The answers property owners need to know about animals in their rental homes
Should a landlord accept pets? And if so, which ones? Should there be restrictions? Should landlords ask for a pet rental or pet deposit? And if so, how much?
Question 1: should I accept pets?
The answer to that question is yes … mostly.
There are approximately 90 million domestic dogs and 95 million domestic cats in the United States. In other words, Americans love their pets. And when a landlord decides not to accept pets in their rental apartment, it means there are many potential renters that the landlord has just turned down without knowing it.
However, pets can damage rental units, especially dogs. However, this can be mitigated by charging a pet rent and a pet deposit (spoiler on question 2). In fact, we’ve found that the pet rent and pet deposit we charge roughly equals the damage caused by pets. However, by welcoming pets, we are opening up our properties to many more potential residents than usual, making it easier to rent these units and rent them out at a higher rental price.
Hence, for homes, accepting pets is almost always a good idea. This is also the case with side-by-side duplexes. In the case of apartments, however, this is a slightly more difficult question.
Our policy is to allow cats, but not dogs, in homes with no common areas (that is, where the door to the home is from the outside rather than an inside hallway). We do not accept pets in apartments with entrances from a common area. The reason for this is that pets can cause all kinds of problems. Noisy dogs can cause discomfort or scare off potential renters, and hallways full of pets (and their feces) can get dirty.
However, there is no hard and fast rule here. I know landlords who accept dogs in their apartments and that’s fine. It pays off for many apartment owners. For others it is not.
Don’t forget that a landlord must accept guide dogs without a pet deposit or pet rental. On the other hand, the laws surrounding â€œemotional support animalsâ€ are much looser and vary from state to state. But be sure to ask an attorney before turning down someone who has a letter from a doctor for an animal for emotional support.
Question 2: Should I ask for a pet rental and / or a pet deposit?
The answer to these two questions is a resounding YES!
Pets do harm. Cats like to scratch everything, and some like to urinate on almost everything. And dogs seem to have a real problem with blinds. Pets cause damage to rental units and landlords should be compensated for this damage.
Question 3: How much should I top up?
Again, there is no perfect rule. We charge a non-refundable security deposit of $ 250 for pets and $ 25 per month per pet. But in more expensive markets like Manhattan or Washington DC, I would definitely consider charging more.
Question 4: Which pets and how many should I allow?
As a landlord, you don’t want your house to appear on the nightly news because your tenant raised 50 pit bulls there. There should be a limit. We have three pets in houses, two in maisonettes and one cat in apartments with outside entrances. Again, there are no hard and fast rules, but it would be wise to stay close to these numbers.
Dangerous dog breeds are also something that you should probably want to avoid. There are some super cute and friendly pit bulls out there, but they’re just too risky to accept unless you can personally examine every dog â€‹â€‹a renter wants. Landlords have been held liable for dog bites in the past. Dangerous breeds include (but are not limited to) pit bulls, rottweilers, and dobermans.
Some landlords also place a weight limit on dogs (usually around 50 pounds), though breed is a more important consideration.
Exotic pets are another tough one. Some people have ferrets, rabbits, parrots, snakes, etc. In general, it is probably wise to simply decline them, or at least ask them to fill out a special request form. Successful real estate investors standardize as much as possible (paint colors, types of carpets, rental agreements, policies, etc.). And with exotic animals, there isn’t much â€œstandardâ€. (Though, admittedly, there isn’t much that is exotic about a rabbit.)
Question 5: How should I rate potential tenants and their pets?
Two questions really arise here:
1) How should a landlord examine pets before a tenant moves in and
2) How should a landlord look for those sneaky hidden pets?
As for the first question, make sure that part of your application requires the prospective renter to identify any type of pet they have for you to evaluate. Then add a pet driver to your rental agreement listing each pet. Make sure the rental agreement also states that unauthorized pets are not allowed.
Most people will abide by these rules, but on occasion someone will attempt to cheat and smuggle in a pet without paying the pet rental or pet deposit. For this reason, we ask our maintenance technicians to keep an eye out for unauthorized pets when performing maintenance work on an object. Sure, we ask leasing agents that too and check them out ourselves when we are on site. But maintenance technicians go to leased properties most of the time and can thus provide good home spies.
If they find an unauthorized pet, notify the renter that they will fill out a pet driver, pay pet deposit, pet fees, and a fine (check your state laws for what is acceptable regarding fines for rental violations). . Tenants should not be able to breach the rental agreement.
Since Americans both love pets and need a place to sleep at night, it is usually a good idea to allow pets in your rental units. However, that doesn’t mean you should allow all pets or let them stay for free. Pets can cause problems and almost always cause harm. A smart landlord will ask for compensation.
Andrew Syrios has invested in real estate for over a decade and is a partner of Stewardship Investments, LLC with his brother Phillip and father Bill. Stewardship Investments is focused on buying and holding, and specifically the BRRRR strategy – buying, redeveloping, and renting homes across the Kansas City area. Stewardship Investments today has over 300 properties and 500 units. He writes for Think Realty, BiggerPockets and The Data Driven Investor.