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Why I Allow Pets in My Rental Properties

by Kevin Perk on September 4, 2012 · 33 comments

  

I’m a fan of pets.  I like animals in general.  In fact, I have a cat with me on my desk right now as I write this.  Pets can evoke some pretty strong emotions, both for and against.

No matter what your feelings are on pets, should you as a landlord allow pets in your properties?  I know landlords that would shout a hearty “Hell No!” back at me to that question.  I however tend to see advantages to allowing pets, so I do allow them, but with restrictions.

By allowing pets we open our properties up to a large segment of the market.  According to the American Pet Products Association, 62% of American households own pets.  That is a sizable chunk of the population.  If you do not allow pets, you have just cut yourself off from that large market segment.

Further, pets can be a money maker.  We charge extra monthly rent and a non-refundable pet deposit.  These two things really can add up.  But, people say, pets will tear up your properties and cost you so much more in repairs on the back end.  My only response is that that has not been my experience.

Perhaps the above is because we screen our tenants and their pets pretty thoroughly.  Yes, at times we will ask to “interview” the pet.  Plus, just because we allow pets does not mean we allow all pets.  We have a defined pet policy.  And you should have one too if you plan to allow pets.  Some breeds of dogs are off limits due to insurance limitations.  We also frown on larger dogs, but will allow them with a large fee and an “interview”.  Large fish tanks are out as are insects, snakes and birds.

So I think pets are great.  You open your self up to a much larger market segment.  You can make extra income and you come off as the nice guy who likes animals.  Well some of them anyway.

Till next time, happy investing!

Photo: Mosman Council

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{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

Wendy Mathias September 4, 2012 at 11:39 am

What a hot-button topic!

Your position assumes two things:
1) Your renters are long-term.
2) Your walls are a material that don’t scratch easily and can be repaired with little disturbance to the renter.

Our rental properties are overnight all-log cabins, i.e. short-term rentals of 3-7 days on average. The wood on the walls scratches easily. When we acquired one of them, it had significant damage to the walls in a bedroom, where it looked like a dog was locked inside and tried to scratch his way through the door.

Unlike a long-term renter who expects that you will conduct necessary maintenance while you are there, our short-term rentals can experience heavy turn-overs in the summer months, with just a few hours separating one renter from the next (think: busy hotel). Guests do not want to have their precious vacation time disturbed by a contractor.

If a guest’s pet causes damage to walls and floors, it might be months before we can get in and replace the wood boards, if we have to wait until there is a guest vacancy of adequate length. If a pet pees on the floor in significant quantity, it could seep through the floor boards to lower levels, causing damage to floors/ceiling, and anything below (beds, carpets, etc)–not to mention lingering smells that would require us to rip up the floor to eliminate. Plus, such a mess might not be easily attributable to a particular guest until days later, so it would be hard to collect for damages because we wouldn’t know who caused it.

Since repeat renters (guests) and public perception are a huge part of our success, we don’t want to give them *ANY* reason to complain about the condition of our properties. One bad review on TripAdvisor because of damaged surfaces and lingering smells can overshadow twenty glowing reviews (that almost never get written but stay stuck in the satisfied guests’ heart), costing thousands of dollars in lost revenue potential.

For our short-term rentals, pets are definite NO-NO.

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Kevin Perk September 4, 2012 at 9:03 pm

Wendy,

Good points!

Thanks for reading and commenting,

Kevin

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Jason September 5, 2012 at 10:48 am

Wendy,

Your points are very valid, but I have to ask. Have you considered making some cabins pet friendly and charging more for those rentals? Do you lose many clients with the pet policy? I know many more folks who travel with pets now.

jason

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Nick Johnson September 4, 2012 at 11:50 am

I’ve always agreed with this – by taking a hard stance against pets, you automatically have a smaller pool of renters to choose from.

I know it’s probably next to impossible, but I wonder if anyone has ever attempted a cost/benefit analysis on this subject? I guess I just feel like by playing it smart and charging a pet deposit, you will come out ahead a majority of the time by having less vacancy. Even it it cost you an extra $500 on move out, if the renter filled a vacancy that may have otherwise not been filled, you may be better off.

I know there are horror stories, but just like everything else, if done correctly (pet deposit, breed restriction, etc.) it seems you can really maximize your business.

Nick J.

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Kevin Perk September 4, 2012 at 9:04 pm

Nick,

Thanks for reading and commenting.

Kevin

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Charles McNelly September 4, 2012 at 12:27 pm

New to buy & hold investing and initially strongly against allowing pets in my rentals. However, as a dog owner myself, I’m fairly easily convinced that (with the right predetermined restrictions and rules, along with additional sales opportunities) I’d be more open to the idea.

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Kevin Perk September 4, 2012 at 9:09 pm

Charles,

Give it a shot.

It also comes down to tenant screening as well. Is the prospective tenant clean, dressed well and have decent manners, or is their car full of trash and last night’s dinner is dripped down the front of their shirt? If the applicant is neat and clean, usually they are responsible pet owners. At least that is what we have found.

Thanks for reading and commenting,

Kevin

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Chuck September 4, 2012 at 1:55 pm

Interesting. Why banish Snakes? I can see banishing large/poisonous ones, but find me one situation, ever, where a corn snake or ball python caused harm.
I would think, worst case, one gets out and you will never have a rat problem again.

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Kevin Perk September 4, 2012 at 9:10 pm

Chuck,

I will see if I can get that argument by my wife :)

Thanks for reading and commenting,

Kevin

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Chuck September 5, 2012 at 4:29 am

Kevin,
I totally understand that one.
Coming from someone who was phobic of snakes, my 5 year old daughter taught me a lot.
They don’t magically breed. They don’t need to be housebroken. Not walked. Etc.
Just from a landlord perspective, I think they’d be easy as long as you know what type.

Having said that, I know people who won’t even go on a house of they know one is in there.

Thanks for writing allnonthis great info!

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Wendy Mathias September 5, 2012 at 11:14 am

Jason,

We haven’t noticed our no-pet policy affecting our rentals. Our cabins are a top-producer with the management company that we use; we book up sooner and more completely than most of their other 300 cabins on their rental program. In the summer, we often have 29+ days/month booked, which is a spectacular performance for an overnight rental that has only a 2-day minimum reservation requirement.

One of the most difficult aspects of running a popular (read: highly booked) overnight rental is getting an opening for maintenance to come in and do necessary repairs without disturbing the guests or causing a non-rentable night. Because we pay so much more of the operating expenses (water, electric, phone, internet, cable) on a short-term rental than we would with a long-term rental, every rented night is critical to our profit and we can’t be lax about blocking off dates for maintenance and repair issues. Doing so might cost us $1000 in lost potential gross rents. A bad review on TripAdvisor because of stinky smells or unrepaired damages from pets could cost us thousands more. Preventing such expensive losses by having a no-pet policy is more than worth it.

When you have a great cabin with a great view, guests will do whatever they need to stay there (get a pet sitter, pet boarding, etc.). Our high rental performance speaks to that.

Kind regards,
Wendy

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Kevin Perk September 6, 2012 at 8:43 pm

Sounds like I need to see this cabin! :)

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SHaron Vornholt September 5, 2012 at 5:15 pm

Kevin – They sneak them in anyway, so you may as well charge the tenants for their pets and let them bring them. After not “allowing” pets in my property years ago, I had no recourse when the pet they weren’t allowed to have did a whole lot of damage.

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Kevin Perk September 6, 2012 at 8:39 pm

Sharon,

Even though we allow them they still sneak them in to try to avoid the fees. We usually find out on routine inspections or when repairs are needed. Then we get the “oh, i meant to call you about that.” Sure you did!

Kevin

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Sharon Vornholt September 7, 2012 at 8:02 am

You can also tell them when they sign the lease that you have a policy whereby if they fail to tell you they have a pet and it is discovered later, they have to pay the pet deposit and all of the montly fees to date plus a $50 penalty. You will be amazed at how many will “remember” they plan to get a dog before moving in.

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Andrew September 6, 2012 at 1:54 pm

As a responsible pet owner I appreciate landlords who allow pets. My wife and I decided to rent in the DC area and had a significant problem finding a pet friendly rental home that met our need/criteria. While we were certainly willing to pay a monthly pet fee or one-time deposit, my landlord didn’t require either. Lucky for us he is a sympathetic dog owner.

I own two rentals, that each used to be my primary residence. In each of these cases, we offer the home to pet owners with a sizable pet deposit. Ultimately, we don’t want to lose out on a potential renter as a result of the pet restriction. We have restrictions in place for pet type, breed, size, number, etc.

An additional consideration reference pet ownership should be the renter’s income level. A low(er) income family may place the feed/care of their beloved pet above other expenses. Pets can be expensive, and these renters may not be able to afford the additional discretionary expense.

Thanks for the article!

-Andrew

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Kevin Perk September 6, 2012 at 8:42 pm

Andrew,

Thanks for reading and the kind words.

Your last point is a good one. This may sound cold, but it is reality. Pet ownership is a luxury. We have needed to have the “talk” with tenants before when their pets get sick and suddenly they can’t pay the rent.

Kevin

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Kathryn September 9, 2012 at 3:16 pm

After 20 plus years of homeownership, we recently became renters again. It was a chore finding a rental that would accept both my elderly blind 17 pound terrier and my 60 pound pitbull, but I finally found a nice four bedroom house with a large yard! My dogs are housetrained, obedience trained, and spayed/neutered. We are so grateful that the landlord had no problem with the pets that we tend to overdo it with regard to fixing things. We are landscaping the unruly yard, replacing old light fixtures, put in a new dishwasher, taking care of plumbing problems, etc. Also, the rent is in the landlords mailbox PRIOR to the first! We also don’t allow scratching on doors and walls and have trained the dogs not to do that.

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Kevin Perk September 9, 2012 at 7:26 pm

Kathryn,

Thanks for reading and commenting. I wish all tenants were like you. Glad things are working out for you.

Kevin

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Tanya September 9, 2012 at 3:54 pm

I live and have rentals in Colorado, and I have to say that allowing pets opens up my rental market a lot. Pets are big deal here in CO. This spring/summer I ran an experiment – not for the experiment’s sake, but that’s how it ended up.

I had a 2 bed/2 bath patio home that I have allowed pets in. However, a neighbor was constantly complaining to the HOA that the previous tenants weren’t cleaning up their yard after the dog. The HOA only found two times that the yard wasn’t cleaned to their satisfaction, yet this neighbor complained monthly. So when those tenants moved out, I decided to not deal with the hassle, so decided I would rent it pet-free this next time. It was vacant for 4 months, and I lowered the rent by 10, 15% and then 20% percent and still getting no traffic. I finally decided to just rent with pets again, and raised the price by 20% and had it rented within days. So far, no issues with the neighbor (the tenant has been in for 2 months).

So I charge a non-refundable pet deposit. And I obviously have a substantial mark-up on rent for the pets. Because I’m a huge animal lover, I can tell by just casual talk with prospective tenants about their pets whether they are responsible pet owners or not.

Also, I actually prefer big dogs to small dogs. Anyone who is the least bit familiar with dogs realizes that larger dogs are, in general, much calmer than smaller dogs. One of my tenants in a similar unit has a Great Dane. And one tenant has Jack Russell terriers. So guess which one I’m more concerned about… again – anyone familiar with dogs knows that the Great Dane is a huge couch potato, and the JRTs have a much more likelihood of causing damage inside the house, along with annoying the neighbors with barking.

Anyway, I have learned my lesson thru that unintentional experiment.

Tanya
Denver

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Kevin Perk September 9, 2012 at 7:29 pm

Tanya,

Thanks for reading and commenting.

That is how a lot of us learn our lessons, through “experiments” like yours!

You like in a beautiful part of the country btw, wish I could get out there more often.

Kevin

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Tanya September 12, 2012 at 4:12 pm

Hi Kevin,
Well, hopefully you can make it out for the next BP summit?? It will be my first one, as I wasn’t a member yet for last year’s…

Reply

Kevin Perk September 12, 2012 at 10:00 pm

Tanya,

I should be more careful before I hit reply. “Like” should have been “live.”

The summit might give me a good excuse to do some traveling. :) We will see.

Kevin

Michael Kraft September 10, 2012 at 4:45 pm

In Massachusetts, it is illegal to charge a tenant anything more than a last month’s rent, security deposit and key deposit. The idea of charging more rent and a bigger deposit would be great if it was possible, but unfortunately, not. Other states may have similar laws.

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Kevin Perk September 12, 2012 at 9:56 pm

Good point Michael, thanks for reading and commenting.

Kevin

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BRAD September 12, 2012 at 10:42 am

Kevin, good article!
We take pets. No official study but it makes our homes rent faster and for MUCH more money.
Some suggestions:
-use the term ANIMALS to avoid problems with the new trend in “service animals” for emotional support. “You can’t charge me pet rent because this is my emotional comfort service animal!”
-the words ‘Non-Refundable’ and ‘deposit’ cancel each other out. A DEPOSIT is refundable. The judge made us return the $150 PET DEPOSIT because the $2000 in UNPAID RENT was not caused by the pet.
Our lease clause is “Non-Refundable Pet Registration Fee $150 each animal, $35 per animal added to the monthly rent.”
MANY of our folks have 2 animals.
2 x $150 = $300 (I keep)
2 x $35 = $70, x 12 months = $840 additional rent
$840 + $300 = $1140 pure profit added in the first year.
That’s an extra 2 months of income on a $600/mo lease!
-I’m over carpet! Odors, allergies, urine, repairs, stains, age, wear…We only install hard surface flooring. (hardwood, Allure, ceramic, laminate…) Makes accepting animals MUCH easier and waaay more profitable!

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Tanya September 12, 2012 at 4:21 pm

Brad,
That was an true eye-opening comment regarding the pet deposit!! I need to change my wording everywhere!

And I actually don’t charge an extra pet (or animal – another great tip) rent… I was just able to advertise and ask for more rent once I opened it back up to allow animals. And so I don’t charge per animal (the HOA only allows 2 pets total). But that’s the way I get around the issue that Michael Kraft mentioned – about being allowed to charging extra for animals. I don’t do that – just have changed my advertising – advertising higher rent, but allowing animals. If someone doesn’t have animals, the rent is still the same.

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Kevin Perk September 12, 2012 at 9:57 pm

Thanks Brad for the great info!

Looks like it is time to tweak my lease a little bit.

Thanks for reading and commenting,

Kevin

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Katie February 10, 2014 at 11:37 am

We have 3 properties: 2 townhomes & 1 SFH that we are currently allowing pets in. For each we accepted an additional pet deposit of $1000.

How do you know if your pet deposit is enough? I couldn’t find much guidance on setting the rates when it came time to draw up the lease, so we just picked $1k and the tenants forked it over.

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Kevin Perk February 10, 2014 at 11:13 pm

Katie,

Good for you! There is not much guidance on such things. But if you don’t ask, you don’t get.

Thanks for commenting,

Kevin

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Phoebe June 23, 2014 at 9:12 am

As both a part-time managing assistant for a few rental units and a responsible tenant with a ball python it’s nice to hear that you let some pets into your properties but I do question the outright banishment of snakes and birds.

Dogs and cats are cute but objectively such a huge liability for damages and injury. Just like you do with cats and dogs the landlord I work with has an open sort of “interview” policy with pets – but requires a pet deposit for cats and dogs over caged animals – this allows him to determine if the “caged rodent/reptile” in question is harmless hamster/corn snake or 6 foot mean-tempered iguana / pet raccoon (yes that happened). I am extremely grateful for landlords that are open minded like that, as it has allowed me to keep my pet with me. My ball python is a 2 pound confused lump who doesn’t bite (seriously, I’ve been bitten by my parent’s golden retriever), smell, pee on the floor or make noise – in fact my past roommates would forget it even existed. Interviewing potential tenants I would no doubt question someone with a big snake or bird but as far as I am concerned the small ones are no more hassle than a little fish tank.

Anyway, I hope you can re-consider potential tenants “alternative” pets in the future. :)

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Katie June 23, 2014 at 9:31 am

Phoebe,

Do you know how insurance companies view having snakes and birds (like a parrot)?

I haven’t had any applicants yet with pets other than dogs/cats, so I want to be prepared.

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Kevin Perk June 30, 2014 at 11:57 pm

Katie,

I have not heard of insurance companies saying anything regarding those types of pets. But I bet there is a clause somewhere regarding things like Boa Constrictors. Read the fine print closely.

Thanks for reading and commenting,

Kevin

Reply

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