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Author: Bob Longworth
Nov 22, 2019 at 11:01am

Pets Or No Pets In Your Rental?

The simplest thing for you to say as a landlord are the words “NO PETS” on your listing. That means no birds, dogs, cats, reptiles, bunnies, gerbils, or armadillos (just kidding). Tough stuff. Because it’s hard to say what constitutes man’s best friend.
The first step a landlord should take in regards to pets is to create a pet policy, establishing clear rules about what types of animals are allowed, what fees are required of pet-owning tenants, and rules all pet-owners must follow during the tenancy. A pet policy should always be included in your lease agreement, even if you do not allow pets, and reviewed with your renters during lease signing. Not mentioning it in writing — even if you discuss it verbally— can give them an out legally.

You may ask — if pets cause damage, why consider permitting them at all? Birds are let loose from cages and leave their marks all over drapery. Dogs chew on wood, might bark all day long, and can add canine odor everywhere. Cats can leave permanent marks on carpeting, shred drapes, and make a tapestry of holes on screen doors. Enough to reject pets altogether? Not so fast. Even with all those worst-case scenarios, banning pets may find you shooting yourself in the foot.

According to an survey, more than 75% of renters own a furry friend, and the majority of these renters (60 %) claim to struggle when finding a pet-friendly rental. If you allow pets at your property, your listing will be the first pet-owners respond to. With vacancy rates decreasing nationwide, the scarcity of pet-friendly rentals, you may well have a property that your pet-owning tenant won’t want to let go of.

Rentecdirect’s Kaycee Miller reports, “Tenant turnover and vacancy can quickly turn a profitable investment into a sinkhole. Pet-friendly properties will lower your vacancy rate and increase your renewals. In an analysis of landlord surveys by FIREPAW, Inc., tenants with pets were found to stay significantly longer, by an average of 23 months compared to 15 months.”

Miller advises landlords to consider collecting a monthly pet fee. “This is different than a pet-deposit, which can only be used to repair damage caused by the pet. Instead of a pet deposit, landlords can ask their tenants to pay a monthly fee or pet-rent if they choose to keep a pet on their property. Pet fees are non-refundable and become income off of your investment. Even a $20 pet rent/month will add up to $240 in additional income each year.” This does not preclude you from also collecting a pet deposit. Just make sure to check your local laws about how much, if at all, you are allowed to collect a pet deposit or pet fee.

Don’t forget about protecting yourself into only by way of a pet deposit, but also by liability coverage through renter’s insurance that sets forth established rules and expectations regarding pet behavior. And then there is protecting yourself against the dishonest tenant — those who sneak in an unauthorized pet. Unauthorized pets will cause damage and have the potential to hurt people on your property, all of which the property owner will be responsible for if the tenant leaves.

Tenants, in general, have no wish to lose their pet deposits and will often go to great lengths to fix any damage — often without their landlords knowing about it. But if you make their pet deposit non-refundable, they have no monetary incentive to prevent pet damage.

Did you know that your landlord status is elevated in your community by permitting pets? “Pet-friendly properties gain the support of their community by creating pet policies that save animals’ lives,” says Miller. “In an article by CNN, San Francisco animal welfare nonprofit SF SPCA states there’s been a surge in owners abandoning their pets due to an inability to find pet-friendly housing. Unfortunately, landlords are being blamed for these instances of animal abandonment as the reason for a lack of pet-friendly housing.”

As for potential damage, a FIREPAW, Inc. study finds 85% of landlords permitting pets reported having some amount of pet-related damage at some time, but that damage is covered by the required pet deposit in most cases. “In reality, the data suggests there is little difference in damage between tenants with or without pets,” says Miller. In this FIREPAW, Inc. study, the biggest differences in damage from tenants with pets and those without was under $40, with an average for $323 in damage for tenants without pets and average of $362 for tenants with pets.”

If you want extra insurance that your application is a good pet risk, you can screen them beyond a standard background and credit check. Pet screening can include requiring applicants to submit references, vet records, obedience training certificates and proof of renters insurance with pet coverage.