Renting to Tenants with Pets: The Decision is Easier Than You Think
Allow pets in your rental unit?
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Most landlords fear that by allowing tenants with pets to move into their unit, the place will be returned to the owner looking like a fraternity house after the homecoming party. At a minimum, the pet will cause minor damage that the landlord must repair when the tenant vacates. In a worst-case scenario, the unit is completely trashed, the owner vacates, and the landlord has to clean up the pet AND owner’s mess.
Here is a more likely scenario. IF there is any damage caused by the pet, the tenant either writes a check or says “Fido used cabinet door as a chew toy, take it out of my security deposit. If the damage is more than that, let me know and I’ll write you a check.” Since you screened your tenants’ credit/background before you rented to them, you know they are responsible people. They will be responsible for their animals too. Instead of worrying about pets destroying the unit, worry more about getting a quality tenant in the unit, even if they do have pets.
Why You Should Allow Pets
Allowing pets lets you expand the number of tenants that will look at your unit when you have a vacancy.
Pets are not a protected category, so feel free to use your judgment of what animals you will allow in your unit. The interviewing tenant, with ten pit bulls and may have played for the Falcons, is not the type of pets I want living in my units. However, the person with two cats and a goldfish is more than welcome to sign the lease. To make it clear that I have the final say over what pets are permitted, as well as announcing that I do accept pets, I will write in my apartment ads “some pets are allowed at landlord’s discretion.”
Some landlords charge a higher security deposit fee for pets. I think this is unnecessary, but often times if I have someone who is interested in the unit, I will charge an extra $20-$50/month for the pet. If they balk at the surcharge, I waive it. It doesn’t hurt to try to squeeze several hundred dollars extra a year out of your rental for allowing a pet to live in the unit.
Rules for Governing Pets
Make it clear to all your tenants the rules for having pets in the unit. They are expected to clean up after their animals, keep the noise to a minimum, and leash up the pets when they leave the unit. Explain to tenants that do not have pets that if they want one in the future, they must clear it through you.
I also write on my leases what pets will be in the unit. If there are pets in the unit, I clearly write out how many and what kinds of pets will be moving in. The last thing you want to do is to turn the place into a zoo when you rent to this guy (go to the 1:05 mark for the main point I’m driving at):
Ultimately, you are renting to the human in the unit who is responsible for their pets. By allowing pets, you can expand your revenues and decrease your vacancies with very little downside on your part. Please leave me a comment/question. I would like to hear your thoughts.
Photo: David Blackwell