I’ve always had a “no pets” policy but I’m beginning to wonder if I should change my policy to allow pets. The last two vacancies took longer to fill because most prospects had dogs. What should I consider in changing my policy?

Rental data suggests that pet friendly housing may rent faster than properties with a “no pets” policy. In many rental markets there are a greater number of potential tenants that have pets than there are landlords who allow pets in their rentals. By advertising your property as pet friendly, you gain access to a larger applicant pool.

Studies suggest that pet owners are more likely to become long term tenants once they find a landlord who welcomes them and their pet. Pet owners can be more willing to pay a higher rent for a home that accommodates their family pet. The higher rent could result in a landlord being able to also collect a higher security deposit.

You will need to research your state’s landlord-tenant statutes to determine the requirements for security deposits, non-refundable fees, and rents. In a few states one can charge the tenant a pet deposit, pet fee, and pet rent. In other states one may be restricted in the types and amounts of deposits and rents that can be collected.

If allowed by statute and as covered in your lease agreement, you could charge a pet deposit in addition to the standard security deposit. A pet deposit is held as security to cover costs of pet damages or additional cleaning required to return the rental unit to good condition upon the tenant’s move-out. Accounting and return of pet deposit funds are handled in a similar manner as tenant security deposits.  If the pet deposit is designated as a pet deposit, you may only use the funds to cover pet damages and cleaning. If pet damages exceed the amount of pet deposit being held, you will need to look to the tenant’s security deposit to recover additional funds.

Some landlords choose to charge a pet fee which is a non-refundable fee payable at time of tenant move-in. The fee is an administrative cost to permit the tenant to have a pet in the rental unit.

Many landlords will charge a monthly pet fee which is in addition to the tenant’s monthly rent amount. Some landlords choose to charge a higher monthly rent that includes the pet rent.

A common practice is to charge a refundable pet deposit and a monthly pet rent.

However, there are potential risks to allowing pets in your rental units. Of most concern to landlords is property damage caused by pet behaviors such chewing, scratching, and marking interior surfaces such as carpets, wood flooring, and woodwork. Exterior landscaping can be destroyed by destructive digging behaviors. Pet odors and unsanitary conditions can create waste and nuisance problems.

Noise from animals can be disruptive to neighboring tenants and excessive noise may violate the neighboring tenants’ rights to quiet enjoyment of their rental units. Complaints may become more frequent if the noise and disturbance is not properly addressed by the landlord.

A landlord may have increased risk of liability for injuries and damage caused by aggressive behaviors of animals. Insurance coverages may need to be changed to provide greater protections against claims of injury or damage.

To help mitigate risk, a landlord should have a strong lease agreement, an adequately detailed pet policy, and utilize pet deposits, pet fees, and pet rent as applicable to statutes and as business necessity. Additionally a landlord should require all tenants to purchase renters insurance as a condition for tenancy. Regular inspection of rental units will help to identify and correct problem conditions in a timely manner and protect against collateral damage.

Your pet policy should be included in your lease agreement or referenced as a separate addendum to the lease. The document should clearly state your pet policy (whether allowed or not allowed) and the rules, regulations and restrictions you place on tenants and their pets. All adult tenants should sign the lease agreement and addendum acknowledging their consent to lease terms and conditions and that a violation of terms is considered a breach of contract subject to the remedies detailed in the lease including the legal action of eviction.

A landlord who has a “no pets” policy is still obligated under fair housing laws to accept an assistance animal in a rental unit as a reasonable accommodation request from a tenant with disability. A pet deposit, pet fee, or additional rent as pet rent cannot be charged to the tenant requesting the reasonable accommodation.

It is your call to decide if accepting pets makes sense for your business. If your competition accepts pets you may be missing out on business. If you adequately research your local market and applicable landlord-tenant statutes, you should be able to determine what the impact of changing your policy to allow pets would have on your business.

Comments are closed.