There are a great many animal lovers in the world, but most rental properties aren’t known for their pet-friendly policies. Some tenants even view rental properties that allow pets with some distaste because of high pet deposits.
What stance should real estate investors take when it comes to pet policies? Whether or not you intend to allow pets, you should have a pet policy, period. Even tenants who don’t have pets need to sign one and know what your rules are regarding animals on the property or in the building. The property manager can take care of any day-to-day questions or issues regarding the policy.
If you choose to allow pets in your rental properties, have firm boundaries in place. Any and all pets must be approved and photographed by the landlord. How do you know if a pet should be approved? Ask the right questions.
10 Questions to Ask
Where did the tenants get the pet?
How old is the pet?
How large is the pet?
Does the pet require any kind of special care or accommodations?
How long have they had the pet?
Has the pet caused property damage in the past?
Has the pet ever bitten a person or another animal?
Who is responsible for caring for the pet?
If the tenants go out of town, who will care for the pet?
Does the pet have proper vaccinations and licenses?
It’s not enough, of course, just to ask about the pet. You or your property manager should meet the pet to observe how it interacts with its owners and other people. Dogs are typically easier to read than cats, which can become more skittish or hostile in face of new people and situations, whereas dogs tend to acclimate more readily. Still, meeting the pet allows evaluation that can’t always be captured in verbal assessments.
What to Include in a Pet Policy
Your pet policy (or pet agreement) should be included as a part of your lease and signed by all tenants, regardless of whether they have a pet at the time. That way, should they decide to get a pet, they’ll already know the rules and expectations. This should include leash laws and other expectations.
Types of Pets Permitted and Exclusions
A pet policy can define certain parameters for the type of pet allowed. Some properties, for instance, allow only small dogs (with a weight and height limit) and cats, other both cats and dogs, or one of the other. Specific breeds on the “Dangerous” dog breeds list can be prohibited, though in most cases a bad dog is a result of bad training and not the fault of their breed.
A Refundable Pet Deposit
Require a refundable pet deposit. In the case of property damage caused by a pet (which you should also define what you would consider damage that warrants the use of the pet deposit, such as soiled carpet or scratched hardwood floors), the deposit will cover you. Because it is refundable, the owners will have an incentive to keep their furry companions well-behaved. Beware, though. Not all states allow separate fees, or have ceilings on deposit amounts that a pet deposit can not exceed. One option is to lump the fee in with the non-specified security deposit.
Remember that while you cannot ask directly about someone’s disability, not all disabilities that involve service pets are visible as with seeing-eye dogs. Someone may have a cat to help them deal with anxiety, for instance. If the need for a pet is not obvious, the landlord can ask about it in a dialogue of good faith and willingness to accommodate. Remember that a pet deposit cannot be charged for any service animal.
As with many things, preparation is key. Have a pet policy ready for all tenants so that everyone is clear on what is and is not allowed at the rental property.
What’s your pet policy? Share with us in the comments.