What You Need To Know About Pet Policies

Perhaps one of the biggest topics landlords can be found discussing is their stance on having pets in their rental properties. Whether you are a lover of four-legged pals or you are not fond of furry friends, the reality is many renters on the market own pets. In fact, according to the National Pet Owners Survey, 85 million families in the US own at least one pet.

As a landlord, it will be up to you to decide what your pet policy will be. You will need to decide if pets are allowed, what pet fees, pet rent, or other deposits you will charge, and how you will handle specific breeds. As a bonus, we will also cover the difference between a pet and a service animal. Check out this landlord guide to all things pets.

Choosing To Ban Pets

Some landlords will determine to have a “no-pet policy”. The reasons for not allowing pets vary from the additional wear and tear on the property to insurance qualms. Dogs and cats alike can cause extra damage to property, and the leftover dander and odors can make turning around the property more difficult.

If you decide on a “no-pet policy”, keep in mind the following:

  • Clear Communication: Make sure you clearly outline that pets are not allowed in your lease. When you go over the lease with new tenants, be sure to emphasize the importance of this caveat. By communicating your policy clearly, tenants are less likely to violate the lease.
  • Know Your Market: If you are a landlord in a market where filling vacancies is difficult, recognize that banning pets may make moving your property harder. Work on other features that will help your property stand-out since you will be vying for a smaller market share of renters.

pet infographic about pets in rental properties

Information from http://www.iii.org/fact-statistic/pet-statistics

Allowing Pets: Fees, Rent, Deposits, And More

If you decide that you will allow pets, start by determining if you will have any restrictions. Some landlords have breed restrictions, while others only allow dogs or only allow cats. It is also a good idea to require that pets are up-to-date on vaccinations. If you want an excellent jumping off point for incorporating a pet-friendly policy into your rental property, check out tips from the Humane Society. The Humane Society lists issues with finding pet-friendly housing as one of the number one reasons why pets are surrendered to shelters, which is a great reason for you to create a pet-friendly property with a solid list of expectations.

Start With The Rental Application

Make sure your property listing is clear about what pets are allowed at your property. Next, when someone applies to your property, be sure you get information about their pet. Use an online rental application that allows you to tailor questions around the pet details.

Resumes & Interviews

As crazy as it may sound, many landlords who are pet-friendly ask potential tenants to provide a pet resume when they apply to the property. This can be something as simple as a little more information about their dog and a reference from a previous landlord, vouching for the pet in question.

It is also common for landlords to want to meet the pets in question before accepting the new tenants. A quick pet interview works particularly well with dogs. What should you look for during a dog interview?

questions for a dog interview

Keep in mind that even well-behaved dogs can be nervous in weird settings. An interview won’t be able to tell you exactly how a dog will act in a new home, but it will give you an idea of how the owner handles their pet.

Charging Pet Fees, Pet Rent & Deposits

Most landlords who do allow pets, charge an additional fee for pets. There are a few different approaches you can take for charging for the presence of pets.

  • Pet Deposit: You can ask for a pet deposit in addition to the property’s security deposit. If you choose to charge a deposit, this money should be refundable if the property is not damaged, same as a normal deposit.
  • Pet Fees: Some landlords opt for charging a non-refundable, one-time pet fee. You can charge one standard pet fee to your tenants or you can charge a pet fee for each pet who will be living in the rental.
  • Pet Rent: Another option is to charge pet rent each month. Make sure if you choose to charge a monthly pet rent that the amount is reasonable, or you may lose your competitive advantage.

The above fees can be used to help mitigate the costs of cleaning and repairs. Make sure when you set your pet deposit or fees that you are keeping in mind the local market. Do a little bit of research to see what others in the area are charging. If you set your prices too high, you could deter qualified tenants.

Service Animals

German shepherd service dog

It is important to note that even if you decide to implement a “no-pet policy”, this will not apply to service animals. Service animals are not pets and you must amend your policy to accommodate persons with a disability who make a request for a reasonable accommodation to use and enjoy the premises. You additionally cannot charge extra fees or deposits for a service animal. The laws around service animals are complex, as emotional support animals can also fall under this component of the Fair Housing Act. According to the Fair Housing Act, “An assistance animal is not a pet. It is an animal that works, provides assistance, or performs tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability, or provides emotional support that alleviates one or more identified symptoms or effects of a person’s disability.”

The best rule of thumb is to consult with a local lawyer before you ever reject a request for a service animal of any kind. Not obeying the regulations of the Fair Housing Act can land you in a legal nightmare. When in doubt, talk to an attorney first.

Flexible Application Process

If you are considering allowing pets in your rental property, make sure you use a flexible application process that allows you to ask important questions about the pets who will be residing in your rental property.

DISCLAIMER:  Turbo Tenant, LLC does not provide legal advice.  This material has been prepared for informational purposes only. All users are advised to check all applicable local, state and federal laws and consult legal counsel should questions arise. 

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