If you have a pet, you know how hard it can be to find an apartment that will allow you and your furry friend to both sign the residential lease agreement.

Many, dare I say most landlords are strict about not accepting tenants with animals. If you are lucky, you may be able to find landlords with a kind heart (probably pet owners themselves) who will allow certain kinds of pets in their units.

The best place to find an apartment that accepts pets is to first look in all the usually places: Craigslist, pet-friendly websites for people looking to rent, the news classifieds or even through a broker.

But please follow the residential lease agreement golden rule with regards to animals!

Make sure you mention your pet before you begin your lease hunting efforts!

You must follow the two steps below to insure an efficient approach in finding the best property for you and your pet:

Ask up front about their pet policy.

If you are replying to an apartment listing via telephone or email, be sure to ask what the property policy is with regards to pets. You don’t want to get yourself excited about a place only to find out later that they don’t accept pets of any kind. And don’t make the mistake that so many people do which is go all the way through the application process thinking they can’t possibly turn you down once they meet YOUR pet. Guess what? No one thinks your pet is as cute and sweet as you do. I have never seen this work. Worst case, if you signed the lease and moved in and they later found your pet living with you, the landlord could evict you AND collect all the rent due through the remainder of your lease.

Lastly, you may find out by letting the landlord know upfront that they accept certain breeds of dog or certain sizes (for example: under 20 pounds).

Tell broker about your pet.

If you opt to use a broker to help you find a property, be sure you inform the broker at your first meeting that you have an animal and that you only want to see apartments with pet-friendly policies. Also make sure to inform them if you plan on getting a pet in the future.

If you follow these two simple steps you can be sure not to waste unnecessary time in your hunt for a pet-friendly apartment complex. If you and the landlords that run the properties you are interested in are on the same page you won’t waste valuable time wondering if your beloved pet is going to end up unintentionally denying you access to a residential lease agreement.

Stirling Gardner (The Hollywood Landlord) is a writer and property management expert.