Tenants with Pets

Tenants with pets:
better for landlords to allow pets or just say no?

Tenants with pets often make the best tenants. Why wouldn't all landlords want to mix pets and rentals? 60%+ of all tenants HAVE pets, which means a larger pool of tenants to choose from. For tenants with pets, it can be a challenge to find rentals that allow pets, and often times the size of the pet is restricted to "under 25 lbs". So for landlords, there's a much larger pool of potential renters if they decide to allow pets.

But is allowing pets always a great thing for landlords?  Not always. There are types of properties, areas and circumstances that lend themselves well to allowing pets. There are also situations where landlords are much better off simply saying no to pets.

Not sure if you want to take pets, but don't want to cut out such a big pool of potential tenants? What if there's a single female CEO that owns one small dog, has an 800 credit score, and employs a maid service that cleans for her twice a week? Now THAT would be a stellar tenant! She's professional and responsible and pays all her bills on time, makes more than enough money to be able to pay rent on time each month, and will take care of your property as if it were her own. A dream! If you didn't allow pets, you'd never know she exists.

Unfortunately, the opposite situation can occur as well. Maybe the lease authorizes one small dog. But a few months later you learn that there are now three dogs in the unit. And what if the tenant doesn't clean regularly and the yard is muddy. Three dogs tracking dirt inside every day for a year? There are many things that can go wrong with a landlord allows pets.

Mixing Rentals and Tenants with Pets is always risky. But there are ways to reduce your risk and maybe come out better for saying yes to pets! There are many things you can do to safeguard against pet damage and liability. And by opening your prospective tenant base up to tenants with pets, you may be lucky enough to find really great tenants that you otherwise wouldn't have found!!!

Things you can do to feel more confident in dealing
with most Tenants with Pets situations:

Non-refundable pet deposits:

Allow one pet per non-refundable deposit (owners keep deposit at the end of the lease, not returned to tenants like regular security deposit). For low-risk pet situations, it's common to see $200 per pet non-refundable deposits collected per pet. It's an amount that helps to do any small repairs or cleaning that will most likely be needed after they move out. If the breed is very large or if it's a young puppy, you may consider charging "pet rent" by raising the rent by a small amount each month - like, an additional $30 per month over what the list price is. Or you can write into the lease that tenants are responsible for professional carpet cleaning at move-out. You may want to write into the lease that if there is scratching of the wood or laminate flooring, or damage to the carpeting due to the pet, repair bills will be the responsibility of the tenant.  If you have new carpet and don't plan to replace it for another 3-5 years, you may not want to consider approving a pet. Also, very large heavy dogs, if their nails are allowed to grow longer, can easily scratch up wood and wood laminate flooring. Young puppies like to chew. We've had situations where puppies chewed the corners of a door right off! Make sure if you approve a young puppy, you work in extra verbiage into your lease that puts all responsibility for any damage caused, on the tenant. For puppies, we always recommend a higher non-refundable pet deposit, because you almost assuredly WILL have some damage to deal with. *and always remember to take lots of photos of the move-in condition of the property, so you'll have photo documentation to compare to at move-out.

The only downside in asking for a non-refundable pet deposit?  The tenant might say no. Depending on how competitive your area is for rentals, if they have a lot of other choices, they aren't going to want to lose money they don't need to. It doesn't hurt to try.

Refundable pet deposits:

Chances are, to be competitive... you'll need to ask for a "refundable" pet deposit. This is simply additional security for any pet damage, added to the security deposit for which you're already requiring. No damage? Your great tenants with pets will get their full deposit back! In Miami, real estate agents and property managers typically try to charge $100-$200 per pet, usually refundable after move out. If the property is located in an area where there are many rentals... in order to make the property as attractive as possible, it may be necessary to ask less.

More on Security Deposits
for Tenants with Pets

Pet addendums to a lease:

Separate your pet provisions to your lease on a one page Pet Addendum, and you'll make these pets and rentals issues become much more clear to the tenant. Include the name, age and type of pet the tenants have. Include a few lines requiring tenants to seek written approval if they want to have any additional pets. Add a clause that says their rent will be increased automatically and immediately if no written permission was granted and the act could be grounds for termination. And if the property is located in a condo community where they have strict pet practices... you'll need to be especially strict. You could get a steep fine if your tenants have pets that weren't approved by the association (if your association requires pet approval).

The pet addendum should also contain strong, clear language stating that the tenant must adhere to all community, local and other legal ordinances involving pet ownership including vaccinations, using a leash and not keeping outside pets (if applicable). Any and all liability, fines, liens and any other expense involving pets is solely the responsibility of the tenant. Don't mix pets and rentals without making sure your lease addresses all of your concerns.

Landlord liability:

There have been court cases involving pets and rentals where a judge decided that a landlord was responsible for a tenant's dog's actions, merely because "they should have known" the tenant had the dog. Even though the landlord claimed they did not know the tenant had the dog. The law is not black and white, once a dog bites someone... or causes issues beyond what's accepted as normal.

All landlords should purchase rental property liability insurance (landlord liability insurance) to cover their property and any potential liability involved. It's very important to ask your insurance carrier about pets, if the liability will be covered, etc. There are some insurance companies that do not cover pets at all. You may to make sure you are covered in the event you are named in a lawsuit, or sued directly, etc. Not just for a pet's actions, but in general. Remember, anyone can sue anyone for anything. Cover yourself and your belongings.

Take a full set of photos:

Take lots of photos of the condition of the property before your tenants with pets move in. Video is also very helpful. Especially consider taking photos of the door edges, corners of a room, flooring, and yard. Keep these photos/video and any other documentation (ie new carpet installation bill). It is especially important in dealing with pets and rentals to have photographic documentation of the condition of the property you are handing over. Use these photos/video at the end of the tenancy to compare to your next set of photos when the tenant moves out. These can be used to determine claims o security much more effectively than trying to remember if a hole or a scratch was there a year prior.

It's important for landlords to be aware of the The Fair Housing Act in relation to service animals. Here's a great article from
the humansociety.org. 

Make sure you are aware of the laws
and don't discriminate.

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