Landlording & Rental Properties

Should You Allow Pets in Your Rentals?

Expertise: Landlording & Rental Properties, Personal Finance, Personal Development
28 Articles Written
woman laying on bed snuggling light colored big dog

It’s no secret. Pets can cause serious damage to a home.

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Certain breeds pose other liabilities, as well. As a landlord, I would love to welcome all breeds. But insurance companies don’t feel the same.

For these reasons, it can be difficult for people with pets to find rentals willing to accept them. And for renters with multiple pets, it’s even more challenging.

Should you accept pets in your rentals? It really depends. But I do! Here’s why.

Most Pets Are Not Destructive

While it’s absolutely true that many pets are destructive (especially young ones), most are not. When carefully vetting prospective tenants through personal references, interviews, and so on, you can likely find out how a person cares for their pets and property.

I also ensure through a pet agreement that I have a picture of the pet, its veterinary information and a pledge that there is no history of violence with the animal. I collect a pet deposit, along with monthly pet rent, as well.

pet-policies

Related: What Should Condo Unit Owners & Landlords Know About Pet Policy Laws?

Some Rentals Are More Pet-Friendly Than Others

Do you have a fenced yard? Perhaps tile floors?  If so, you may want to consider accepting pets.

It would be difficult for a domesticated animal to harm tile floors. However, in properties where I have wood floors, I tend not to allow dogs due to the potential for damage to occur.

Just because you accept pets in one property doesn’t mean you need to across the board. And if none of your properties are a good fit for animals, that’s okay to acknowledge, too.

Pet-Owning Renters Are Willing to Pay Deposits and Fees

People love their animals; they’re part of the family. This is why many renters are willing to pay an extra security deposit plus pet rent each month to ensure they can house their animals.

Most follow through with the required additional payments and are responsible with their pets. Is everyone? No. But the majority are.

I’ve been able to ensure that pet owners are good about preserving the condition of my properties by doing something many landlords don’t: offering a refundable pet deposit. I am personally astounded this isn’t more common.

There is no incentive to prevent an animal from damaging a place if someone pays a non-refundable deposit up-front. But if there are a few hundred dollars on the line, I think it’s safe to assume renters would either put in the effort to fix any pet-related damage prior to move out or adjust said pet’s behavior.

gray cat lying on floor

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

What to Do If Pets Cause Damage

Overall, allowing pets in my rentals has been a roaring success. All but two tenants have received their pet deposits back in full.

The first problematic pet owner I encountered had essentially gone nose blind to their animals. Upon moving out, you could definitely smell that pets had been there. To remedy this issue, I deployed an odor bomb in the venting system. It cost $60.

The other incident involved puppies. I knew about them, and allowed them in the property because the tenant promised to crate them. She did not, however, and they chewed up some wooden banisters and carpet. In this case, the damage exceeded the pet deposit. Thankfully, the renter paid for the additional damages in full.

Covering All Pet-Related Bases

I do charge pet rent throughout tenancy, and collect security deposits to ensure damages are covered if not repaired prior to move out. If for any reason I come out behind and someone doesn’t pay for related damages, the pet rent is intended to help cover those costs.

I have tenants with two dogs and a cat paying $50 a month extra; other tenants pay $25 for a single cat. In my time as a landlord, I’ve made thousands of extra dollars for simply allowing renters to live with their furry companions.

It hasn’t always gone perfectly, but even if neither of the renters with problematic pet issues had paid for them, I’d still have come out ahead.

Also, keep in mind that therapy and service animals have laws protecting their status. (These are different from emotional support animals and the like.) Landlords should familiarize themselves with the applicable laws.

Do you allow pets in your rentals? Why or why not?

Comment below.

A longtime writer and consumer of all things related to the FIRE (financial independence retire early) movement, Sarah went from working 50+ hours a week to less than 20 thanks to her real estate investment portfolio and side passion projects. Investing since 2015, she reached financial independence in 2016 and was able to retire in 2017. Articles about her journey and information about her current projects have been published in LinkedIn, BiggerPockets, Kiplinger, and many other financial news sources. Prior to the FIRE movement, Sarah worked as a Program and Acquisitions Manager on various projects and started a successful, world-renowned non-profit organization. Today, she uses these skills as a real estate consultant to help others reach their FIRE-related goals on a regular basis.

    Kevin McGuire Rental Property Investor from Seattle, WA
    Replied 9 months ago
    Good post. Two additional points come to mind: 1) Since it can be difficult to find a place which will take dogs, renters tend to be appreciative, and appreciative renters are great to have. It helps with the give-and-take of being a landlord (e.g. in return they may be more relaxed about some repair items). 2) In my very limited experience, dog owners tend to be more responsible in general because you have a creature who is dependent on you. As an extreme example, I rent to someone who has a small horse for a dog, but their day job is training guide dogs for the blind. That’s a quality tenant! As a result I’ve tended towards floor finishings that will survive a dog. I’m happy to rent to dog owners. Admittedly, I’m biased because I love dogs. Cats on the other hand … we bought one property which my PM refers to as “the cat pee place”, took a lot to ameliorate.
    Sarah P. Rental Property Investor from East Coast
    Replied 9 months ago
    Kevin- I thought about writing about the destructive nature of cat pee, but decided against it. The appreciative nature of pet owners is 100% true. They’re already limited in finding quality places to live and when they find someone who accepts pets, they get their application materials in quickly as well as any deposits. It’s a great situation.
    Christopher Smith Investor from brentwood, california
    Replied 9 months ago
    I rent A- properties in A-/B+ neighborhoods and I really have little choice but to allow pets since about 3 out of 4 applicant’s at this end of the rental spectrum have them. I don’t manage my properties, but to date I’ve heard nothing from my managers that accepting pets has been a major problem. For my CA properties I think we go with an extra 500 refundable deposit.
    Katie Rogers from Santa Barbara, California
    Replied 9 months ago
    “…many renters are willing to pay an extra security deposit plus pet rent each month…” Willing is often the wrong word. Filling forced is more accurate. If your property is essentially pet proof (tile floors, etc) and because most pets cause no problems, it is unnecessary to charge extra and we shouldn’t just because we can get away with it. The tenant will resent it, regardless of whatever facade they present.
    Sarah P. Rental Property Investor from East Coast
    Replied 9 months ago
    This one is tough to tell in my book. When speaking to a prospective tenant I always ask if the associated fees would be okay. I’ve personally never had someone say no and perhaps it’s because it’s widely expected or even forced as you suggest. However, as we do with all tenants we know it’s a certain level of risk we accept by allowing animals into the homes. As previously mentioned, I’ve had tenants’ pets (the puppies) do $700 worth of damage by chewing up wood banisters in the home and carpet in the tenant’s bedroom. The idea of collecting pet rent with a refundable deposit mitigates risk on both sides: tenants get their deposit back if no harm is done, and I have coverage should there be an issue otherwise.
    Kevin McGuire Rental Property Investor from Seattle, WA
    Replied 9 months ago
    Agree that an extra security deposit can be positioned in a reasonable manner. I find “pet rent” to be arbitrary though since there’s no obvious ongoing operational cost one is recouping. Security deposit can clearly be linked to actual maintenance bills when preparing the unit for the next renter. Pet rent by contrast feels like a random money grab on the part of the landlord. I live in a condo building and the board had considered pet rent to cover extra maintenance costs. The discussion was heated, especially here in dog friendly Seattle, and the arbitrariness became quickly apparent (“I always take my dog out through the garage, why do I have to pay extra to clean the lobby?”. “I have a 5lb dog and carry her out”). The proposal died quickly and in the end only generated animosity. I mention this because I think it’s representative of people’s feelings about the topic but which a renter may never voice since the landlord is in control. As a landlord I want my charges to the tenants to be fair and predictable to them, and I expect reasonableness in return on their part.
    Katie Rogers from Santa Barbara, California
    Replied 9 months ago
    ditto!
    Ronald Rohde Attorney from Dallas, TX
    Replied 9 months ago
    Just wait until people finish lawsuits on service animals, emotional support, therapy pit bulls. We need clarity for landlords to determine what animals can warrant additional charges.
    Katie Rogers from Santa Barbara, California
    Replied 9 months ago
    Charge a refundable deposit, but other than that no additional charges.
    Jose F Toledo from Miami, Florida
    Replied 9 months ago
    Can ya’ll tell me how the law applies when we have a dog that is an “Emotional Support” animal vs a “Therapy or Service” dog? I am a Veterinarian, and I have seen some of my clients that have told me (just plain like that) that they have gone to a “web site “. a “doctor” interviews them for 5 minutes and they get a “certificate” that validates them to have an Emotional Support dog. With this certificate they can have any dog they want, destructive or not, aggressive or not, and rent any property they want. Please help!
    Steve Ryan from Hazleton, PA
    Replied 9 months ago
    Regarding deposits, be sure to check landlord-tenant laws in your state. In PA, you can’t hold more than a month’s worth of deposits after the tenant’s first year (two months’ worth during the first year). So if you use one month’s rent as the security deposit, you would have to return any pet deposits on day 366 and lose that leverage. “Non-refundable deposits” (a.k.a. FEES) always bothered me–and not just because it’s an oxymoron! But after learning about that stipulation, I kind of get it. A reasonable pet fee basically just assumes there will be extra cleaning and cosmetic repairs beyond the typical anthropogenic wear-and-tear. For the full legalese discussion, here’s the excerpt from the PA Landlord-Tenant Act: § 250.511a. Escrow funds limited (a) No landlord may require a sum in excess of two months’ rent to be deposited in escrow for the payment of damages to the leasehold premises and/or default in rent thereof during the first year of any lease. (b) During the second and subsequent years of the lease or during any renewal of the original lease the amount required to be deposited may not exceed one month’s rent. Now, I realize there may be some dispute as to whether pet-related “clean-up” can be considered separately from “damages,” but it sure seems like damages to me. I haven’t been able to find any case law precedent to the contrary. Any other insight or experience is appreciated!
    Katie Rogers from Santa Barbara, California
    Replied 9 months ago
    If there are not pet damages within the first year, there are unlikely to be any pet damages, so returning part of the deposit should not be a problem. Return of a deposit is generally predicated on return of a clean unit whether there is a pet or not. You will know on final walk-through with the tenant if you should retain part or all of a deposit.