Pet-owners are everywhere in the U.S., where roughly 68% of households have a cat or a dog. Yet a recent survey by Avail showed that only 55% of landlords allow pets in their properties.
Even if you’re a pet-lover yourself, you may be hesitant to allow pets into your rental properties. This is understandable – but are there situations in which it’s okay to allow tenants with pets?
First, let’s consider the pros and cons of allowing pets in your rental:
- Hard-to-eliminate pet odors
- Noise from barking, etc.
- Pet-related damage to your property
- Possible physical injury or accidents involving neighbors, guests or yourself
- Remnants of allergens (saliva and fur) that get in the air ducts, carpet, etc.
- Fleas and other pests
- Increase in size of tenant base
- Higher rental rates or fees
- Possibility of tenants signing longer leases due to limited pet-friendly rental options
- If you allow pets, there are fewer chances of tenants smuggling them without permission
At the end of the day, it’s up to you whether you’re willing to accept pets in your rentals. But if you do, here are some guidelines for safeguarding your properties:
Decide What You’ll Allow
Pets come in all shapes and sizes: dogs, cats, birds, fish, rabbits, gerbils, small-scale reptiles, etc., and some have a much higher potential for causing damage than others. So decide which types of animals you’re willing to allow, as well as the number of each and the total number of pets permitted. Will you allow more than one dog? How many cats? Would ten guinea pigs be too much? Put all of this in your lease agreement, as well as:
- A statement that allows you to forcibly remove any pet that becomes aggressive or dangerous.
- A clause that gives you the power to change your rules on pets, if it’s done with a proper notice period (in case you decide not to allow pets in your properties anymore).
- The consequences for violation of these rules, like additional fees or eviction.
- Lastly, you should have a “pet addendum” attached to the lease. This includes specific details about the pet that you are allowing in the rental, and states that any other animal that isn’t registered in the lease is considered an illegal occupant and a breach of contract. If they get an additional dog or replace a previous pet that passed away, they need to have their new pet cleared and registered again.
And make sure it’s clear what you expect from the pet owner in terms of responsibility for taking care of their animal. So also consider adding these provisions to the lease or pet addendum:
- They must keep up with the required shots, licenses, and tags for the pet.
- They must register any pet with you, the landlord, prior to taking them in.
- They must resolve and pay for any harm done to anybody or anything by the pet.
- They must take care for and clean up after the pet on a daily basis.
- When outside, they must keep the pets on a leash or in a cage (depending on the animal).
- They must acquire insurance with liability coverage for their animal.
Check Your Insurance and Liability
Check the coverage of your insurance policy before considering tenants with pets. What is the amount of liability coverage in the policy? Are there any limitations, exclusions, or requirements for this coverage? Will they use the list of “dangerous breeds” as a basis for breeds that aren’t included in the insurance?
Charge Additional Fees
Since there is more risk involved when renting to pet owners, you can either add a pet fee on top of the monthly rent, or simply increase the monthly rental fee. Some landlords charge anywhere from $25-$100 per month, per pet, on top of the rent, and they also sometimes charge a pet processing fee (up to $500) when screening applicants with furry friends. Just be careful not to charge anything for emotional support animals.
Some states also allow you to collect a separate security deposit, called a “pet deposit.” In some states, there is the option to make the pet deposit non-refundable. However, there are states, like Michigan, where the maximum security deposit is only two months’ rent. You need to know the maximum allowable amount of your state and evaluate if this will be enough to cover for pet-related damages which could occur in your property.
Just like any other tenant, make sure you screen the tenant’s background thoroughly. Apart from their financial and credit history, also check their references and ask about their experience with how the tenant managed their pet. Not all pet owners are equally well-trained and equipped to look after their pets!
When interviewing them, make sure you ask:
- Does the pet have the proper vaccinations and licenses? Is it neutered or spayed?
- What breed and how old is the pet?
- Has the pet ever caused damage to items or bitten anyone?
- Who will be responsible for caring for the pet?
- How do they plan to take care of the pet on a daily basis?
- What is their occupation? (A doctor would have to leave their pets unattended for longer hours than a stay-at-home mom would)
- Who will care for the pet when they’re not home?
You should also request a recent photo of the animal to keep for your records, and can even ask to meet the pet in person prior to approving their application.
So, now that the risks, benefits, and processes for allowing tenants with pets have been laid out, it’s your time to make the decision. Will you open your doors to the pet-loving community?
As a final thought, be mindful that a Fair Housing Law protects disabled people who need an animal for their emotional wellbeing and/or physical safety. The term “disabled” now includes not only the blind or paralyzed, but also those with clinical depression and post-traumatic stress. You can request a note from their physician to verify their condition and need for animal assistance to keep things documented.
Do you allow pets in your rentals? Why or why not?
Image Courtesy of Dominika Roseclay