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

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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.

Tenant Rules for Landlords

Posted by Teresa on June 1, 2009 under Landlord Tips | icon: commentBe the First to Comment

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As a landlord, you expect a certain code of conduct from your tenants. It may seem obvious that respecting property, fellow tenants, and neighbors is expected from everybody. But any landlord knows that many folks need to have the rules spelled out (and even then, it can be a challenge getting their cooperation!). Make things easier on yourself and your tenants by providing a written list of rules that you require your tenants to follow.

When establishing your “house rules,” think in terms of areas pertaining to your rental property, so you can be sure to cover everything. Here are some examples of tenant rules that you might want to consider:

Exterior Areas
Garbage: Inform your tenants they must use provided garbage and recycling receptacles. State trash pickup dates, and list any fees that will be imposed for extra trash or improper disposal, according to your municipal or private trash pickup service’s rates.

Automobile and Bicycle Parking, Maintenance: Outline exactly where the tenant and their guests may and may not park their cars. Specify if a parking area for bikes is provided, or if tenants must secure them in their individual units. State whether or not automobile maintenance is allowed on the property.

Fire Hazards: State where tenants may and may not use grills or other hazardous outdoor equipment (decks, porches, etc.). You may need to restrict their use to concrete pads, or to keep them a certain distance from the building. It may seem obvious, but do state whether you allow your tenants to have bonfires, fire pits, or burn garbage on the property. Specify where gas and propane tanks should be stored.

Swimming Pool: Many municipalities require posted safety rules for pool areas. Always follow your local and state laws regarding a swimming pool. Add your own rules for who may use the pool (tenants only, or tenants and guests), age requirements, hours of operation, swimsuit guidelines (i.e., no cutoff jeans), and noise and food/beverage restrictions.

Interior Areas
Safety: State whether tenants are allowed to change any door or window locks (most landlords do not allow this). Inform your tenants that smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, and electrical outlets and/or wiring may not be tampered with. Cover the legal rules of your property: illegal drug use or sale is not allowed, tenants are not to verbally or physically threaten other tenants, and state any weapon restrictions, i.e., no guns allowed on the property.

Heat sources: if you allow space heaters, be sure to outline where and how they can be used. Or, state that they are not allowed on your property. Outline rules and guidelines for fireplaces, too. And be sure to schedule annual inspections and cleanings for your units with working fireplaces!

Alterations: Specify whether or not your tenants are allowed to change the interior of the unit. Many landlords allow small alterations, like painting, as long as the color is pre-approved and the space is returned to the original color prior to the tenant moving out. However, most landlords have stories of repainting rental units after tenants fail to do so!

Noise: Excess noise could be the most common tenant complaint. Noise levels must be addressed and enforced by the landlord to prevent problems. You can establish quiet hours, from 10:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m., for example, but be aware that night shift workers will have problems with daytime noise, too.

Tenant Guests: You may state when and how many visitors are allowed. Inform tenants they will be responsible for visitors’ behavior and any damage caused by non-leaseholders who visit the property.

Pets: You either allow them or you don’t. If pets are allowed, you’ll want to establish a separate pet policy for your tenants with pets.

Your list of tenant rules may be short and sweet, or long and detailed. The important things to remember are that they must be provided to every tenant; the tenant must sign that they received a copy; and the rules must be enforced equally among all tenants.

For more landlord resources, including forms and information on tenant screening, turn to You’ll know that you have the best possible tenants when you prescreen tenants.