Are you considering allowing pets in your rental units? While it’s a step that many landlords are (understandably) apprehensive to take, there are ways that you can protect yourself and your properties from possible negative outcomes. In this article, we’ll offer tips about how to offer pet friendly homes for rent in a way that benefits both the landlord and tenants.
1. Look into your local laws
As a landlord, you understand the importance of knowing your local tenancy laws. Every state has laws in place that work to protect both the tenant and the landlord. However, depending on where you live, these laws may be strict or lenient.
There are also often laws that state that a tenant can’t be evicted for having a pet if designated as an emotional support animal. The classification of an emotional support animal varies depending on geography, so it’s best to check into your local laws if you’re unsure.
2. Specify which pets you allow
As a landlord, it’s essential that you specify which pets you will and won’t allow in your properties—don’t just assume that tenants will only want to keep cats or dogs and get surprised.
Have a problem with a “teacup pig” taking up stay? It’s best to specify that in your rental agreement. Concerned about heavy fish tanks? You can set a gallon limit.
Some landlords feel most comfortable meeting each pet and approving them on a pet-by-pet basis. Whatever you choose to do is up to you, but keep in mind that banning specific breeds of pets may be controversial.
3. Consider a pet fee
Pet fees and deposits are common tools used by landlords. Pet fees are usually one-time payments designed to cover potential costs that arise from allowing pets to occupy your units. You’re not likely to face pushback from prospective tenants if you charge one—in fact, in many places, they’re the norm and can range in cost from between $25 to $100 per month.
Deposits, on the other hand, range from a one-time fee of $100 to $500. It’s important to note that some states (such as California) may limit the amount that you’re able to charge for a pet deposit.
Keep in mind, too, the different implications between deposits and fees. While you can pocket a pet fee and consider it extra rental income, a deposit often must be returned at the end of a tenancy (provided that your property has not incurred pet-related damage).
4. Look into requiring tenant insurance
Tenant insurance is essential for protecting property from events like theft, flooding, sewage damage, and fire. Although landlords have homeowner’s insurance, these policies do not adequately cover the needs of your tenants. Your tenants will need to take out their insurance policies to be fully protected. Fortunately, the costs associated with tenant insurance are minimal, with an average cost of $14 per month.
Many landlords already require that tenants carry insurance, pets, or no pets. However, if you are renting to pet owners, you may want to be even more firm in your stance. While not every tenant insurance policy will cover pet damage, some will, so it’s worth researching a policy to recommend to your tenants.
5. Require a Written Lease Agreement
A lease is the most crucial document in a landlord-tenant relationship. It is a legally binding document that outlines the expectations and responsibilities of both the renter and rentee.
If you’re providing pet-friendly properties, you might want to look into having your tenants sign a separate pet addendum. This can either serve as a standalone document or an addendum to your standard lease.
You can work with services like RocketLawyer to help find a lawyer for you to configure what will work best for you. Still, it should generally outline that your tenant is expected to be a responsible pet owner and accept responsibility for any damage that their pet causes.
6. Benefits of Renting to Pet Owners
Many property owners—especially ones new to the world of landlords—are hesitant to allow pets. However, seasoned landlords know that while there are risks involved in renting out to pet owners, there are also several benefits, including:
- Attract a broader pool of tenants. Pet ownership is widespread, with 38.4% of American households owning a dog and 25.4% owning a cat. If you don’t rent to individuals with pets, you’re cutting down your pool of potential tenants significantly. Savvy tenants who know how to find a pet-friendly house to rent also tend to be diligent and take good care of their homes.
- Lower tenant turnover rate. Allowing pets in your units means that your tenants won’t have to move if they decide to adopt a pet. Allowing pets can also improve tenants’ quality of life, leading to them settling in for longer.
Charge a higher rate. Some jurisdictions may allow landlords to charge a pet deposit, translating into an increased monthly cash flow for landlords. Charging these fees can also be done easily using rent collection software.
7. Drawbacks of Renting to Pet Owners
Some of the drawbacks of offering pet-friendly apartments for rent are pretty serious, so it’s essential to consider them when determining the conditions for your unit. Here are some significant risks to consider:
- Property damage. Of course, the most significant risk to allowing pet ownership within your rentals is property damage. Pets are animals, and, as a result, they can occasionally cause damage, even if they’re well trained. Using property management software can make tracking damages and expenses easier if it offers an analytics feature.
- Pets can attract pests. If your tenant has a dog or an outdoor cat, they may contract fleas and bring them into the home. Fleas can infest a unit and be incredibly difficult to get rid of. In some jurisdictions, landlords may be responsible for the cost of pest extermination, no matter the source.
Allergy complaints. If you have a unit that shares its air ventilation system with another team nearby, you may hear complaints about allergies if you allow pets of any kind to occupy the space.
Final Thoughts: Pet Policy Guide for Landlords
It’s normal if, as a landlord, the idea of renting out to pet owners gives you pause. But, by doing so, you are opening yourself up to a caring, dedicated tenant who is comfortable in their home.
Plus, there are ways to protect yourself from the worst possible outcomes. By taking the precautions mentioned above, you are doing your part to be a responsible landlord who wants the best for your tenants.
It may be surprising to some, but there is no standard agreement on what are and aren’t house pets. If you’re looking at domesticated animals, the list would include options like livestock and even horses. However, the most common house pets you’ll encounter are cats, dogs, and rodents like rabbits, guinea pigs, mice, rats, and hamsters. Other housepets could include animals in tanks like fish, crabs, scorpions, frogs, or spiders.
While humans can also cause house damage, pets are more likely to. Some of the possible damages commonly caused by pets include scratched walls, scratched flooring, scratched floorboards, and more. If your rental property comes with furniture, pets may destroy furniture through scratching or chewing. Pets can also cause damage through inappropriate urination or defecation, leaving stains or a scent in the home. Also, pets may sometimes bring certain pests into the house, such as fleas.
It may be possible to evict a tenant for having pets in some cases. However, this largely depends on two things. One is the jurisdiction that you live in, and the other is the documents that you and your tenant(s) have signed. It’s also important to note that under no circumstances can a landlord evict a tenant for possessing a service animal. This is because federal law protects the right for Americans living with disabilities to receive adequate accommodations, including service animals and/or emotional support animals.