Should You Allow Pets in Your Rental Property?

  • May 06, 2024
  • 10 min read
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Have you ever considered the impact of allowing pets in your rental properties? With 75% of renters owning pets, opening doors to furry friends isn’t just kind; it’s smart business.

According to the 2023-24 American Pet Products Association (APPA) National Pet Owners Survey, 23 million households welcomed a new furry friend during the pandemic, and 66% of US households have a pet. Millennials outpace any other pet-owning demographic at 33%.

That’s a massive chunk of the market you could miss out on if you don’t allow pets.

You may be concerned about property damage, pet dander, and noise. However, with proper strategies like pet deposits and detailed agreements, landlords can navigate these waters smoothly. So, if you haven’t previously considered opening up your rental to pets and are unsure of how to handle it, let’s get right into the benefits and how to limit any risk or liability.

Benefits of Allowing Pets in Your Rental Property

Allowing pets in your rental property can broaden your options as a property owner. Weigh the following advantages if you accept cats, dogs, or other furry creatures into your rental home with their human companion.

Larger Tenant Pool Interested in Your Property

When you open your doors to a pet owner, you’re expanding your reach to potential tenants; more potential tenants showing interest or submitting an application means a higher likelihood of keeping your rental units occupied.

Boost Your ROI with Higher Rent, Pet Deposits, and Pet Rent

Landlords who allow pets can charge a pet an additional security deposit, pet fee, or pet rent to cover any potential damages caused by the pet. This gives you more financial security and more money in your pocket. Who doesn’t love that?

Pet Owners Are Responsible Tenants

Contrary to popular belief, pet owners can make fantastic tenants. They tend to be more responsible and take better care of their rental units.

A study by FIREPAW found that tenants with pets stayed an average of 46 months compared to 18 months for tenants without pets. That’s a significant difference in tenant retention, not to mention less turnover maintenance, costs, and vacancies.

Increased Tenant Satisfaction

Something else to think about is the happiness of your tenant. The National Association of Realtors reported in 2021 that 43% of pet owners would be willing to move to accommodate their pets.

Most owners consider their pets an extension of their family. Welcoming their fur-ever friend within your own guidelines can help make everyone happy and reduce turnover.

Risks of Allowing Pets in Your Rental Property

There are, of course, drawbacks and challenges to allowing dogs and cats in your units.

Pets Might Damage the Property

Sometimes, our furry friends can get too enthusiastic, leaving behind a trail of chaos. Whether it’s scratched floors, chewed-up door frames, or marking, property damage is a legitimate worry, and it’s typically the primary concern of many landlords (and property managers).

Noisy Pets Can Lead to Complaints From Unhappy Neighbors

Barking dogs and meowing cats can be a nuisance to neighbors. Large dogs can also make a lot of noise for the tenants living below one if your units have hardwood floors.

Pet Allergies Could Deter Some Potential Tenants

While allowing pets usually increases your tenant pool, on the flip side, allergies to pets could restrict a different pool of folks who’d want to rent your place.

Pets Can Cause Injuries

In rare cases, pets can cause injuries to other tenants or guests on your property. You need to be aware of liability risks, as landlords could be held responsible. It’s crucial to have proper liability insurance coverage and clear pet policies in place.

Higher Maintenance Costs

Along with property damage, shedding dog and cat hair can clog air filters and reduce the efficiency of HVAC systems and plumbing. Pet urine can require deep cleaning or replacement of flooring or carpet. Be prepared to spend more time and money on maintenance, and be sure to offset this cost with appropriate deposits or pet rent.

How to Screen Renters With Pets

Cesar Millan, a public figure and dog trainer, says, “It’s not the breed, it’s the human behind the dog.”

If you do decide to allow pets in your rental property, it’s essential to have a solid screening process in place. You want to make sure you’re getting responsible pet owners as tenants.

What does a responsible pet owner look like? There are a few key things to look for:

  • Their pet is well-behaved and properly trained
  • They keep their pet groomed and up-to-date on vaccinations
  • They clean up after their pet and ensure it doesn’t cause damage
  • They have references from previous landlords or a veterinarian

Some helpful questions to ask your prospective tenant include:

  • How long have you had your pet?
  • Has your pet caused any damage or issues in previous rentals?
  • Is your pet up-to-date on vaccinations?
  • Who will care for your pet when you’re away?

Some initial questions can help weed out anyone not genuinely caring for their dog or cat properly.

Setting Rules and Policies for Pets in a Rental Property

As a landlord, your rules and policies can vary depending on your preferences and how your community operates. For example, you could require only spayed females and neutered males or only allow cats, not dogs (or vice versa).

Create a Pet Policy for Your Rental Agreement

To tie it all together, it’s a good idea to have a separate pet policy lease agreement that tenants with pets must sign.

This agreement should outline all the pet-related rules and policies, including any fees or deposits required, size and breed restrictions, and tenant responsibilities. You should also include consequences for violating any part of the agreement.

By having a clear and comprehensive pet policy rental agreement, you can help ensure that tenants understand their responsibilities and minimize the risk of pet-related issues.

The following are a few key points to address in your agreement.

Charging Pet Rent, a Pet Deposit, or a Pet Fee with Monthly Rent

As a landlord, you’ve got options for charging for pets in your rental property. You can charge a pet deposit, pet fee, or pet rent.

A few things to know:

  • A pet deposit is refundable
  • A pet fee is non-refundable
  • Pet rent is an ongoing monthly charge.

So, what’s the best option for you?

Well, it depends on your goals. If you want to cover potential damages, a pet deposit might be the way to go. But if you want to generate extra income, pet rent could be a better choice.

Just keep in mind that some states have limits on how much you can charge for a security deposit, so make sure you’re following the law.

Alternatively, you may want to require a non-refundable pet “cleaning fee” that is priced per pet.

And if you decide to charge a higher deposit instead of a pet-specific one, that’s okay, too. The key is to ensure you’re covering your bases and protecting your rental property from potential damage.

Restrict the Type, Number, and Size of Pets

Consider limiting how many pets you allow and their size and species. Maybe you’re okay with reptiles but not a full-blown boa constrictor, or you’re okay with cats but not a dog. Or you might allow one dog under 50 pounds or two cats per unit. This can help minimize the risk potential for damage and noise disturbances.

As a side note, if you allow fish, you may want to be specific about whether or not the tenant can have a fresh or saltwater tank since saltwater requires more equipment and maintenance.

How do you decide on these restrictions? Think about the size of your rental units, the layout of your property, and your tenant community.

Require Proper Vaccinations and IDs

Speaking of vaccinations, it’s vital to require tenants to provide proof that their pets have up-to-date vaccinations, identification tags, and microchips. You can also obtain a photo of the pet to keep on file. This helps ensure the safety of other tenants and their pets and helps identify the pet if it gets lost.

But what vaccinations should you require? It depends on your local laws and the type of pet. For example, most states require dogs to have a rabies vaccination.

You can also require tenants to provide proof of other vaccinations, such as distemper, bordetella, and parvovirus for dogs and feline leukemia for cats.

Restrictions Based on Dog Breed

Some dog breeds have a reputation for being more aggressive or prone to causing damage. As a landlord, you have the right to restrict certain breeds from your rental property.

Landlords sometimes ban breeds like pit bulls or rottweilers, but it’s important to check local laws to ensure breed-specific restrictions are legal in your area.

It’s also important to remember that there is always the potential for dog bites or injuries if the owner does not control the animal or care for it properly. Some small dogs can be prone to fear-biting.

If you’re concerned about the breed, consider requiring proof of dog obedience school.

Renters Insurance Policy

You can ask that your tenant’s renter’s insurance policy cover the animal hurting anyone or that they obtain one that does.

Clarify Tenant Responsibility

When allowing pets in your rental property, clarifying the tenant’s responsibilities is essential.

This means cleaning up any waste immediately, always keeping Fido on a leash in shared spaces, having a litter box for cat urine, and ensuring proper exercise and care so the pet doesn’t become the neighborhood’s latest noise maker or redecorate the carpet and walls with their unique paw prints.

Follow this up with a list of consequences for when a tenant violates the rules, which can include fines, obedience school, and possible removal of the animal from the property.

Fair Housing Laws: Service vs Emotional Support Animals

When it comes to Fair Housing laws and assistance animals, it’s important to understand the differences between service animals and emotional support animals.

Service animals are trained to perform specific tasks to assist individuals with disabilities, while emotional support animals provide comfort and support to individuals with mental or emotional disabilities.

Landlords must allow service animals in their rental properties. You may require documentation for emotional support animals. Get familiar with the Fair Housing laws in your area and how they apply to assistance animals. Disability discrimination is a serious thing.

Pets As Assistance Animals

If a tenant has an emotional support animal, they may need to provide documentation from a healthcare professional stating that the animal is necessary for their mental or emotional well-being.

As a landlord, you can require this documentation, but you cannot charge additional fees or deposits for assistance animals.

Required Documentation for Assistance Animals

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), acceptable documentation may include:

  • A letter from a physician, psychiatrist, social worker, or other mental health professional
  • Proof that the tenant has a disability and a disability-related need for the animal
  • Information about how the animal assists the tenant with their disability
  • It’s important to handle these requests on a case-by-case basis and to keep all documentation confidential.

Call All County Property For Your Management Needs

Creating pet-friendly policies that keep your property safe while maintaining the peaceful vibe everyone loves is an intelligent strategy for enhanced tenant retention and a strong return on your rental investment. When handled correctly, allowing pets in your rental home or apartment can make everyone happy, and you will avoid any horror stories many unprepared landlords face.

Need help with creating, managing, and troubleshooting a pet policy for your lease agreement? All County Property’s expert property managers have you covered. Contact us and let us handle your rental unit management so you can kick back, relax, and let your investment do the work for you.

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