Pet Policy Basics for Landlords

Posted by Teresa on October 2, 2009 under General, Landlord Tips, Rents and Deposits | icon: commentBe the First to Comment

Dog on tenant screening blog

Allowing pets or not: that is the question. For many landlords, the answer is not quite as simple as it once was. For one thing, it seems that more tenants than ever have or want pets. They expect more rental units to accept pets. And it’s a renter’s market, with a flood of rental properties coming on the market and vacancies at all-time highs in some areas.

If you are a landlord who continues to hold a “no pets” policy, then you are limiting your pool of available tenants—perhaps by half, according to the Humane Society of the United States. If all of your rental properties are leased, then you probably don’t need to revisit your policy—but if you have empty units, a “no pets” policy could be hurting you. If you are considering allowing pets, here are some tips that can help make it a win-win situation for you and your pet-loving tenants.

In a perfect world, all pet owners are responsible and can afford to take care of their four-legged “children.” They happily pay extra pet deposits and will take care of any damages that their dog or cat inflicts on your property. They make it easy to be a landlord in a pet-friendly world!  On the other side of the spectrum are the neglectful pet owners, who don’t take proper care of their pets, don’t care where they relive themselves or if they tear up the carpet, yard, or woodwork. Keep these folks in mind when you write your tenant pet policy.

First, determine the type and size of pets you will allow in your rentals. You can decide if you want to limit tenants to keeping just dogs, or dogs and cats, or everything from iguanas, to snakes, to birds. Next, decide if you will block certain breeds of dogs, such as so-called “dangerous” breeds, or limit dogs to a maximum weight.

You can reserve the right to screen your tenants’ pets just as you screen tenants. Meet the animal to see if they are friendly or badly behaved. Does the tenant have control over the pet—or vice versa? Consider how long the tenant has had the pet—if it is brand new to the tenant, the unknown factor could be more than you want to take on.

Consider charging a pet security deposit on top of your standard deposit. Most pet owners are comfortable with paying extra for their pets. Check your state and local security deposit guidelines for legalities.

Outline your tenants’ responsibilities clearly in the pet policy. Indicate where the dog is allowed, that it must be kept on a leash outside if that’s what you desire; spell out that the tenant must properly dispose of waste; and that excessive barking or other noise will not be tolerated.

Make sure your liability insurance covers tenant pets; consider requiring your tenants with pets to carry their own renter’s insurance as well. Check with your insurance agent for specifics.

Check the pet’s references, too! If the tenant has had his or her cat, for example, in previous rentals, the landlord or property manager will usually tell you exactly what they faced when the tenant vacated the property. Some cats can inflict a great deal of damage—especially when they are not altered—so ask for references—and check them!

According to the Humane Society of the United States, millions of animals are abandoned to shelters every year because their owners are moving or because a new rental does not allow animals. Writing a strict tenant pet policy and communicating your expectations to your tenants can allow some of those pets to remain with their families—and keep your rental units filled.