There are many important considerations that you need to keep in mind when you lease out residential property, and one of the biggest is whether or not to allow your tenants to have pets.
There are a lot of potential benefits to allowing pets in your properties, including:
- Extra income from higher rent for pet owners and pet fees
- A larger base of potential tenants to select from
- Increased tenant happiness (and thus higher retention rates)
- Possibility of a longer lease term for pet owner tenants
But there are also some major potential risks as well. The possible things that can be on the downside of allowing tenants to have pets include:
- Potential property damage
- The risk of physical injury to yourself, guests, or neighbors
- High chance that allergens in the form of dander may enter the ductwork or carpets
- Noise nuisance
With all this in mind, here are some ways property owners can mitigate any risk associated with having pets in your rental.
- Establish what kinds of pets are allowed. For the most part, fish and small birds are not a big deal. But what about larger birds, reptiles, and other exotic animals? You should make sure that the lease agreement between you and your tenants is very clear on what kind of pets are allowed. You should also be certain to clarify specific restrictions on size, breed, and behavioral temperament.
- Get references for the tenant, and screen potentials very carefully. If possible get references for the potential pets as well. Call the previous landlord, and neighbors if you can, to find out how well behaved the pet was when they lived in the old place. It’s also important to note that no matter how well behaved a pet is, if the owner is horrible at cleaning up an animal’s mess or keeping them bathed and healthy, this is going to go south very quickly.
- Charge a pet deposit, and maybe even a higher rent to pet owners. While most landlords may be afraid of this concept for fear that it might somehow get them into hot water with the Equal Housing Opportunity Guidelines, rest assured this isn’t the case. EHOG’s are in place to prevent unfair discrimination to a possible renter based on things that societally are agreed are off limits such as religion, race, marital status, age, gender and in some jurisdictions sexual orientation, field of employment, and gender identity. There are no provisions in the guidelines that state you cannot do as you wish in terms of pet status as long as it is clear up-front what you are doing, why, and that you do it consistently with everyone.
- Let the renters know that pet deposits are not refundable and are going to be used to “de-pet” the unit when they move out. You can do this by referring to them as a “pet departure cleaning fee upon unit vacating” to avoid any confusion with the word “deposit.” This fee can be added to the regular security deposit when the tenant rents the unit. It can help you to clean the carpets, drapes, any upholstered furnishings that are included in the unit rental, the air duct work, filters, and if needed to paint or re-stain the floors due to “little gifts” left behind by the four-legged occupants.
- Require all pets be spayed, neutered, or otherwise “fixed”. This will help reduce aggressiveness, litters of little babies, in many cases noise, and the desire to “spray” or “mark.” This one thing can be the biggest difference between having a building of good pets and happy tenants and having a menagerie of drama.