Updated: Jun 2, 2020
When the Dog Bites…
I must admit - the one requirement that landlords stipulate that annoys the heck out of me is: No Pets Allowed. Why would you want to self-eliminate a possible income? According the American Veterinary Medical Association over 48,000,000 people own a pet. That fact nearly doubles when you review the website of the Insurance Information Institute which states the following:
“Sixty-seven percent of U.S. households, or about 85 million families, own a pet, according to the 2019-2020 National Pet Owners Survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association (APPA). This is up from 56 percent of U.S. households in 1988, the first year the survey was conducted.”
For us as landlords, the key to allowing tenants with pets is great screening of the applicants and a fantastic fence to protect the neighbors. Of course, there are risks of allowing a pet owner as a tenant and we are all aware of them and they are worthy of restating:
1. Property Damage and Odor
This is significant concern and as a property owner I will not minimize this risk. I will, however, state this is why we screen our applicants carefully while trying to imagine where the possible damages are most likely to occur; floors, lower molding, lawn, etc. and then we try to financially prepare for those repairs to made. Additionally, this is also why we ask for a security deposit and for a non-refundable pet deposit; to recoup the cost of cleaning and repair fees.
If your rental property is a condo, town home or located in a subdivision – the noise factor can be deafening. If there is ever a time to accommodate your neighbors – it is when you own a rental property and you want another pair of eyes and ears observing the condition of your investment. The key to noise management is in the screening and asking the right questions. For example: Does the dog howl frequently (Hound Dogs, Beagles, Bassett Hounds are known to howl)? Does the dog bark often? There are certain breeds that are more vocal than others – get to know what they are and how they behave. If your applicant does have a vocal dog – then ask how they regulate the noise. Perhaps they cannot and if this is the case and you know your neighbors will be negatively impacted – it is probably time to move on to another applicant.
One of the worst things that I can imagine is the injury of a child by an animal. As person who was violently attacked by her own dog as a child (I was bitten in the throat by a German Shephard); I take this issue very seriously. Therefore, I installed a backyard fence and do everything I can to maintain its effectiveness to protect the neighborhood and community just beyond the perimeter. Yes – it is an expensive expense – but really what is your alternative look like? Just install the fence and do your due diligence.
Now for the benefits, and yes there are a few worth noting.
1. Higher Rent.
Most tenants who have pets view their pet / pets as member/s of the family. Therefore, most understand that they are asking the landlord to accept some risks that accompany this family member and are willing to pay a slightly higher rent. Mind you if the rent is too excessive, these applicants will view this as a method of discouraging them from even continuing with the application process and eventually self-eliminate. The point is – be fair, be reasonable and be truthful.
2. More Applicants.
This seems obvious; however, many tend to ignore just how important it is to have a large application pool from which to choose a future tenant. I would much rather have 10 applicants than two – it offers me options and I like to have options.
3. Longer Tenure.
Pet owners tend to stay for a longer period – primarily because it is more difficult for pet owners to find a place to live that will accept pets. So, it is to your benefit, and theirs, to accommodate the family pet.
4. Responsible Pet Owners tend to be Responsible Tenants
In my experience all my tenants who have been pet owners were also competent caretakers of my rental investment. Of course, this isn’t true of all tenants who are pet owners and I have no doubt that there are some horror stories out there, however, I have some suggestions that may help you to avoid some difficulty.
a. Screen your tenants well.
b. In the contract, add a limitation on the number pets allowed. I have a maximum of two pets total.
c. In the contract, stipulate frequent home inspections must be conducted.
d. In the contract, you can require that all new pets are to be approved before allowed in the home.
I hope this information is of some assistance. If you have any additional questions, make sure to take a moment and comment below or go to the Contact Information Section and send me an email.