees and Agreements

If your roommate has a dog, he or she will be the one paying for the pet deposit and any additional monthly rent charges required. If the dog ends up damaging the apartment, your roommate won’t get the pet deposit back. Any damages above and beyond the amount of the pet deposit will be taken out of your combined security deposit or presented to you as a bill from the landlord.

The landlord should present an itemized list of damages and costs. If not, request it. Make it clear to your roommate in the beginning that you are not going to pay for any damages caused by the dog. If you’re concerned that it’s going to be an issue come move out time, draft up a written agreement and have it notarized. Should it be a serious problem down the road, you can take your roommate to civil court.

Part Time Caregiver

Even if your roommate is a stellar pet owner, there will be times when he or she isn’t around. What if you get home an hour earlier than your roommate? Do you let the dog bark from its kennel for an hour or watch it sit by the door and whimper to be let out? Chances are that you’ll end up providing dog care (unless you want to wipe up pee and listen to nonstop barking). Taking the dog out to pee is especially important. To avoid feelings of resentment, try to think of it as helping the innocent dog or doing something nice for your roommate. Make sure you let your roommate know what you’ve been doing and ask him or her to pick up an extra weekly chore in return.

If the dog is peeing on the floor consistently, talk to your roommate about it. Your roommate may need to change his or her schedule to better accommodate the dog’s needs.

Neglected Pet

If you feel that the dog is being neglected, you have a much bigger issue on your hands. You can start by doing your part to help the dog. Tell your roommate the things you’ve noticed. Your roommate may give you a reason for it (perhaps money is tight or time is an issue). If this is the case, it’s in the dog’s best interest to be given to a better home. If your roommate refuses to give the dog away, or flat out denies your accusations, know that while it is not your legal responsibility to care for the dog, it is your moral responsibility. Try to get through to your roommate. Document everything with photos and notes of conversations. If nothing improves and you’re the only one caring for the dog, call animal welfare to see what can be done.

Your roommate’s pet will in some way become your responsibility. If you really want nothing to do with a dog, move in with a roommate who feels the same way.

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Rachael Weiner: I’m a communications professional for a non-profit, which financially necessitates my status as an apartment dweller. Constantly “on-the-go,” I’ve resided in five different apartments across the United States over the past five years. Roommate issues, budgeting, organizing and handling problem neighbors are my specialty.

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