By Mariia Kislitsyna Updated on February 17, 2022
If you have a pet or used to have one back in the past, you’ll surely understand why most of the people consider their four-legged friends family members and treat them as such. It’s hardly possible to imagine a situation that might convince a typical pet owner to give up on their pet. Of course, there might be some one-of-a-kind emergency, but a perspective of living in a great yet pet-unfriendly rental is surely not the case.
Can you imagine abandoning someone you love for the sake of moving into a particular apartment? Chances are good that you can’t (and neither can tenants with pets). After all, what kind of person would agree to leave a family member for the sake of something material? Only someone with a heart of stone. And here comes a reasonable question: would you go for doing business with a person like this?
It might seem like tenants with pets are not much different from tenants without them, but it only holds true if you’re not a landlord. If you’re renting out, you’re likely to be very definitive about your pet policy and build your entire property management business in accordance with it. What’s more, you’re likely to give preference to tenants without pets and only agree for applicants with four-legged friends when there’s no alternative.
Why do landlords not allow pets? The answer is rather simple. Pets in property equal greater risks of different kinds – from possible property damage to legal claims of neighbors who’ve been hurt or irritated. But is it true that tenants with pets are such a headache? Is it always the case? It’s time to figure it out.
Before deciding on your pet policy, we encourage you to consider all the advantages and disadvantages of renting out to tenants with pets. The talks about benefits are less common than the opposite, so be prepared for surprises. Chances are good, you’ll change your mind about all this ‘tenants with pets’ thing. At the very least, you’ll turn from a pet-unfriendly into a pet-tolerant landlord.
According to the most recent statistics out there, more than half of renters own a pet (it’s around 70 percent, to be precise). What it means for you as a landlord is that you give up on the majority of prospective renters by setting a strict ‘no pets’ policy. If you choose to be flexible, however, you’re rewarded by a larger pool of applicants to pick from.
The major reason for this correlation is still unknown, but pet owners tend to have a better income than people without pets (65 percent of pet owners in the US make more than $50,000 per year). Some recent studies confirmed that dog and cat owners are more likely to have an above-the-average salary and better financial health. What’s in it for you as a landlord? Let’s just say that tenants with good financial standing are less likely to be late with payments or disappear from the unit without paying due amounts.
More often than not, tenants with pets have hard times qualifying for rent. Especially, compared to tenants without them. That’s why once accepted and allowed to move in, pet owners are not likely to dream of going through the same rental marathon anytime soon. As a result, they tend to prolong their lease as many times as possible. It means one cool thing for you as a landlord: lower vacancy rates.
As a rule, pet owners are responsible and trustworthy people. After all, they made a decision to take care of a little creature, which means they can take care of themselves and things around. What does it mean for you as a property owner? Well, at the very least, you can be sure that your prospects are mature and responsible enough. And it gives you grounds to assume it will translate into a good attitude to your property.
Many times, renters with pets will agree to pay more for rent than those without pets. And this is completely understandable since only a part of landlords have flexible ‘pet policy’. Limited in choice, pet owners are forced to place higher bids (read: offer landlord more money in terms of monthly rent or security deposit). I bet there’s no need to explain the advantage landlords get in such cases.
Pets in rental unit might be worse than no pets at all, but what is really bad is when your tenants decide to keep their pet in secret. When you’re aware of animals in your rental, you can at least put some rules and restrictions in place. If you have no idea there is one, you have no control over the situation. By letting your tenants move in with pets in the first place, you protect yourself from tenants sneaking their fluffy friends in.
What’s in it for you, landlord, you ask? Let’s just say it’s always easier to do business with people who are happy and relaxed rather than those who are angry and nervous. So the equation goes as follows: happy people equal happy tenants, happy tenants equal happy landlord. Simple maths.
It would be silly to argue that pets at home are associated with greater damage to property. The truth is that pets are likely to destroy carpets and hardwood floors, damage subfloors and drywall. Sometimes, they might go as far as to chew through doors or destroy flowers in the backyard (not the one of a neighbor, hopefully). Of course, not all pets are equal and some are more well-behaved than the other. However, as a rule, wear-and-tear tends to go beyond normal if there are pets involved.
Even if your prospects are mature enough to take good care of their four-legged friends and even if they’ve got the most innocent breed ever, it doesn’t mean no problems will occur. Sometimes animals end up biting neighbors or damaging their property. Like it or not, but the truth is that a pet’s behavior is impossible to predict (and hardly possible to control).
That’s not to say that homes of all pet owners smell equally bad. In fact, pet odor might not be present at all. However, as a landlord, you cannot be sure which option is the case with your future tenants until you let them in.
If neither you nor your current tenants are allergic to pets, you’re likely to think it’s not a big deal. It is quite wrong, however. Allergens tend to get in carpets and air ducts and stay there for a very long time. This means that if your future tenants will be allergic to pets, they’re likely to get a classic allergic response inside of your rental. Needless to say, this might cause them to move out or never choose your rental in the first place. However, there are tried-and-true ways to remove allergens from your home. So no need to be desperate about it.
As you can see, there are reasons to allow pets on your property and reasons not to do this. Which option to choose is completely up to you. Nonetheless, certain businesses begin to realize that discrimination against pet owners translates into losing half of the potential customer base. As a result, we have more pet-friendly companies; the number of pet-friendly cities grows as well. So if you want to make the most out of your rental business, a smart approach would be setting a pet-friendly policy and learning the best practices of mitigating the risks:
If you’ve been a landlord for a while, you surely know what a big role Fair Housing Law plays in property management. In the context of pet policy topic, you need to remember one thing: even if you have a no pets policy, you cannot reject an application of a disabled person because of their helper animal. As a landlord, however, you can ask your prospective tenant for medical confirmation of a need for assistance.
If you’re like the majority of landlords, the odds are good you’re using a standard lease copy for all of your tenants. If you decide to rent out to tenants with pets, it would be smart of you to include a special pet addendum into a lease. This way, you’ll set your expectations of a pet owner. If your tenants agree to sign it, you’ll have a legitimate reason to breach a lease if they fail to comply with your rules regarding pets. Basically, do as pet-friendly hotels do. They let pets in but put some restrictions in place in order to mitigate potential damage.
There are at least two benefits these two documents bring on the table. First and foremost, it demonstrates that you’re about to rent out to a responsible and mature pet owner. If one is willing to spend time and effort on creating a pet resume or requesting letters from former landlords, chances are this person will make a good tenant. Secondly, both pet resumes and letters from previous landlords are a great source of information. You’ll know a pet’s breed, neuter status, its size and weight, as well as some details about its personality. A letter from former landlord, in its turn, will help you learn what kind of person is about to move in into your rental (and how good is he/her in taking care of pets).
Making a custom offer to landlords is the first piece of advice we give those who wonder how to increase chances of finding a pet-friendly rental. Let’s face it: property damage and it financial consequences are what keeps most of the landlords from being pet-friendly. That’s why financial compensation should be enough to settle all issues. After all, there is no kind of damage a pet may cause that would be impossible to fix. So as soon as you’re protected in terms of finances, you can absolutely let tenants with pets in. I can almost hear you asking ‘but how much should I charge for pet rent?’ There’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Some experts suggest charging around $250 in pet deposit or ask for $50-$100 more in rent, but it all comes down to the prices of furniture and decor of your rental unit.
While some people believe that these two terms are interchangeable, they’re absolutely not. Pet deposit is a form of security deposit designed to pay for property damage caused by pets. Since it’s just another form of a security deposit, you’re supposed to return it to your tenants if no reason to use it occurred. In the case with pet fee, however, the situation is different. When people ask things like ’Are non-refundable pet deposits legal?’, we nod in agreement and explain that such deposits are called pet fees. And they should be understood as an admission price to get a pet in a rental unit.
If you decide to turn your rental property into a pet-friendly one, you’d better find out the amount of liability coverage your current policy includes. A smart move would be to ask a representative of your insurance company if there are some exclusions or limitations to this coverage. Bear in mind that some companies have a list of ‘dangerous breeds’ which they refuse to cover under the policy. To save yourself trouble, find out all the ins and outs before letting a tenant with pets in.
If you’re still uncertain whether to become a pet-friendly landlord or not, we strongly suggest you go for it. Sure, there are some risks associated with tenants with pets and there are reasons why landlords do not allow pets, but the benefits outweigh them all. They say where there is some risk, there is always some opportunity. Why not use it?
When you decide to put a ‘no pets’ label on your rental unit, you’re losing a lion’s share of prospective tenants. And if you falsely believe that some applicants would give up their pets for the sake of living in your property, you’d better change your mind. Any kind and compassionate person will always choose a pet over the most amazing property. Don’t miss your chance to do business with people like that.
Mariia serves as editor-in-chief and writer for the Rentberry and Landlord Tips blogs. She covers topics such as landlord-tenant laws, tips and advice for renters, investment opportunities in various cities, and more. She holds a master’s degree in strategic management, and you can find her articles in such publications as Yahoo! Finance, Forbes, Benzinga, and RealEstateAgent.