Pet policies – they’re a divisive topic among landlords, but among those who do allow pets, they tend to be straightforward. Tenants can generally have cats and small dogs, end of list. Some might allow a small fish tank, and really, no one would notice, or hamsters, but nothing more complicated. And few allow more than one or two animals on the premises; crazy cat ladies need not apply. Simple, right? Maybe not.
With millennials and Gen Z taking over the rental market, it may be time to think more critically about your pet policy, and what you allow. According to industry research, 35% of millennials have pets, and they aren’t always the traditional kind. Instead, you’ll find younger tenants inquiring about birds, saltwater fish, ferrets, or other pocket pets, and you need to be prepared. These three animals have no place in a rental property, and you need to put it in writing.
The obvious starting place when banning animals from your rental properties are the ones that aren’t allowed as defined according to Ordinance 6 of Houston Code of Ordinances. This includes pigs, despite one case in which a judge ruled in favor of a family’s pet pig, or any other sort of livestock, chickens, ducks, or any wild animals.
As a major city, Houston has much stricter laws regarding keeping animals in the home than much of the state of Texas, so it’s important to be specific when speaking with tenants. For example, while it’s legal to possess a lemur as a pet in Texas, lemurs are not permitted to be kept as pets in Houston. The more restrictive city laws overrule the state’s policies.
Rabbits Run Wild
Moving on to pets that are legal in Houston – though you might be surprised how many people keep illegal animals in their homes – one animal you definitely don’t want in your rental property is a rabbit. Sure, they’re cute and cuddly, but the fact is that rabbits are also destructive. They chew on everything, in large part because rabbits’ teeth continue to grow throughout their lives and chewing helps to wear them down. Unfortunately, if their owners don’t give them proper items to chew, they’ll attack your walls, doors, and cabinets.
Another reason to skip the bunnies? These fuzzy friends, like many animals, can make apartments smell terrible, and they require more space than you might think, so the smell isn’t contained. Rabbits do groom themselves, but they shouldn’t be given traditional baths or even dust baths, so there’s not much to be done about the smell.
Birds Bring The Noise
Pet birds come in many varieties, from tiny canaries to enormous parrots, but no matter their size, you do not want birds in your rental property. Like rabbits, birds are messy – they molt regularly, leaving feathers everywhere, along with bits of seed, and improperly maintained cages can smell quite unpleasant. But the main reason you don’t want to welcome birds into your rental is that, even when contained and well-cared for, birds are loud.
While it’s reasonable to expect pet owners to keep their dogs from barking, birds are supposed to make a lot of noise, often issuing loud vocalizations for minutes at a time twice a day. It can’t be prevented, but that doesn’t make it any less irritating. And some birds, such as macaws, have a screech that can be heard as much as a mile away. That’s far from ideal for close quarters living and could leave you dealing with noise complaints.
Ferret Free For All
Ferrets are very popular pet among young people, but as pets, they tend to exist in a grey area. Illegal in many cities or entire states, ferrets are permitted in Houston; they are, however, illegal in Beaumont and Dallas. As domesticated animals, ferrets can be legally registered, should be vaccinated for rabies, and many people see little difference between keeping ferrets and having a rabbit or guinea pig. So what’s the big deal about ferrets?
Like rabbits, ferrets need a lot of room. They need to run and burrow and, like rabbits, will chew on just about anything. Additionally, if the tenants haven’t had their ferret spayed/neutered, ferrets can smell quite unpleasant. All ferrets have scent glands, and these are generally removed during the spay/neuter procedure, but in some cases, scent gland removal can be needed a second time, and you don’t want a ferret marking your property with their scent glands.
Though there are obvious cases in which an animal should be excluded from your property, in other cases, you’ll need to carefully screen tenants and their pets to determine if they’re a good fit for your property. Some landlords, for example, are hesitant to issue a blanket ban on certain dog breeds, though they might refuse dogs over a certain size, you should always seek out all records regarding that animal to make sure they do not have a bite history or other record of aggression. You should also make sure you have every animals’ complete vaccination records and contact information for a veterinarian on file.
Pet-friendly properties can attract tenants, reduce tenant turnover, and are more family-friendly; you may even be able to charge higher rent for the privilege of having a pet, but that doesn’t mean pet-friendly properties should be a free for all. There need to be rules – and enforcement. That’s where your property management team comes in.
At Green Residential, we bring thirty years of Houston area property management experience to every job and welcome each client into the Green Family. Let us take over tenant and pet screenings and handle all the enforcement issues that come with welcoming pets. Our full-service property management package covers all the fine details.
If you need support managing your rental properties, contact Green Residential today for more information on our services. From first contact to rent, maintenance, and even eviction, we do it all. Don’t let tenants and their pets run wild – just hand us the leash.