Everyone loves pets … except landlords, sometimes. Animals on the premises can be a nightmare and occasionally can destroy a property.
If you choose not to allow pets, however, you’re missing out on a large percentage of the renter’s market. How can you find a happy middle ground that doesn’t put your properties at risk?
Pros of allowing pets
It’s wise to examine some of the pros and cons of allowing pets in your rentals. Then you can carefully craft a pet policy if you believe the former outweigh the latter.
Start by checking out a few of the benefits of making your properties pet-friendly.
• Enhances appeal.
According to the American Pet Products Association’s National Pet Owners Survey, Americans apparently own more than 95.6 million cats and 83.3 million dogs. In other words, roughly 62 percent of all households own at least one pet, and a large percentage of these two categories have multiple animals. This means by not allowing pets, you cut your potential pool of applicants by half. On the other hand, if you allow pets, you clearly increase your appeal to the majority of the market.
• Additional revenue.
Many landlords choose to allow pets, but implement an additional monthly fee or non-refundable deposit. These fees are intended to protect you from possible damage, but they can also give you a nice additional rental income when they’re part of a 12-month lease. For example, a $20-per-month pet fee would net you $240 per year, per property.
• Happy tenants.
Most people own pets because they make them happier. Allowing your tenants to keep a pet may make them more satisfied, for a longer period of time, which will enable you to retain them as tenants and reduce turnover and vacancy.
• Safety and protection.
For landlords who own multiple properties in a single area (duplexes, apartment complexes, neighborhoods), the presence of dogs can enhance the security of that region by warding off potential criminals or burglars. As a result, you’re likely to have fewer safety complaints to have to deal with.
Cons of allowing pets
While you don’t want to be known as the landlord who cracks down on fun and prohibits tenants from having cute kittens and puppies, there are certainly valid reasons to disallow pets. Here are a few of the biggest cons, from a landlord’s perspective:
• Property damage.
The number-one reason many landlords don’t allow pets is the potential for property damage. From urinating on carpeting and defecating in the yard to creating a permanent stench and chewing on furniture, some dogs and cats can be fairly tough on property. While the tenant might not care much, because he or she will likely be a resident only for a matter of a few months or years, you’re left having to repair the damage and re-lease or sell the property in the future.
• Community complaints.
While it’s reasonable to argue that having dogs around may enhance community security, there’s also a big downside. They can be loud, aggressive, and typically don’t display much etiquette when it comes to respecting privacy and maintaining reasonable noise levels at all hours of the night. If a dog barks too much, bites a neighbor, or regularly escapes into other yards, those problems will ultimately fall back on you.
• Time consumption.
All these drawbacks — and some of the advantages — ultimately lead to a single truth: pets are time-consuming. Whether you’re dealing with complaints or drafting up a policy, they take time away from your other duties and require you to handle sudden problems and issues. This is worth considering if you’re already strapped for time.
Crafting a reasonable pet policy
If you do decide to allow your tenants to own pets while living in your properties, it’s vital that you craft a reasonable pet policy that protects you from unnecessary damage and risk. You also don’t want to restrict tenants so much so that they’re confused by the rules or inadvertently violate them.
The first thing you’ll need to do is identify which pets you will and won’t allow. There are multiple methods for doing this. One method is to set restrictions by the type of pet — such as dogs and cats being allowed but snakes are not.
Another way is to set breed limitations that prohibit notoriously aggressive dogs such as pit bulls and Rottweilers. A third method is to set a weight limit. For example, you may only allow dogs that are less than 25 pounds.
There are many options, and you can mix and match various details of each, but the central lesson is not to allow pets without setting certain rules and limits. Otherwise, you’ll end up with major issues down the road.
It’s also completely within your rights to accept pets on a per-case basis. This is ideal, because it allows you to say yes or no based on the individual circumstances.
If you go this route, you’ll want to ask a set of questions — such as how long the tenant has owned the pet, who will look after it when the human is away, etc. – and ideally meet the pet in person.
Shifting responsibility to the tenant
The most important thing is to remember that pets are unpredictable. This is especially true when they’re being relocated to a new home.
Your primary focus should be on shifting as much responsibility onto the tenant as you can. Certain aspects will always come back to you as the landlord and property owner, but you should get as much as you can in writing.
This includes pet fees, vaccination and license requirements, indoor/outdoor policies, restrictions, and more. The clearer and more detailed you are, the better your chances will be of successfully being able to end a contract based on a breach.
Green Residential professional property management
The folks at Green Residential have been in the property management business for more than 30 years. We have extensive experience working with landlords and tenants of every walk of life.
Whether you need help writing a pet policy, screening tenants, collecting rent, or anything in between, we can alleviate some of your responsibilities by taking care of both important processes and the small details. For more information on how we can help, please contact us today!