Pets & Landlord Pet Policies
It may seem impossible that anyone could dislike pets, but sometimes, they can mean big trouble for landlords. There is a very real chance of property destruction and general chaos caused by animals in the house.
The problem is, you stand to lose a considerable amount of market share of renters who own pets if you restrict entry for animals. So is there a halfway point where you can still keep the premises safe from damage? We think you can with a well thought out foolproof pet policy.
First, you’ll need to compare the advantages and disadvantages of allowing renters to keep pets. This will enable you to create an effective pet policy that will clearly spell out what the landlord expects from the tenant.
Below Are Some of the Benefits of Offering a Pet-Friendly Rental Home:
More Appealing to Potential Tenants
A survey by the American Veterinary Medical Foundation (AVMF) showed that there are over 69 million dogs, 74 million cats, 8 million birds and 4 million horses that are kept as pets in the U.S. This means that about 65%
of American homes keep a pet or multiple pets. For landlords who forbid animals on the premises, the number of potential renters reduces by half. By allowing pets to live with their owners, you will become a much more appealing option in the home rental market for most renters.
Landlords often add a pet fee to the rent as protection against possible property damage when allowing pets. This fee can either be collected monthly or as a non-refundable pet deposit. Not only will any unexpected expenses be covered, you will also be able to earn some additional income on yearly leases.
Non-refundable pet fees are charged by some landlords. In theory, this seems like a good idea, but in practice, not so much. If a tenant has already paid in advance for the assumed damage their pet will cause, the tenant may be less concerned about controlling their pet in your property.
Instead, consider implementing a refundable pet deposit. Make it a large enough amount, $500 to $600, so the tenant will be concerned with getting their pet deposit refunded.
Hopefully, the large pet deposit will serve as an incentive for the tenant to keep their pet well behaved and cleaned-up after at the thought of losing a large sum of money.
In most states, you can charge a monthly pet fee or an additional deposit for tenants with pets. Be sure to check with your state guidelines, because it can be illegal to charge additional fees for pets in certain states.
Make Tenants Happy
Pets are greatly cherished by many people and they cannot imagine parting with their pets. Today many pet owners consider their pet as just another family member.
A pet-friendly property will mean increased satisfaction among tenants, and there will be higher chances of the tenants renting and staying longer. Long-term tenants are always preferable as your vacancy and turnover costs will be reduced.
Enhanced Form of Protection
Having dogs around can be an advantage if you rent out apartment complexes, duplexes and other properties in certain areas. There will be fewer safety concerns and complaints when dogs keep unwanted people out and are considered by some just another security measure.
Hardly anyone wants to be the spoilsport landlord who won’t let tenants keep puppies and kittens, but there are definitely a few drawbacks to allowing pets live on your property.
For a landlord, the following are some of the disadvantages of allowing pets:
Damage to Property
Property damage by animals is a real major concern for any landlord. Pets can wreak considerable havoc that ranges from unpleasant smells and urine stains on the carpet to chewed furniture and littering the yard. Many tenants are not that particular about cleaning after their pet’s mess because they’ll eventually move someplace else. This leaves you to take care of repairs and make the property fit for selling or renting out again.
Dogs may be beneficial for additional security on the premises, but they can also be a nuisance. Those neighbors that work nights and sleep during the day will not appreciate the additional noise a dog can make. Their aggression and the noise they make whether it is day or night is certain to irk other residents. As the landlord, you will probably have to deal with the complaints every time a dog invades another yard, constantly barks and becomes a nuisance, or worse…bites someone.
Additional Personal Time Devoted
Dealing with pet problems can take up a lot of your time. You may often need to drop other commitments to take care of unexpected issues and complaints created by pet issues. Creating a pet policy will also require you to take time out of your schedule just to create it, which can be frustrating if you are already busy with other tasks.
Creating a Pet Policy That is Reasonable and Easy to Understand:
You can reduce the risk involved by allowing pets on your property with a written pet policy and procedures in place. However, the policy needs to be reasonable so that tenants are not overly restricted by too many rules and regulations while finding it hard to understand and adhere to the rules.
You must first decide which animals are acceptable and which ones you don’t want on the premises. This can be done by specifying types of pets in the policy. For example, you can allow cats, dogs, fish, hamsters, birds, rabbits etc… all of which are common pets but prohibit snakes and spiders.
You can also restrict / ban certain animals to living on premises according to their breeds. This way, aggressive dogs such as Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers and Pit Bulls just to name a few can be forbidden to live on the landlords property. Your policy can also allow or prohibit pets according to their size and weight. For instance, any dog that weighs more than 25 pounds may be prohibited from staying on the property.
If you do not want to ban specific dog breeds, you can instead instill requirements on height and weight. For instance, all dogs must be no more than 25 pounds, or no taller than 16 inches. This will allow you to still exclude most of the dangerous breeds without specifically banning them.
You can create a pet policy in several ways with specific clauses that best protect you and your property from damages and liability issues. The bottom line is to set well-defined rules and limitations that will help you avoid potential damages in the future.
You also have the right to allow or prohibit pets based on each individual case by case basis. This will allow you to make a better decision keeping the circumstances in mind. Take a photo of the pet and keep on file with the lease agreement. Make it clear that the prospective tenant is not to take in pets from friends or family. Be sure to limit the number of pets.
In this case, you can ask certain questions to determine what decision to make whether to accept or deny a pet. You can have a look at the pet yourself. Meeting the pet in person will allow you to see how the responds to you and at the same time, how the potential tenant handles their pet. If the prospective tenant shows no control over their pet, your property will most likely be doomed and suffer the consequences. Using common sense is also a necessity when making certain considerations towards accepting or denying pets.
Below Are A Few Questions To Ask The Potential Tenant:
· How old is the pet
· Where did they get their pet
· How long have they had the pet
· Has the pet ever harmed another animal or bitten anyone
· Is the pet house broken
· How many pets does the tenant have
· Who will take care of the pet in the tenants absence
· Require proof of current vaccinations
Holding the Tenant Responsible
Keep in mind that you cannot always predict how animals will behave, particularly in a new place and the new environment.
When allowing pets, make sure most of the responsibility and liability lies with the tenant whose name or names are on the lease. As the owner, you will inevitably be held accountable for certain responsibilities associated with owning rental property, however covering all aspects of the pet policy in writing is highly advisable. (seek legal counsel when in doubt or if you have questions).
The more details your pet policy includes, the less risk and exposure of liability for the landlord.
Require the tenant to carry renters insurance and to carry additional liability coverage. Request proof of the insurance coverage from the insurance company and require that the insurance company will provide landlord with written notice should insurance be canceled while tenant is currently leasing.
Factors such as specific restrictions, pet fees, indoor/outdoor rules, and license and vaccination requirements as well as renters insurance should all be included in the pet policy. This way, in case the pet bites and injures someone or the rules aren’t being followed, the better chances you will have of terminating the contract. In writing, be sure to clearly state the obligations of the pet owner and define your pet policy in detail.
No Pet Policy
If the landlord chooses to have a no-pets policy, it is important to state that pets are absolutely not allowed under any circumstances and should any pets be found living on premises it will be considered a breach of contract.
State in the pet policy that as long as you give proper notice, at least 30 days, that you will have the right to make changes to the pet agreement. For example, this protects you in case, you decide not to allow cats in the future.
Ultimately, you want to clearly define the guidelines of your pet policy in writing from the very beginning, so your tenants will understand what is expected of them as pet owners, as well as the consequences should they
not adhere to the rules that have been set in place.
Team Sadler Professional Real Estate Services
Team Sadler consists of a passionate team that is experienced in dealing with all kinds of landlords and tenants. We offer our expertise in all aspects of leasing such as screening of tenants, assisting landlords in drafting a pet policy, performing background checks and much more. Whether you want assistance with the smaller details or for major decisions, contact Team Sadler today for all your real estate related matters!
Additional Helpful Landlord Pet Policy Resources:
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LANDLORDS – TIPS FOR CREATING A PET POLICY
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