Pet Horror Stories: 5 Reasons to NOT Allow Pets in Rentals

Pet Horror Stories: 5 Reasons to NOT Allow Pets in Rentals

4 min read
Scott Smith

Scott Royal Smith is an asset protection attorney and long-time real estate investor. His law firm, Royal Legal Solutions, helps thousands of real estate investors and entrepreneurs in all 50 states protect more than $1.2 billion in assets. Since 2014, he has published over 1,000 posts and articles on BiggerPockets and has appeared on hundreds of podcasts.

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Scott fell in love with real estate when his commercial property investment allowed him to graduate from Albany Law School debt-free. He immediately began practicing at the trial and appellate court with the district attorney, placing him in the top 1 percent of lawsuit attorneys in the county in terms of professional experiences. He also worked in private practice, suing insurance companies for denying valid claims (which is surprisingly common!).

After his friend lost $3 million in real estate from a single lawsuit, despite having ample insurance, Scott dedicated himself to educating real estate investors on the importance of affordable asset protection, specifically when it comes to folk knowledge and misconceptions that still exist in the investment and legal community. The solutions Scott recommends for his clients are the same ones he originally created for himself and has been refining on his mission to help people protect themselves from frivolous lawsuits.

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As a member of the service industry, you are expected to accommodate the customer’s strange requests to ultimately make them happy. If they want to order a burger with no patty, no problem. If they want to stay past closing time, that’s acceptable. The customer is always right.

That’s not how the real estate industry works. Tenants might have some pretty specific requests—they are living or working in your property, after all. But investors and landlords must know when to say “no” to a tenant’s request for the sake of their investment.

In my opinion, letting pets into the rental is one of the most common requests that landlords should turn down. Pets are cute and fuzzy, but there are too many horror stories of pets ruining properties. Cleaning bills skyrocket when a pet is around, even when the pet is trained to use the litter or go to the bathroom outside.

Why You Shouldn’t Allow Pets in Rentals

Don’t believe me? Here are some horror stories to consider before you allow your rental to become a kennel.

Surprise!

Yup, I’ve heard plenty of stories of landlords finding dog poop in closets. Weight restrictions can be a good way to control what types of dogs live in your property, but puppies tend to start out below 25 pounds—even black lab puppies that grow up to be 70 pounds. And there is one thing that all puppies have in common—you need to teach them where they “gotta go.”

Related: Why I Will Always Allow Pets in My Rental Property

Bye Bye, Fido

I’ve heard horror stories of landlords getting complaints of an abandoned property, only to see that the tenants’ dogs had been abandoned, too. Joe Fairless posted about this a while back—the tenant left an aggressive pitbull on the property.

cute gray dog panting while peering over concrete wall outside

This poses a lot of problems for property owners. Where are the dogs going to go? How are you going to ensure that they are safe until they find a shelter or home? When will you have the time to handle this as you clean your property and get it ready for the next tenant?

With Animals Come… Other Creatures

This is another story you can talk to Joe about. A tenant had a dog with fleas that completely infested the property. And infestations require more than just replacing a carpet or doing some scrubbing in the closet.

Make sure you have top-notch pest control if you have pets. Fleas, ticks, and bugs can hop a ride on your tenants’ pets anytime. Pet food close to the floor is also a great food source for unwanted pests.

Turf Wars

These stories don’t always come from landlords. If you ask vets about letting your pet roam around an apartment complex, they’ll likely offer up their own set of concerns.

A complex with dozens of units means that dozens of pets could be present: indoor cats, outdoor cats, dogs that like cats, or dogs that don’t like cats. I’ve heard plenty of stories of a tenant’s dog biting, attacking, or even killing another tenant’s dog or outdoor cat. Unless your insurance covers this type of accident, your tenants could be left to pick up vet bills due to an animal’s aggression.

Pythons

You heard me—pythons. End of story. Also, pet rats.

green tree python wrapped around branch hanging over moss in enclosure

The stories above don’t even include the regular problems that come with letting pets into your home. Cats with claws like to scratch up new rugs and furniture. Dogs track in mud from their afternoon walk.

A few years ago, a local carpet cleaning company played ads that just featured a dog sliding its butt along the carpet. These will all increase the costs of moving tenants and preparing your property for someone new.

Related: Does Allowing Pets in Your Rentals Make Sense (or Just Scents)?

Tips for Accommodating Pets as a Landlord

The best way to keep your property safe from pet damage is to not allow them in the first place. If these horror stories haven’t convinced you, at least take action to prevent cleaning or repairs from eating into your budget.

1. Set breed, animal, or weight restrictions.

Big animals = bigger poops. It’s that simple. Big dogs can cause a lot more damage to a property than a little Pomeranian. And while Chihuahuas can certainly be aggressive, they’re not as stigmatized as larger breeds.

If you don’t want any geckos, pythons, or other funky creatures in your property, consider making an animal restriction, too. Only allow cats, dogs, or little hamsters that can’t cause too much damage.

Consider breed or weight restrictions. Some cities have made it illegal to ban certain breeds from apartments. Others have made it illegal to ban any type of pets from apartments. Check with local laws before you set limits.

2. Ask for a pet deposit.

Tenants know that their pets can cause damage. They also know the struggle of looking for an apartment that allows their animals to live with them. A few hundred dollars in a “pet deposit” at the start of your tenant’s lease is not a huge ask. Some landlords choose to charge $25-$100 each month for the pet’s “rent.”

gray cat lying on floor

Be sure to include verbiage about this deposit in your lease. Tenants may decide to add a furry friend to their family a few months after moving into your property. A fine for failing to register their pet is extra incentive for tenants to keep you in the know about their cats and dogs.

3. Consider pet-friendly flooring and landscaping options.

If your property is still a work in progress, consider making choices that will save you money in the future. Vinyl and hardwood floors are easier to clean than carpet—especially when pet poop is involved.

Dogs may also try to rip up the lawn. If your property has a big lawn where pets can roam, consider adding a clause about lawn care to the lease. Put the responsibility on the pet owner to fill in holes and make their lawn look pretty once they’ve moved out. Consider the landscaping when giving back (or not giving back) the security deposit.

Prepare wisely, and you can handle any tenant problem that comes your way.

What do you think? Should pets be allowed in rentals? Why or why not?

Discuss in the comment section below!