Pet-friendly rentals are becoming a “must-have” for many renters. Zillow says that 46% of renters have pets, and 48% won’t rent a place without that option. For many landlords, it’s much easier to say “no.” But while they are avoiding a few risks, they are also missing out on some big benefits, including additional rental income. (1)
There are several benefits to going “pet-friendly” starting with a larger pool of applicants because almost half the renter population has a pet. To offset the potential risk, many pet-friendly landlords charge an additional amount each month for the pet, along with a pet deposit. Zillow says, the deposit might range from $200 to $500 but is refundable. The monthly pet rent is not. Some landlords also charge a one-time non-refundable pet fee instead of a deposit. In areas with rent control, pet deposits and pet rents may be limited. In California, non-refundable pet fees are not allowed.
Zillow says that pet-friendly landlords have fewer vacancies because it’s harder for pet owners to find rentals, so they stay longer. They may also be more responsible tenants since they show care and concern for a pet, and they would probably be less likely to sneak a pet into their unit if pets are allowed. Plus, pets can make for “happier tenants” because they reduce stress, and create a more family-like environment, especially for singles.
The idea of more responsible tenants may be a big variable because some people are not responsible pet owners, and they may not be all that happy either. But happiness aside, landlords who allow pets run several risks, including property damage from cats or dogs that scratch, chew, or relieve themselves indoors. Dogs are often very noisy because they bark, and if left home alone, they might bark all day and disturb the neighbors. If it’s a multi-unit building, there could be a problem with allergies among other tenants. There’s also the issue of owners picking up after their pets in common outdoor areas. And, there’s the chance that a dog might get riled up and bite someone, or fight with another dog.
Check Insurance, HOA Rules
Those are problems that any landlord wants to avoid, but saying “no” to pets may not be the best way to do it. Zillow suggests that the first thing a landlord should do is check the insurance policy and the homeowners association rules, if there are any, to make sure there are no restrictions on renting to people with pets. Restrictions may include a ban on certain dog breeds like pit bulls and rottweilers. There could be other restrictions as well, such as the size of the dog, or the kind of pets allowed. Tenants with pets should also be required to have renters insurance that covers dog bites.
Making Rentals Pet-Friendly
Once the liability issues are taken care of, landlords might need to do a few things to make rentals pet friendly. Zillow suggests replacing the carpet with waterproof flooring, creating an area outside where dogs can relieve themselves, and putting a fence around the yard so pets won’t escape and bother the neighbors.
Realtor.com also offered a few good suggestions including cat and dog doors, and hand-held shower heads for washing pets. Pet owners will also like these upgrades, which will make the units easier to rent. (2)
Landlords can also require a pet interview to meet the pet in person, and find out more from the owner. A person-to-pet meeting is an opportunity to see if the animal is friendly and well-behaved. Zillow says, it’s a good idea to take a photo of the pet at the time of the interview, and keep that on file. There are a number of good questions to ask tenants including how many pets they own, the breed and size, the age, whether the pet has a license and is fixed and vaccinated, whether it’s ever bitten anyone, what the owner does to control barking, and who will take care of the pet when the owner is away.
If all goes well in the interview, the landlord has the option of giving the tenant permission to have that particular pet or pets on the premises. Zillow also suggests that landlords add a pet agreement to the lease. That addendum would include a pet policy for types of pets allowed, the number of pets allowed, and size or breed restrictions, among any other requirements. It should also clearly state tenant responsibilities. That would include picking up after a pet, making sure the pet isn’t a nuisance, that dogs are leashed and other pets like birds or hamsters are caged, that tenants are responsible for damage, and that tenants must have insurance coverage for dog bites.
Be sure to have good documentation on the condition of the unit at move-in. Taking photos is a good idea. That will help prove any damage done by pets when tenants move out. Landlords that plan ahead and take all the necessary precautions can reap the benefits of a dog-friendly rental policy.
(1) Zillow Pet Guide