Landlord issues are sadly common in Korea for those with pets. There are many cases where tenants are allowed to have a pet, then the landlord simply reneges their permission later.
Sometimes neighbours complain and the landlord asks you to give up your best friend. The building may change owners and this could lead to problems, whether you were once allowed your companion or not. Some landlords simply don't like animals: it may be hair, or size of the pet, or noise, or claims of a smell...
While the issues you face may be true or unfounded, they can all be dealt with. You just need to be persistent! Should a complaint come up, here are some tips for dealing with it. You may need a Korean speaker's help if your landlord does not speak English.
Remedy the Specific Issue
Buy your landlord or complaining neighbours a gift -- some rice cake or fruit -- then politely ask why they have an issue:
Is it hair? You can sweep the hallway once a week.
Is it smell? Explain how often you clean and that you can be more mindful of this.
Is it noise? Be sure to train your pet to be quiet when you are at your place and when you are out. A great way to ensure they will be quiet is to give them physical and mental stimulation via a treat dispensing toy when you leave. Here are additional training links:
- Training Your Cat to Be Quiet
- My Cat Meows Too Much, What Do I Do
- How to Stop Barking
- Dog Training - Barking (PetFinder Video)
Is it the size of your pet? Be sure your pet has great training and manners. Show them no matter the size of your pet that he/she is friendly and well-mannered.
Offer to pay your landlord a fee each month for having a pet. Whether the complaints have validity or not, just be kind and let them know that you will work on things.
Observe Your Pet While You Are Out
Video your pet so you can better know how they act even when you are out. You can simply use the program your laptop camera has to record a video, which you can then view when you get home. Or you can use Skype to check in on them from your Smart phone while you are out (see below).
If your pet is well behaved: present this video to your landlord, any complaining neighbors, and your employer.
If your pet is noisy and/or destructive: this video will help you see how you can better train your pet. You will learn what sets him/her off and at what time after your leaving he/she begins to act up, and for how long.
To use Skype to check in on your pet:
- Sign yourself up for Skype and download their application onto your Smart Phone.
- Set your pet up with a Skype name and account onto your laptop.
- Program your pet's account to answer calls automatically.
- Open the Skype program and run it signed in under your pet's username.
- Leave your laptop open and in a location where your pet can be most easily seen.
- Call anytime and see how they are behaving.
TIP: I suggest muting your laptop so when you call, your pet does not hear anything. Hearing your voice or any noise could elicit a reaction from them and you simply want to observe them as if you are not there.
Thank you ARK member Hayne Kim for this idea!
Get Help From Your Employer
Whether your employer provides housing or not, they can be a helpful and invaluable resource when dealing with landlord issues. Please treat them respectfully when asking for their help, and listen to their side of things. While you may feel differently, having your employer's support may make a difference in your case and things may be settled easily with their help. Explain the situation and how you've worked on things.
- Present them your pet and apartment-- be sure they are clean and smelling great!
- Show the video you’ve recorded, if your pet is behaving well.
- Fully explain any training problem, how you are working on it, and what time frame you need for the problem to be fixed. For example, “My dog is in a new place and he's scared, he'll need a week to calm down...”
- Explain that you believe pets are family and you cannot abandon your companion.
Prevent Pet Theft or Accidental Loss
Some landlords have taken it upon themselves to "get rid of" your pet. Cats and dogs have also escaped accidentally when landlords open doors unannounced. Do not take this risk!
- Change your locks immediately!
- Find a pet sitter until things can be worked out if things are very bad (employer and landlord are unwilling to help and understand you).
Be Ready to Move Out
Don't give up! If all of the above fails, tell the landlord and employer you will find a new apartment. Sometimes this is enough to shake them into allowing your pet. They would otherwise have to find a new tenant.
If your request to move out makes your employer or landlord relent and agree to letting you keep your pet, get this new agreement in writing.
If your request to move does not sway anyone to accept your pet, then it is a win-win situation for you. You can find a new place that accepts your pet and no longer have to deal with this.
Finding a New, Pet-Friendly Apartment
Don't listen to any guilt trips! While your employer and landlord may not be happy should you move, it is within your rights. Though your move might be a minor pain for them, it does not necessarily cause them to lose any money (see Costs of Changing Apartments, below).
Employers are more likely to support you if you are a great employee. Perform exceptionally well at your job and give them a few rice cakes, too. You can also offer to help your employer and landlord find a new tenant. Post your place online everywhere and talk it up, but make sure to inform others this place is not pet friendly.
If your employer won't help you find a new place, then ask a Korean speaking friend to help you find a new apartment and/or a realtor.
When searching for a pet-friendly apartment:
- Make clear to your friend or realtor how important it is that pets are allowed as you search for a new home.
- Bring photos of your pet and be honest about his/her size.
- Explain his/her temperament or any temporary issues the move might cause for your pet - ie) he might bark for a few days, but he will settle down after that.
- If you feel any concern, bring your pet for a visit before signing anything so your pet can see the place and they can see your pet.
Costs of Changing Apartments
A big concern with changing apartments is money, and this is understandable. Check your lease for a clause about penalty fees. Any fees are likely to fall within the following:
For 2-Year Leases: A standard contract with a 5 million won deposit for 2 years says that if you move out before 1 year, then you pay a fee of 2 million won. There is usually another clause stating that if you move out after 1 year, and you find a new tenant to move in, then there is no penalty fee at all.
For 1-Year Leases: Most employers who provide housing, however, tend to sign only 1-year contracts. As such, the penalty fee for breaking the lease early may be significantly lower or nonexistent. If your employer provides your housing and signed just a 1-year lease, you may not cost them anything if you can find a new tenant.
Should your employer provide your housing, discuss with them how payment of the penalty fee can be worked out. Please know in Korea contracts are very negotiable, even after being signed. Working together civilly may save you money.
A realtor fee for finding a new place is about 300,000 won.
Signing a New Lease
Be sure you get in writing that animals are allowed at your new residence! Though contracts are negotiable in Korea and for Koreans, many people recognize that this is not so in Western culture. You may use this to your advantage should your pet become an issue at your new residence.
Utilize the support of online communities. Many people have gone through this issue and are willing to listen and help. You are not alone!
This was written with the help of suggestions shared in a discussion of landlord issues on Facebook.
Written by Katelin MacNair