Should you allow pets in your rental property? Chances are, if you are a landlord or rental property manager, you have been asked about your policy regarding pets. Before making your final decision, there are several factors to take into consideration.
Pros of Renters With Pets
There are several benefits of allowing your renters to own pets.
Larger Selection of Potential Applicants
Nearly 49 million American households have a pet. When you choose to operate a no-pet property, you eliminate a considerable number of potential, high-quality tenants. For many prospective renters, a no-pet policy may be the difference between securing a home or not. In some cases, this results in a pet being abandoned or surrendered to a shelter. By offering a pet-friendly rental, you can market your property to a larger pool of applicants and help to keep pets out of shelters.
Better, Happier Tenants
Tenants who go through the process of having their pet approved for move-in — including paying pet deposits, fees, providing current vet records, pet interviews, etc. — demonstrate a significant level of responsibility. Their attentiveness toward these actions may be an indication of a better quality tenant. Additionally, if a tenant takes good care of their pet, it is a good indicator that they will probably take good care of your property, too.
Having a pet also makes tenants happy. Renters will appreciate not having to choose between renting closer to their work or school and keeping their beloved family pet. Additionally, studies suggest owning a pet can promote happiness and good health within pet owners.
You May Be Able to Charge More
If you own property in an area without many pet rental options, you might be able to charge a bit more for your pet-friendly property. This is especially true if you install pet-related upgrades to your rental property, such as pet waste stations, dog wash stations and enclosed pet play areas.
Tenants May Stay Longer
Finding a pet-friendly rental can be a challenge for renters. One study found that only 9% of available rental housing allows pets without any significant limitations. Once a tenant moves into your property, they will likely stay for as long as they can to avoid having to find another pet-friendly rental in your area. The same study found that pet owners with legal pets — meaning pets they are allowed to have, rather than secret pets at non-pet-friendly properties — had a longer tenancy than renters at non-pet properties.
Decreased Chance of Secret Pets
Despite a no-pet policy, some tenants may try to sneak pets into their rental or keep pets without authorization. Having a pet-friendly policy in place will minimize these occurrences, allowing you the chance to know and have a record of every pet on the premises. With unauthorized pets, you never truly know who has a pet and whether that pet is aggressive, sick or otherwise dangerous toward other tenants. A pet-friendly policy means having an open conversation with all tenants and being informed about the types of animals on your property.
Cons of Renters With Pets
If you are asking, "should I allow pets in my rental property?" then there are some potential risks you need to consider before making your decision.
Increased Risk of Property Damage
The most obvious con of renting to pet-owners is the increased risk of property damage. You might have to perform more repairs when there are dogs or cats in a property. Some of the damage pets can cause includes:
- Bite or scratch marks on the walls or trim.
- Broken window blinds.
- Chewed carpet.
- Scuffed or scratched flooring.
- Clogged plumbing from baths.
- Scratched or scuffed doors.
- Lingering odor or allergy-inducing dander.
Potentially Aggressive Pets
Some pets, particularly dogs, may become aggressive when they encounter other people or other pets, even if they are not typically aggressive. Aggression or anxiety could cause problems between neighbors or result in injury to tenant or pet. Make sure you have enough liability coverage and encourage or require tenants to have similar coverage in their insurance policies. If the same pet regularly attacks or threatens others, you may need to address the problem or work together with the owner of the pet to come up with a solution.
Even when your pet policy includes clear instructions regarding the prompt removal of pet waste, some pet owners are less conscientious than others. Despite your best efforts, you might still find piles of dog waste scattered in the grass or even on sidewalks. One way to minimize this is by providing pet waste stations throughout the property that are equipped with dog waste bags and a trash can for easy disposal. If the problem continues, you might consider implementing a fine for each occurrence to encourage compliance.
Disturbance to Non-Pet Owners
Other renters who do not own pets may not enjoy living in a pet-friendly establishment. Pet allergies, excessive dog barking and stepping in pet waste can disturb other tenants. As a result, those tenants could choose not to renew their lease or decide to move before the end of their current lease. Implementing a clear, thorough pet policy in a pet-friendly establishment is crucial for the sake of all everyone who lives there.
Pet odor caused by pet dander, pet hair or unkempt litter boxes can linger in an apartment after a tenant moves. Special cleaning procedures may be required to eliminate this smell and make it acceptable for new tenants.
Tips for Managing a Pet-Friendly Rental
You've decided to allow pets in your rental — now what? Keep reading to learn how to manage a pet-friendly rental.
Have a Thorough Screening Process
Have a thorough applicant screening process in place to help eliminate irresponsible pet owners or nuisance pets. Ask questions such as:
- How old is your pet?
- Do you have a vet?
- Is your pet spayed or neutered?
- Has your pet had any obedience training?
- What breed is your pet?
- What do you do with your pet when you leave your home for the day?
- Has your pet ever lived in a rental before?
- Does your pet have any history of aggression?
- Is your pet on any current flea and tick prevention methods or undergoing treatment?
In some cases, you may want to consider having a pet interview. You get to meet the pet in person to get a better feel for its temperament and behavior.
Check Rental References
Utilize rental references for prospective tenants. Asking previous landlords about potential tenants is an excellent way to see if there are any concerns you should be aware of before they sign a lease.
Require a Pet Deposit
Require a pet deposit, pet fee or pet rent from renters to reduce the cost of potential pet-related damages.
- Refundable pet deposit: A refundable pet deposit is similar to any other damage deposit you collect from your renters — it is used to cover the cost of potential damages caused by a pet, and returned to the renter at the end of their lease, minus the amount of any damage.
- Nonrefundable pet fee: A nonrefundable pet fee is not the same thing as a deposit. Essentially, this is a one-time fee renters pay for having a pet in their home.
- Additional pet rent: In lieu of a pet deposit or fee, some landlords prefer asking renters for additional pet rent each month.
Have a Clear Pet Policy in Place
Have a clear, thorough pet policy in place. Make sure it is easy to understand for both you and the renter. Provide a copy for your renter to refer to, as well as a copy for you and your staff. Your pet policy should cover topics such as:
- Cleaning up after pets, i.e., dog waste.
- Excessive noise and quiet hours.
- All limits and restrictions regarding breed, weight and number of pets allowed per unit.
- Any flea prevent and vaccination requirements.
- Established rules regarding pets in common areas.
- Rules regarding pets being tied or left outside in dog boxes or on long cables.
Consult Your Insurance Policy
Always consult your property's insurance company before making the final decision about pets. Some insurance companies have their own restrictions in place, including a list of restricted breeds or exotic animals.
Require Renters Insurance
If you are still asking questions like, "should I allow dogs in my rental property?" and "should I allow cats in my rental property?" one solution may be to require renters to have insurance with pet coverage. Requiring all tenants to have proof of renters insurance coverage that includes pet-related injuries or property damages will protect you, your renter, and your other tenants.
Consider Restrictions and Limitations
For the safety and comfort of all tenants, consider implementing limitations and restrictions at your pet-friendly rental.
For example, many landlords impose restrictions such as:
- Breed restrictions: Some insurance companies and landlords have breed restrictions in place for dogs. Commonly restricted breeds include pit bulls, rottweilers, Akitas, Dobermans and Great Danes. Please note, breeds are not always an accurate indicator of personality.
- Weight restrictions: Many landlords implement weight restrictions in their pet policy. For many, this is a way to ensure only small, easily manageable pets are on the property. Other times, this is to prevent heavier pets from creating too much noise in an upper-story apartment.
- Number of pets allowed: Most rentals allow up to two pets. Choose a number that makes sense for the size of your property.
- Spayed or neutered: Some landlords require all pets to be spayed or neutered before move-in to prevent unplanned offspring, indoor spraying, territory marking or dominant behaviors.
- Up-to-date vaccinations: You might consider including a section about maintaining up-to-date vaccinations in your pet policy. This will help protect other renters and pets from infection or disease. This should be a top priority if you plan to provide a communal pet area, like a dog park.
- Flea prevention: Requiring renters' pets to be on a flea treatment and prevention routine will minimize the risk of bringing fleas and ticks inside the rental or from spreading to other renters' pets.
- Exotic pets: "Pets" can go beyond cats, dogs or even goldfish — when putting together your pet policy, consider your stance on exotic pets. Exotic pets may include snakes, spiders, reptiles, birds or other less common pets.
Make Your Property Pet-Friendly
If you have decided to allow pets at your rental property, there are several steps you can take to make sure you provide a welcoming space.
- Provide pet waste stations: If you own an apartment complex, install pet waste stations throughout the property. Pet waste stations consist of a pet waste bag dispenser and a small trashcan. These stations make it convenient for renters to clean up after their pets during walks.
- Consider installing a pet wash area: A pet wash area is a great idea for complexes with several pet owners. Pet wash areas not only make your rental more appealing to pet owners, but they can spare residential plumbing from damage caused by excessive pet hair during bath time.
- Make sure there are plenty of grassy areas: Grassy areas are essential for dog-friendly rentals. Dogs need outdoor space to walk, exercise and use the bathroom. Grassy areas also minimize dog's using the bathroom on or near sidewalks or other structures.
- Use durable flooring: When constructing or renovating your pet-friendly rental, install durable flooring. Choose something similar to vinyl or laminate that does not attract pet hair or odor and is easy to clean in case of pet accidents.
- Designate an enclosed play area: Dog parks are not essential, but they are a huge selling point for many pet owners looking for a pet-friendly rental. Plus, providing an enclosed pet park for dogs to run and play in will help minimize pet boredom — which, in turn, may limit excessive barking.
- Provide renters with a list of pet resources: To encourage your renters to be responsible pet owners, consider compiling a pet packet to give them at move-in. In this packet, provide contact information for local veterinarians, pet groomers, pet stores, emergency services, obedience trainers and more.
- Keep your renters informed about visitors: Even friendly, well-behaved dogs can become anxious when strangers enter their home. To keep your staff and renters safe, do your best to inform renters when you will be entering their home for routine maintenance or other issues. This way, the renter can take steps to make sure their dog is crated or away from the home.
Small changes like these can make a big difference to your renters and their pets. Satisfied renters are more likely to renew their lease or tell their friends about your property.
Remember Fair Housing Laws
The Fair Housing Act requires even non-pet properties to allow and provide reasonable accommodation for Assistance Animals. Because Assistance Animals are not pets, you cannot collect a pet fee. However, you may typically ask for a damage deposit and have the right to pursue action should an Assistance Animal behave aggressively or otherwise become a nuisance to other tenants.
Include Pets in the Lease
Include your pet policy in your renter's official lease, so you have a legal record of all agreements, permissions and restrictions. Should a renter break any pet-related regulations mentioned in the lease or pet addendum, you can rightfully take action against them. One way to do this is by adding a pet addendum.
What Is a Pet Addendum?
A pet addendum is an official addition to a new or standing lease that provides additional terms that were not listed in the original document. Pet addendums are the space in your lease where you can specify your pet policy and requirements. Once a tenant has signed a pet addendum, breaking those rules has the same consequences are breaking any other part of their lease.
How to Add a Pet Addendum to Your Lease
To successfully add a pet addendum to your lease, follow these tips:
- Include all important information in the addendum, including regulations, requirements, restrictions, fees, rent amount and deposits.
- Sit down with each tenant and go over the addendum together to ensure a full understanding on their part and answer any questions they may have.
- Negotiate change when necessary, such as if a tenant's pet becomes a nuisance or when a renter who moved in without a pet wants to adopt a new animal.
- Make sure tenants understand the consequences of breaking the rules outlined in the pet addendum.
- Retain a copy for your records and make sure your renter has a copy for their use.
Get Help Managing Your Property With Harrisburg Property Management Group
Should you allow pets in your rental property? Ultimately, the choice is yours to make, as there are several pros and cons of renters with pets. Do you need help managing the day-to-day operations of your rental property? Have questions about how to manage a pet-friendly rental? Contact Harrisburg Property Management Group today to learn more about our property management services.