To allow pets, or not.....

29 Replies

I just purchased my first investment property!  Finally...

Well I actually don't close until this afternoon, but I went ahead and put it on Postlets yesterday and got a bite.  The gentleman emailed me asking if I allow pets.  Initially, I was against dogs AND cats, but I feel I may be losing an opportunity at a potential tenant.  

It's a single family home in the 130-150kish range.  I have a big backyard, but no fence.  

What are your opinions on this?  Am I jumping the gun, since it's only been 1 day on the market?

I do not because I don't want to deal with the inevitable damage that comes with animal urine, scratching/biting and liability from renting to a pet owner. However you will have market advantage over someone like me. As long as you are comfortable with the risks of flooring repairs/replacement, you should be good. On a related note, one of our houses has beautiful hardwood floors...correction I should say "had" beautiful floors until dogs with long toenails gouged them out. So you should think not only disposition/behavior of the animal but also how well the tenant may/may not care for it.

I allow pets in all my rentals.  I obtain a separate and non-refundable pet deposit of $250 per animal (I limit the number of pets to 2 dogs and 1 cat), and I require tenant to get a liability policy of insurance naming me as an additional named insured to protect them and me from potential damages for dog bit incidents.

I allow pets.  Not allowing pets eliminates a large part of the rental market.  You do need to check with your insurance agent as certain dog breeds would not be covered under your policy.  

When I first started, I didn't allow pets and realized people just get them any way and lie/hide them from you. I charge an extra $25 a month per pet.  When I was a renter, I had a cat and gladly paid extra to be able to have her in the home with me.  

Yes, its likely you'll have a few bad experiences with people's pets and damage but you will also have many instances where pets do no damage.

I  don't allow pets.  I also don't have a fenced in yard which makes it easier not to have a pets or at least dogs. Nor do I want to deal with any aftermath problems.  To allow pets or not is "to each your own" I feel.  Pro and cons each way but make sure you have pets covered well in your lease.  I would require vet shot records with yearly updates, extra insurance and you listed as an additional insurer. Being an additional insurer allows you to get paid when the pet damages the house and the renters or you can file a claim and get paid.  Not refundable pet deposit and check the limit for your state.  My state is 1/4 of the rent.  

I allow pets for good quality tenants. It increases my pool of potential tenants, which is helpful since I typically am trying to get the top range of market rent, or even over market rent.  I do not allow them for low quality tenants though.

Depends on how fancy your exterior doors, interior floor and trim are.  I charged a $500 non-refundable per pet fee.  The biggest problem is getting out the pet smell.  You can clean the registers real well and place sticky packs of baking soda inside the return and registers and leave the fan on for a while between tenants.

You can try cleaning the walls real well and steam cleaning grout and etc too.  Most of the time though, only a new coat of paint will seal the smell.  If you charge enough to have pets, you could make a little money after revamping for new tenants or at least break even because interior paint and elbow grease are cheap.

Most of the time families have pets.  Most families have dual incomes.  I like to get paid.

Justin

I allow dogs but generally not cats because a) I am semi-allergic to cats, and b) cat urine and marking is hell to get out of a unit. Haven't had any requests for anything else, but I can't see me objecting to a lizard or a parakeet or something like that. 

I look at it like this: if I have vetted the tenant to the point where I have accepted them into my rental, I am already comfortable that they will take good care of my property, because I don't rent to bums, I don't take Section 8, and I don't rent to people who don't properly care for their animals, meaning that if they don't have shots, aren't fixed, or someone tells me "Oh, he's an outside dog", I already know everything I need to know. I don't rent to people who don't take care of their animals the way I do, which is as part of my family.  

I don't charge anything extra for the animal, I just consider it part of the deposit. None of my units have any carpeting and it will stay that way, which helps immensely. So does having laminate, vinyl, or tile. Units where I have hardwood floors I include a clause regarding dog nails being kept trimmed to avoid scratching the floor. Also, if you charge a "non-refundable pet deposit", that is not a deposit, it is a fee. Make sure people know they are/are not getting their fee back. Personally, I think having that fee can backfire; charging item-specific fees sometimes gives people the impression that they've paid for something already, so why worry about some damage, whereas someone who hasn't paid anything knows that their animal is there as part of your good graces within the lease. 

If you have tenant-proofed your house, it is also likely to be more or less animal-proof, aforementioned urine aside. Even so, I had a unit that had terrible urine damage to the hardwood floors when I bought it redone for just over a grand and it wiped out every bit of the smell, so I wouldn't be too terrified of having an animal. Screen your tenants well and the problem pretty much takes care of itself. 

Originally posted by @Andrew P. :

I just purchased my first investment property!  Finally...

Well I actually don't close until this afternoon, but I went ahead and put it on Postlets yesterday and got a bite.  The gentleman emailed me asking if I allow pets.  Initially, I was against dogs AND cats, but I feel I may be losing an opportunity at a potential tenant.  

It's a single family home in the 130-150kish range.  I have a big backyard, but no fence.  

What are your opinions on this?  Am I jumping the gun, since it's only been 1 day on the market?

 Hello Andrew,

This is a great question, and one that I deal with a lot. It is a hard decision because you could turn down a great tenant with a dog, and either wait awhile for another tenant or lease to a bad one.

It ultimately may come down to what is your unit like? By that I mean, is it carpeted or hard wood floors? If it is hard wood then you may want to consider allowing SOME dogs and cats. Hard wood is MUCH easier to clean after an animal has lived there. If your unit is carpeted you might want to reconsider. Animals can easily destroy your carpet. 

Of course, you can (and should) have a pet deposit as part of your lease. You may either charge a monthly fee or charge a one time non-refundable payment. Explain that this is for cleaning (which you'll most likely need to do.) 

If you do allow dogs/cats I recommend having a weight limit and a limit on dog breeds. You want to have some guidelines if you're going to allow animals.

It really comes down to you and where your property is located. If there is high demand for rentals and you have plenty of options for applicants, then maybe hold off on allowing pets until you have to reconsider.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

@Andrew P.

Do some market analysis and see what is big in your area. @Emily Lopez has the right idea with limiting your market. Brie Schmidt had mentioned this in one of her earlier podcasts. Allowing dogs opened her and her husband up to some great longterm tenants in the Chicago market. Because it's harder to find landlords who accept pets, pet-owners are more loyal to those who take care of them.

All this being said, I am assuredly not a pet owner, and it does annoy me the damage they do the house. In this vein, I recommend @Charlie Fitzgerald approach, and do it fairly but in a way that will compensate you in the medium - worst case scenarios.

We accept them right now with our place in Virginia, but fortunately do not have tenants with pets at the moment. According to our manager, pet-owners are about 70% of the market, so it's a little fool-hardy to reject them there.

Originally posted by @Trevor Ewen :

@Andrew P.

Do some market analysis and see what is big in your area. @Emily Lopez has the right idea with limiting your market. Brie Schmidt had mentioned this in one of her earlier podcasts. Allowing dogs opened her and her husband up to some great longterm tenants in the Chicago market. Because it's harder to find landlords who accept pets, pet-owners are more loyal to those who take care of them.

All this being said, I am assuredly not a pet owner, and it does annoy me the damage they do the house. In this vein, I recommend @Charlie Fitzgerald approach, and do it fairly but in a way that will compensate you in the medium - worst case scenarios.

We accept them right now with our place in Virginia, but fortunately do not have tenants with pets at the moment. According to our manager, pet-owners are about 70% of the market, so it's a little fool-hardy to reject them there.

 Trevor makes an excellent point! If you limit yourself to certain tenants, you might miss some very good ones. Pet owners can be excellent tenants too!

I allow cats and dogs but ask for more deposit/move-in fee to cover the risk of having extra damage. If I had carpet in my units, I wouldn't allow pets. But with hardwood/tile/solid surfaces throughout, I don't have a problem with pets. If they do additional damage, then I will deduct it from the security deposit. I have had some issues with pets doing damage to cabinets in kitchens because food is stored there and they claw and damage them. Other than that, it's been fine. And that's a dog issue, not really a cat issue. 

I guess it depends on the area too. I invest in areas with decent income and in general the tenants with pets I've rented to take good care of their pets.  I'd prefer not to have pets, but I need to get my units rented and having the option open decreases down time and my bottom line doesn't suffer.

Yep, that 'non-refundable' deposit gets me every time.  I allow animals in some buildings.  Don't even use the word pet anymore in the age of ESAs and therapy animals.  Some buildings/houses are canine and/or feline friendly, depending.  Some aren't.  All upon approval, of course.  With a good screening policy, allowing animals can set you apart from a lot of other rental owners!

Originally posted by @Mindy Jensen :

@Andrew P. , should you decide to allow pets, make sure your lease is worded properly. A fee is non-refundable. A deposit is refundable.

 Mindy makes an excellent point! It is important to make sure it all worded correctly in your lease. I'm sorry if I confused you with my language. Use the term fee or deposit depending on your plan for it. (Mostly will be a fee since you'll most likely clean regardless.)

I think you were pretty clear on the deposit/fee language @Tom Ott .

I was referring to @Charlie Fitzgerald -"I obtain a separate and non-refundable pet deposit of $250 per animal."

I bet Charlie knows the difference, but wanted to point it out to the OP. There ain't no such thing as a non-refundable deposit.  A common mistake made even by professional PMs on CL.  Cheers!

While it is true and accurate that a "deposit" is by nature generally intended to be refundable, in the case where an agreement specifically indicates that a deposit in its entirety or a portion of a deposit is not refundable and it is agreed to by the parties as indicated by signature of the parties, then  as it relates to that portion so specified, or, the entirety of the deposit so indicated as non-refundable, it is not a refundable deposit.  Where people run into trouble is when they collect a "deposit" and do not indicate that it is not refundable when the intent is for it not to be.  In those cases, the tenant is entitled to a refund of that deposit.

I think you have to look at your preferences and your market. Here in Denver, if you don't allow pets you just lost 75% of the renter pool.

And I totally agree that changing the definition of "deposit" is silly. Just call it a fee because that is what it is. Calling it a deposit, but then adding all the verbiage to say "what I really meant was to call it a fee" is a bit strange.

Another big up-and-comer seems to be pet rent. Rather than charging fees or deposits, many landlords just charge $xx/month to have the pet.

Originally posted by @George P. :

i think its written in the US constitution that if you rent, you must own a pet.

true story.

 That's hilarious. It does seem like every renter has a pet. 

I allow pets because it increases the number of potential good tenants, and I can ask for a higher amount of rent. I do collect a pet deposit for each pet but it is refundable. The amount will depend on you and your risk tolerance, but I don't believe that pet parents should be penalized for having a furry family member when human children can be just as bad if not worse when it comes to damaging property.  

I do stipulate however that all pets must be well behaved, licensed, and spayed or neutered. Referrals are a plus. 

I have seen rental listings where pets are allowed with extra "pet rent."  I don't do this. I just list the unit for the total amount that would hypothetically include said pet rent. that way pet owners don't feel penalized, but if I get a non pet owner who wants to rent from me at that same price, then so much the better.  This method also seems to have more integrity to me. In my opinion. Plus it's simpler. 

That said, there are many pets in Portland. You may have a different strategy where fewer people have pets.

Regarding pet deposits, in Oregon it is illegal to call anything that is nonrefundable a "deposit" on a lease. You can call it a fee, if you want, or ask for a refundable pet deposit. Yesterday a fellow landlord informed me that if a pet incurs more damage than the pet deposit, you may have no recourse to pull it from their security deposit in Oregon. She instead simply asks for a higher security deposit when the renter has a pet. That law seems a bit nutty to me and I had a hard time believing that to be the case, but she got her advice from the Oregon Landlord Association. 

I don't think charging extra rent for pets means you have less integrity than someone asking for more money.  also confused about your logical contortions of charging more rent for pets  but not really because you are possessed of great moral fortitude or some other non sequitur.  Portlandia people are funny when they live up to stereotypes

Originally posted by @Account Closed :

I allow pets because it increases the number of potential good tenants, and I can ask for a higher amount of rent. I do collect a pet deposit for each pet but it is refundable. The amount will depend on you and your risk tolerance, but I don't believe that pet parents should be penalized for having a furry family member when human children can be just as bad if not worse when it comes to damaging property.  

I do stipulate however that all pets must be well behaved, licensed, and spayed or neutered. Referrals are a plus. 

I have seen rental listings where pets are allowed with extra "pet rent."  I don't do this. I just list the unit for the total amount that would hypothetically include said pet rent. that way pet owners don't feel penalized, but if I get a non pet owner who wants to rent from me at that same price, then so much the better.  This method also seems to have more integrity to me. In my opinion. Plus it's simpler. 

That said, there are many pets in Portland. You may have a different strategy where fewer people have pets.

Regarding pet deposits, in Oregon it is illegal to call anything that is nonrefundable a "deposit" on a lease. You can call it a fee, if you want, or ask for a refundable pet deposit. Yesterday a fellow landlord informed me that if a pet incurs more damage than the pet deposit, you may have no recourse to pull it from their security deposit in Oregon. She instead simply asks for a higher security deposit when the renter has a pet. That law seems a bit nutty to me and I had a hard time believing that to be the case, but she got her advice from the Oregon Landlord Association. 

It sounds like Dani is on the right path as well! She makes a good point about what the call it in your lease. It sounds like you might as well call it a "fee" even if your tenants don't like that word. It's better than getting in trouble by calling it anything else.

You might want to consider putting limits on the size of the dog or even the breed. Some cities even outlaw certain kinds of dogs in general rental or not. I know from experience there is a city near me that does not allow pitbulls for anyone.

We allow PETS in our properties which don't have carpets. We used to allow them in the carpeted properties as well but the cost of replacing the carpeting every 4 - 10 years due to the animals going to the bathroom on them just isn't worth it. Don't believe anyone who tells you that their dog / cat is good and never goes in the house as accidents happen.

 We charge a non-refundable PET fee of $300 plus $20 per pet per month, only allow 2 max, they can't be on the insurance watch list and we must approve them.

Rick