The Cost of Living with Pets in Boulder

So you’re thinking of moving to Boulder, Colorado, and you want to bring your four-legged companion with you.  What are your options for housing?  How much will it cost?

According to the Denver Post, Colorado is now the second-fastest growing state in the U.S.  This growth can be seen in cities like Boulder, which is projected to see a 17% population increase over the next 26 years.  Combined with heavy development restrictions, the city has seen a sharp increase in housing costs across the board which is pricing out many residents.

However, pet owners face a unique challenge as many landlords and apartment complexes refuse to allow pets.  Even when pets are allowed, the associated costs can make it all the more expensive to live in Boulder.   Additional security deposits – often non-refundable – are frequently required for pets, forcing tenants to deposit anywhere from $200 to $500 per pet before they can even move in.  Additional “pet rent” may also be tacked on top of the regular rent, and can range between $10 to $30 or more per pet, per month.

Chelsea Daggett, an instructor and doctoral candidate at CU Boulder, faced a bit of sticker shock when she moved to Boulder from the Northeast with her two cats.  “I’ve never paid pet rent or pet insurance until I came to Boulder,” she says. “Here, I’ve spent at least $1,800 for pet rent,” paying $25 more per cat, per month.  Ms. Daggett also had to pay a $500 pet deposit on top of two months rent for the regular security, totalling  $2,500 upfront.

“As a grad student making less than a living wage for Boulder, alone, that much money is very difficult to save up front, which just adds more stress.”

Katy Canada, a graduate student at CU Boulder, recently adopted a dog and was lucky enough to not be forced to find a new place to live. “When I moved into my South Boulder basement apartment a year ago, there were already three cats and ten hamsters,” she says.  “When I approached my landlord about adopting a dog, she was totally supportive.” However, stories she’s heard from others has made wary of what comes next.  “I am nervous that a day will come when I have to move out and find another pet-friendly living situation,” she says.  “I guess I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.”

For dog owners, the hunt for housing can prove even more difficult.  The Humane Society of Boulder Valley (HSBV) offers a listing of pet-friendly housing in Boulder and surrounding areas on its website.  Of the 31 housing developments listed, many have a weight limit for dogs, and 11 only allow cats as pets.  Other common restrictions include a limit on the number of pets (usually two) and requiring pets to be altered/neutered.  For the Habitat Apartments at 6255 Habitat Drive in Boulder, “[a]ll pets must be preapproved by management,” and dogs are only allowed on the first floor and in townhomes.

The Harvard Park apartments at 505 Harvard Lane have a particularly interesting policy:  For older dogs, they require a $250 non-refundable deposit (which lasts for as long as you live there.)  However, living with a puppy requires a $500 refundable deposit along with a non-refundable $500 fee.  Thus, residents are more or less discouraged to adopt a puppy, presumably because of their penchant for destruction.

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Restrictions on pets can often result in pet owners being forced to give up their animals – a problem acknowledged by the HSBV.

“The Humane Society of Boulder Valley commonly accepts surrendered animals due to their guardian’s housing situations,” says Nick Walsh, Development and Communications Coordinator at the HSBV.  “This is often due to landlord rules (not accepting pets), an animal guardian’s choice to move into a property that doesn’t allow pets, or not being able to afford housing that allows pets.”  To avoid situations like these, the Humane Society “recommends confirming pets are accepted by a rental property management company prior to signing a lease if you have pets, or are considering adopting a pet in the near future.”

Another possible solution includes attempting to rent from private landlords who appear willing to make separate arrangements with tenants – and ensuring that those arrangements are formalized in the lease.  When it comes to budgeting for housing, it appears to be good practice to account for the extra costs associated with pet deposits, pet rent, and the general costs of pet ownership.

People without pets may question why anyone would bother to go through this extra hassle and cost of living with a pet, but pet owners insist that it is worth it.  “I initially got my cats to help cope with my depression,” Ms. Daggett explains.  “They still help me feel less lonely living alone.”  Ms. Canada expresses a similar sentiment about why she got her dog.  “Since adopting him, my overall happiness has improved twofold.”

So, in the end, for most pet owners, the sacrifices they make to live with their beloved animals overcomes the burden of limited housing options and the extra cost.  For these Boulder residents, you just can’t put a price on living with a pet.