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Successful Pet Rental Rules for Landlords

It seems simple enough.  If you are a landlord, just don’t allow pets in your rental properties, and avoid the hassle of damage, cleaning, complaints, and potential liability.  But this may not be the best solution for you, as you could be turning away tenants who are reliable, and limiting yourself to only those tenants who do not have pets.

According to a survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association, approximately 62 percent of all American households own pets. Most of these are cats and dogs. That’s a lot of potential tenants to say no to! 

Having a pet friendly property means that you have clear rules and policies, specified in writing.  These have to be reasonable, and clear.  You don’t want tenants to be inadvertently violating your policy, or have it unevenly enforced.  You want your tenants to have a clear understanding about what is expected of them, and of you!   

1. Specify what type of pets you will accept.

Most landlords will accept dogs and cats as pets. Specify breed restrictions for dangerous breeds, or weight restrictions.  Some dangerous dog breeds include Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers, Chows, Akitas, Alaskan Malamutes, German Shepherds, Siberian Huskies, St. Bernard’s, Wolf Hybrids, or mixed breeds that have some of those breed bloodlines.

You should specify what types of pets are forbidden, such as snakes, exotic lizards, or small mammals. Fish generally are not a problem, as they don’t bother anyone. Small mammals are no problem when properly cared for and contained, but if rabbits or rodents escape from their enclosure, they can cause a lot of damage. Some birds are also not a problem but some can generate noise complaints.

Some people try to keep animals that are considered livestock as pets, such as chickens, ducks, or pigs. Most landlords will say no to those for obvious reasons of mess and noise.

2. Specify a limit on the number of pets. Specify a limit on the number of animals in total, and on the types of animals. For example, no more than 3 dogs or cats, 2 birds, small mammals, etc.

3. Insist that the animals are well cared for. As to see records of licensing, vaccinations, etc. Check the laws in your state regarding dog and cat licensing.

4. Animals must be under control when outdoors. Dogs must always be leashed, or within a dog park if you provide one. Tenants must also clean up after their dog. Cats must be kept indoors. If you allow reptiles, birds, and small mammals, they must be kept under owner control in their cages or enclosures as appropriate, and not allowed to escape.  Specify that the tenant will be held responsible for damage to people,  pets, or property if an animal is not kept under control of its owner.

5. Pet Deposits and Pet Rent

Charge a refundable deposit for pets. Usually this is several hundred dollars.  The tenant gets the deposit back when ending the lease, provided the animal has not caused any damage.  Because it is a refundable deposit, it is an incentive to the tenant to make sure the pet does not cause damage.

Some landlords also charge a small amount of additional rent for pets,  An extra $20 or $30 a month adds up to several hundred dollars in extra income, and can defray any expenses incurred by running a pet friendly property.   

6. Know the animals. Meet the animals in advance, and observe how they behave. Do they appear well cared for? Are they aggressive, fearful?

7. Pet sitting and fostering Have a clause in your lease about your tenant pet sitting for non-resident animals, or fostering a pet from a shelter temporarily. If you are allowing your tenant to pet sit occasionally for an outside dog or cat, or foster from a local animal shelter, specify that it must be done only with your knowledge and consent. You must approve all animals that will live in the unit, even for a short length of time.

8. Require that your tenant obtain renters insurance with liability to cover pet damages

9. If the pet agreement is violated or the pet becomes a nuisance, property management or the landlord can require the pet to be removed, and possibly terminate the lease.

Once the pet is removed, the lease agreement still remains in effect.

10. Obtain legal advice. Finally, obtain legal advice that is specific to laws in your area before writing the pet policy, so that you know the appropriate wording to use.

If you are determined to not allow pets, be aware that there are exceptions which you must allow, such as guide dogs, service animals, and emotional support animals.  Find out more about these exceptions here.

By Michael James

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