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If you’re a pet-owner, you know that pets are loved family members.  On the flip side, if you’re a landlord, you know that pets can cause challenges.  

In this article, we’ll address the pros and cons of allowing pets, and smart landlord strategies regarding pets.

First – whether you allow pets is completely up to you, with the exception of service or companion dogs.  See our Compliance Guide for more info.  

Benefits of Allowing Pets

  • Broader Applicant Pool:  Opening your candidate pool to those with pets obviously increases your audience.  A 2014 survey stated that ~70% of apartment renters had pets
  • Longer Tenancy:  Pet owners typically stay in a rental longer
  • Increased Rents:  You may be able to charge higher rents if there are not a lot of pet-friendly options in your area
  • Happier Tenants:  Many studies show that animals can help reduce stress and generally help make us happier and healthier

More candidates, longer tenure, higher rents, and happier tenants – coupled together these benefits can make a substantial difference in rental performance.

Risks to Allowing Pets

On the other hand, there are risks:

  • Damage/Odors:   Animals generally contribute to more wear and tear on rentals, and can create somewhat lasting damage by scratching floors, chewing carpets, or emanating odors difficult to eradicate
  • Disturbing Neighbors:  Barking dogs and other loud animals can disturb tenants and nearby neighbors
  • Liability Risk:  There is a risk of the animal biting other tenants or neighbors.  Nearly 800,000 people a year seek treatment for dog bites
  • Loss of Other Tenants:  Other tenants may be allergic to dogs or cats or simply not pleased to have a nearby animal

Smart Landlord Strategies

If you decide to allow pets, cover your risks properly and set clear expectations with your renters.  Use a pet addendum and incorporate the following policies and provisions:

#1:  Identify the Number and Types of Pets Allowed and Require Permission

  • Your pet agreement should specify both the number and types of pets allowed
  • “Dangerous” dog breeds and/or weight limits:  Landlords can prohibit certain dog breeds or alternatively place a weight limit on dogs.  Fair Housing laws apply to people, not dogs, so while this may be controversial, landlords are legally entitled to do so.  And check with your insurer before you allow such breeds – some companies won’t issue liability policies if “dangerous breeds” are allowed
  • Tenants’ pets only:  State in your pet addenda that you allow only tenants’ pets. Avoid the situation of your tenants caring for other people’s pets in your rental unit
  • Require that tenants get your approval for any pet they wish to keep on the premises.  Ask pertinent questions prior to approving.

#2: Require Proper Identification, Licenses, and Vaccinations

Insist that tenants give you current proof that they’ve complied with local ordinances regarding regular vaccinations and licenses.  Proof may include a copy of their municipal license or vet’s invoice.  Require that all dogs and cats wear identification collars.

#3: Make Tenants Responsible for Their Pets

Tenants must agree to keep their pets under control at all times. Require tenants to clean up after their pets, both inside the premises and in all common areas. Tenants should not leave pets outdoors or unsupervised in their rental for an unreasonable period of time.

#4: Research Pet Fee Options

Many landlords charge a pet fee in addition to the normal security deposit.  This fee can be a non-refundable deposit, an ongoing monthly fee, or both.

Do your research in deciding if you will charge and in what form.  Consider:  

  • Some states, such as California and Virginia, cap deposit-type fees. For example, landlords cannot charge more than a specified sum as a deposit. If the total amount of the deposits that you charge has reached the maximum, you cannot charge a pet deposit on top of that
  • If you require a pet deposit, keep it reasonable, such as $200-$300 per year.  An unreasonably high fee might be unenforceable
  • Monthly pet fees have become increasingly popular.  Look at other listings and call a few nearby apartments to see research going rates

# 5: Ongoing compliance

State that your approval is conditional upon the tenants’ continued compliance with the terms of your pet agreement. Be clear that you have the right to ask the tenant to remove the pet from your property or terminate the tenancy in the event of serious or repeated violations of the agreement.

Using these tips will help you better evaluate whether accepting pets is right for your rental, and how to properly implement policies to mitigate your risk.

Rent Marketplace helps independent landlords, property owners and local property managers save time and money with our integrated one-stop shop solution suite. With online applications, tenant screening, state-specific leases and more, users can move in better residents, faster.

For additional information on Rent Marketplace, please visit our site at www.RentMarketplace or call us at 888-973-0971.  You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.