3 Reasons Landlords Should Blacklist Certain Dog Breeds
Fully 68 percent of American households own pets—definitely something to consider when formulating your pet policies as a landlord. Over two-thirds of the population is a huge swath of tenants to exclude.
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Still, many landlords opt to not allow pets at all. Because of this, pet owners can be very motivated tenants—they know their options are limited.
At the same time, there are good reasons some landlords don’t like pets. Poor house training could mean pet accidents that seep all the way into the subfloor. Claws can scratch up your nice hardwood or shred your carpet. Dogs and cats can scratch at doors and even chew up walls.
A substantial pet deposit and monthly pet rent can usually make up for these issues. But an even more serious issue is the liability associated with so-called “vicious dog breeds.” Is it worth taking on all types of dogs if you choose to allow pets?
Should You Blacklist Certain Dog Breeds?
Much has been written on pit bulls in rental properties, but I’d like to give my take on why I advise my investment students AGAINST accepting pit bull-type dogs and other risky breeds—even if they are willing to accept pets in general.
Certain Breeds Are Largely Responsible for Deaths
First off, where there is smoke, there is usually fire. These breeds have a bad reputation for a reason.
Many will say the media has some kind of bias against these dogs, and the way they report dog attacks is unfair. However, you just can’t get away from the hard statistic that 471 Americans have been killed by dogs since 2005, and 66 percent of those deaths were caused by pit bull-type dogs. All that, even though they comprise only 7 percent of the dog population.
The next most deadly breed is Rottweiler, causing another 10 percent of the deaths.
In addition, there are millions of non-fatal attacks and maulings every year. An attack or death by a dog on your property can cost you BIG TIME as a landlord. Insurers hemorrhaged $675 million in dog bite claims in 2018 alone, and the average claim is on the rise.
Folks, if pit bull-type dogs and Rottweilers are responsible for the vast majority of deaths and damage but are only 7 percent of the dog population, that’s a whole lot of risk you can remove from your plate without shrinking your pool of tenants by much.
Landlords Are Often Targets of Lawsuits
Second of all, lawyers can and will sue everything that moves. If a dog attack happens on your property and the tenant is broke and/or underinsured, you as a landlord are going to have a giant red target on your back.
Landlords are perceived as having money, and it very well could be shaken out of you in court. And if it’s not the first time the dog has bitten someone, they might even have a pretty strong case. Learn from the mistakes and horror stories of other landlords on this issue, so you don’t have to repeat them yourself.
If you choose to allow pit bulls, at least have a “one bite” policy in place, so that if the dog ever exhibits troubling behavior, the tenant understands and agrees that the dog MUST be removed from the property. The next bite could be worse.
You should also require that all tenants (pets or not) carry their own renters insurance policy, and if they have a dangerous breed, make sure it is covered. Most standard insurance policies will have dangerous breed exclusions, so it is worth your time to ask for a copy of their policy so you can call and verify. This type of policy might not be cheap. (Remember how much money was paid out last year for dog bites?!)
Your tenant might even be tempted to cancel this costly policy without telling you, so you might need to call and verify that it is still in place periodically. Personally, this is a lot of extra headache and worry that I don’t need.
Dog Liability Insurance Can Be Challenging to Secure
The main reason landlords should exclude dangerous dog breeds is because getting the liability insurance that covers them is a nightmare. Why is that the case? Well, actuaries are good at math.
Those with a soft spot for pit bulls can make all the excuses they want. They can blame the media for unfair reporting. They can show all the cute photos of “pibbles” who will just lick you to death.
Tell it to an actuary. Anecdotes like this are not the basis for sound business decisions. If your insurance company doesn’t like the risk, you probably shouldn’t like it either.
The Bottom Line
Breed does matter.
Of course, a neglectful or abusive owner is going to contribute to the bad behavior of any dog. But as much as pit bull apologists love to say, “It’s the owner, not the breed,” that is not always the whole story.
The truth is breeding matters. That’s why people do it. Breeders have very successfully bred traits into and out of dogs based on the purpose of the breed. Herding dogs herd, hunting dogs hunt, guard dogs guard, and fighting dogs fight. Because of selective breeding, these traits become innate and instinctual.
In conclusion, I advise landlords to avoid dealing with tenants who own pit bulls and vicious dogs if at all possible. Over 1,000 cities in the U.S. have breed-specific laws that ban pit bull-type dogs from the get-go, so it’s not even your call. But there are also situations where Fair Housing forces you to accept tenants with such dogs if they are emotional support animals (ESAs). But that’s a topic for a whole different article.
If you can remove risk from your bottom line, I call that good business. Accepting pit bulls may get you a loyal long-term tenant, but if that tenant comes with a ticking time bomb of liability, is it really worth it?
How do you feel about dog breed restrictions for rentals?
Weigh in with a comment below.