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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Paying the Price to Live With Man's Best Friend




Bill, an analyst for a major Western company, thought his promotion to Moscow was the cat's meow.


Packing up his belongings and his longhaired 13.5-kilogram Persian - appropriately named Tiny - he set off for Russia in hopes of grand adventure.


He rather reluctantly admits he got quite the opposite. The problem: He hid his furry friend from his landlord.


"It was murder trying to find the right apartment," Bill, 29, said. He turned down a company apartment because, he said, he wanted to live "like an authentic Russian."


"Agencies told me that landlords wouldn't want to accommodate Tiny. It was, 'Why did you need to bring your pet from America? She would be happier if she lived there,'" he said. "They advised me not to mention Tiny. So I didn't."


Bill spent a few frantic months keeping his two-room flat hair-free and Tiny concealed in the cupboard during rent visits. Then the pet decided she had had enough and jumped out before the landlord's surprised eyes. The landlord demanded that he leave immediately.


But tenants with cats and dogs now are having it easier than Bill, real estate agents say. With the maturing financial crisis and a surplus of apartments, landlords are practically willing to sit, shake and bark if that is what it takes to get and keep a stable tenant. And they may have to as well because agents said about half of all expatriate tenants own pets.


"The situation is changing; it's easier to have pets," said Konstantin Kovalev, managing director of Blackwood Real Estate Co. "In crisis times, it is easier."


Only several months ago many landlords who allowed pets were demanding deposits equal to two month's rent, agents said. Now, they are often just glad to have their places occupied.


Despite the crisis, some apartment owners remain hostile to domestic animals, as this reporter learned recently while trying to find a landlord who would tolerate a gentle 1-year-old Saint Bernard. The preferred apartment fell through because the owner feared the dog would chew up the furniture.


Big dogs are among the most unpopular pets for landlords, agents said, and cats appear to run a close second.


"In principle, it is not really good [to rent] if you have a dog, especially if it is a big dog," Kovalev said. "Landlords don't want to worry about dogs after spending hundreds of dollars renovating their apartments."


Other agents said landlords dislike the damage hair-shedding cats inflict on furniture.


"The smell of a cat is also unpleasant for some landlords," said Olga Iovenko, general manager at Barin's Realty.


Sweet Home realty has found a unique solution to the pet problem. It bought 30 apartments and renovated them with marble and golden-plated fixtures. Tenants are free to bring pets into any of these flats.


"In our apartments where we made renovations, it is no problem," said Svetlana Kazak at Home Sweet Home. "After they leave, we will repair the apartments."


Agents said that landlords that don't want pets often don't want families with young children as well.


Real estate agencies said that while landlords certainly have the last say about pets, they also have a concern of their own - what will happen to the pets after tenants leave Moscow?


Some related stories about being called by angry landlords who discovered abandoned cats in their apartments. Others expressed irritation at a British law that forces English pet owners to put their animals in quarantine for six months if they want to bring them home. As a result, many leave their pets in England or don't take them back.


"All Americans bring their animals here and take them back to America," said Lena Karpova, an agent at Home Sweet Home.


"One man has three cats and he brought them over from England and promised he would stay in Moscow until they die because it would be too difficult taking them back," Karpova said. "I am worried if he loses his job what he will do with them."


Another Englishman said that he calls his dog in Britain every day because he misses him so much, she said.


"He cried on the phone and says his dog cries because they miss each other and can't be together," she said.


In scenarios such as Bill's, who faced his landlord's wrath for hiding his cat, agents said the best way to keep a pet is to be up front about it and ready to negotiate.


"Everything is open to negotiation," Kovalev said.


Which is what Bill found out. After some wrangling and many apologies, a slight increase in rent settled the dispute, Bill said.