Pets or no pets

26 Replies

Looking for opinions and policies for pets in your rental properties.  We are trying to decide whether to allow it and what to charge them/policies in lease.   Thanks for your advice. 

Sherry Mulcahy 

Depends on your area and the type of property you are trying to rent. We rent SFRs and everyone has pets, so we only allow 1 dog under 25lbs with an additional refundable pet deposit, nothing under a year old, if we didn't I can't imagine how much longer it would take to get our places rented. About 50% of listings here, in MLS or Craigslist, say they do not allow pets. You just have to be careful about how it comes up. If someone asks if you take pets, ask what they have before you answer. We have had people apply and lie knowing the restriction when a quick search on Facebook or talking to a personal reference reveals more pets than they admitted to.

We don't allow pets, other than fish, in our SFRs. One tenant several years ago got a pit bull, and she was served with a Cure or Quit. 

We allow pets in our condos, in accordance with association regulations - one or two full grown pets under 25 pounds. The association insists on meeting the pet, photographing it, getting vet documentation, license number, etc. The tenant is informed that violating the pet policy is grounds for eviction by the association, as well as by me. 

We charge an additional security deposit for pets. We have not yet charged extra rent, but that seems to be common practice on BP. So far we've had small dogs, cats, and a ferret. No problems. Tenants looking to rent a condo understand there will be more restrictions than when renting a house.

I do not allow dogs,cats,ferrets or birds. Anything else I am ok with so long as it does not become a nuisance. I have a pet clause and ( so far) has never been an issue.

Although I may change my opinion once I get a few more properties. I only have one as of now and am still learning.

Early on I did not allow pets and my tenant had a 100 gallon fish tank with fish.  Technically he was breaking the lease but I let it go.  When I mentioned this to my buddy he told me I couldn't call a fish a pet.  I disagreed, and learned that I should have charged him for the pets.  He stained my wood floor in the dining room and then moved the tank into the living room.  There was a stain and a pressure mark on the carpet when he moved out.   Since then I allow pets and charge $25 per cat &/or dog.  I have not seen any fish though.  The cats and dogs have done less damage and bring in an $300 a year per pet.  Pet owners will pay it without a problem and I don't have to charge them a damage fee upfront they pay if there is damage when they move out.  I found it opens up the pool of good tenants.

I allow small dogs under 25 lbs and cats, no more than two in total. The weight limit coincides with the limit condominiums often use, and a number of our units are condos. So far most tenants have cats and most cats are well behaved. We have been lucky. I let a larger dog (30-40 lbs) in at a condo townhouse and I regret it because I got a letter of complaint that the tenant had left dog  feces in the back yard. No good deed goes unpunished it seems.

I was leasing a place recently and had all sorts of inquiries from people with large dogs, one had three 'rescue' dogs, another rather comically had a dog and a puppy, and when I hesitated on the phone another tenant in the background said rather urgently, "tell him they are therapy dogs." This was a lie. On investigation I later found that this tenant was on the verge of eviction with his then landlord.

I like to allow tenants to have pets. There has to be a limit though that is agreed upon. I feel that if I allow them to have pets, they will be more long term tenants. It is hard to find apartments that allow pets. I also make sure I collect a security deposit in case there is any damage beyond normal wear and tear. If you do collect a security deposit, it has to go into an escrow account and it can't exceed one month rent.

I allow pets in single family homes, but not multi-family.  It opens you up to a broader market.  We usually charge a non-refundable pet deposit in addition to the regular security deposit and depending on the situation, we have charged an additional monthly fee for the pet.  Check your laws on security deposits before you start asking for more fee's.

@Joe Mulcahy  

Sherry, we have duplexes, and at first we said NO PETS. But we found some good tenants that had 2 well behaved cats, and since these units only had wood floors (no carpeting) we were OK with that. We specified in the lease that only 2 cats max are allowed and no dogs. We also collected a $200 pet security deposit. We will never, NEVER allow dogs. We are remodeling another duplex where each side had dogs and the smell in there from dog urine is horrific, plus all of the subfloors under the carpets need to be sealed now with Kilz to block the odor. The yard was always FULL of poop and smelled really bad just to walk up to the property. (These were inherited tenants and fortunately are no longer there.) Plus I've heard too many horror stories.

But this is just my opinion. I am sure that there are many renters with dogs who take good care of the property, but I am not willing to take the risk to find out.

Also, just a side note...if the person has dog for a certified medical problem, you cannot turn them away for the reason of having a dog. These animals are not considered pets and this is a protected status.

$10 to 20 dollar "pet rent" added to monthly rental bill.  Tenants never have issue with "pet rent" and I set a 2x deposit (max in my state) anyway to cover any issues via pets or tenants.

Regarding fish, this can be risky especially if in a tank (10 gal or greater).  Risk of leakage, breakage, humidity, etc...  Unless its a ground floor space and over hardened flooring (tile or related), fish tanks can be risky.

I will consider pets in my SFR mostly because I know how hard it was to find a place when I was young(er) and had pets myself. With any dog, I require a "pet assessment" to be done by a qualified/certified dog trainer who can assess whether the dog is well behaved and obeys basic commands. this also gives me (via my trainer) a chance to evaluate how the owners interact w/ their pets. Good, responsible pet owners will have dogs that are polite, courteous and listen to basic commands. These pets are rarely a problem. This is my payback to the Universe for those who allowed my dog/cat and trusted me as a tenant.

I love pets! You usually have. Larger market, less competition and honestly can charge more money in rent. You also can get either am extra security deposit or monthly pet rent. Most of my houses appeal to family's or couples. In my experience 80% of my applicants have pets. 

Sounds like it really depends on the situation. I am not a landlord yet but can say that depending on the location it could be helpful to allow pets for a few reasons. 

1: larger market of owners 

2: Typical pet owner (dogs) have higher incomes 

3: They are often willing to be a little more self reliant because finding a new place is a pain. 

One thing I do not understand at all: why the preference for small dogs? I've been around ALOT of dogs and can say that it seems like small dogs are almost always messier and louder. Your typical big dog is going to bark less and pee on the furniture less but that's more personal observation than fact. 

I like the idea of meeting and evaluating the dog with a trainer. If you find someone with a well behaved dog that is going to say a lot about them as a tenant. Dog training, even basic obedience, takes a lot of discipline and consistency on the part of the owner. So if someone shows up with a well mannered dog chances are those skills and habits carryover into other parts of their life, like paying rent on time and not trashing an apartment. 

Ask @Brie Schmidt  about letting your units have pets..... As she put in her podcast, they absolutely let people bring pets, and most cases the bigger the better. If this tenant gets in, they will more than likely be there for the long haul, because who else is going to rent them a place with a large animal? I like that way of thinking, and charging a few extra bucks every month in order to take care of some regular maintainence never hurts.

Yep, I totally allow pets in the apartments I manage.  My out of state rentals which are in somewhat lower income areas do not allow pets and our PM was adamant about it so we trusted his judgement.  

We have yet to have a problem with it and because we have no weight restrictions about 90% of applicants have them.  

From reading these posts and my own observations it seems that allowing pets is going to get you a larger pool of tenants to choose from and possibly a longer term one as well.
I think vetting the pet and owner interaction is another great idea. We always charge a pet deposit and make it according to the results of our interview with owner and pet. You can get a general vibe of who is going to be a better tenant and pet owner.

To those of you who don't accept pets larger than 25 lbs, I would make a suggestion that you give larger dogs a try.  Why?  Because most larger breeds are bred for a purpose...a "job" so to speak, which often means they housebreak and are better trained / behaved than most small dogs who are often treated as "babies" with no rules whatsoever.  Also, larger dogs are more expensive to buy / acquire / rescue, care for, and keep current on vet bills...which means they often come with owners with higher incomes.  Now, this is a generalization, of course, but as a former vet tech, turned high wage earner, with 3 large dogs, who ALSO happens to be renting right now due to a recent job transfer...I am a landlord's DREAM as far as stability, care of the property, and no-drama is concerned...but most people's pet policies would have kept me in ghettos if it weren't for word of mouth rental opportunities.

I think of small dogs vs. large dogs more of a safety issue for myself/husband and our contractor, who may have to go into a unit to make a repair if the tenant isn't home. Small dogs can be obnoxious, but rarely a major physical threat. Although one of our tenants seems to have an "attack" cat, and she has to put him in the bedroom when our contractor comes ;)

Wow thanks for all of the insite!  This is our first rental and the first person who called had 3 cats.  I told her no but now am rethinking.   Nice to have a community such as this with tons of nice people and great knowledge! 

I would be wary of three cats, it just seems like too many to me. I have a limit of two pets and do my best to stick to it. If you play a marginal game and say to yourself, what harm would one more do, you could keep going and going until you have a menagerie in there. Its your property, and it is you who has most incentive to protect it; the tenant is thinking of other things. Not once have I had a prospective tenant ever admit to their pet ever having caused damage, having accidents in the house, etc. But these things happen, and you have to pay for it. Fewer animals, less risk; more animals, more risk.

Lots of good information here in the replies, and I like the idea of charging a pet rent per month, in addition to the pet deposit. I have prospective tenants for my SFR with two dogs (85lb lab, 25lb schnauzer), and in addition to the $500 deposit, will ask for a monthly fee for the pets. What's acceptable - $25 or $30 per month on top of rent? Thanks.

I am really struggling with this issue. Most renters in my area seem to have pets and most landlords allow it so I have found it almost impossible to say no pets if I want to stay competitive. However, that being said, in EVERY scenario where the tenant had a pet (dog or cat), we found a lot more damage than normal wear and tear (horrible smells, ruined  or scratched carpet, pee smell in the wood flooring that was impossible to get rid of, etc).  This is all from individuals who are well screened, with high rents, educated, good jobs, etc, so I'm not sure why I seem to have so many issues and others do not. 

I recently renovated one of our units top to bottom and it had nice hardwood floors in the LR and DR. We pulled up the carpet and refinished and stained the bedroom floors to match. We were struggling to get a tenant and a couple loved the place, but had two dogs. After reading posts on here, I told her she could move in but would be charged an additional $50/mo in rent for the 2 dogs. This would cover the up front cost of me poly'ing the LR and DR floors to protect them (something i had not planned on doing otherwise). They have been there less than three months and one dog already broke a window trying to climb out (which they paid for immediately) and I just went in today to get our refi appraisal and my brand new beautiful floors are completely scratched everywhere! 

They will have to be re-done when they leave and I'm just sick about it. I am also struggling on how to present this issue with the tenants as she noted on her Move In Inspection that the floors "scratch easily". We have the same flooring and poly in all of our units and have never had any issues before. It's their dogs, not the floors. Should I do something now to prevent further damage or just wait until their lease is up? I had hoped they would renew as they are good tenants otherwise, but at this point, I'm not sure I want them to! I also wonder if she is going to fight me as I will have to take it out of her security deposit to re-do them again. 

Personally, I would say if you can avoid pets, do it. I am seriously re-considering myself, even if it means waiting longer to find a tenant. 

I find that a lot of amazing renters are passed on by other landlords because of pets.  At first like many of you we didn't rent to pet owners.  Currently in our 3 units, all have pets and all have been some of the best tenants we have ever had.  We also charge a refundable extra deposit but really have had no problems.  I am sure there will be some extra wear and tear but we budget for it every month.  

Originally posted by @Shannon Sadik :

I am really struggling with this issue. Most renters in my area seem to have pets and most landlords allow it so I have found it almost impossible to say no pets if I want to stay competitive. However, that being said, in EVERY scenario where the tenant had a pet (dog or cat), we found a lot more damage than normal wear and tear (horrible smells, ruined  or scratched carpet, pee smell in the wood flooring that was impossible to get rid of, etc).  This is all from individuals who are well screened, with high rents, educated, good jobs, etc, so I'm not sure why I seem to have so many issues and others do not. 

I recently renovated one of our units top to bottom and it had nice hardwood floors in the LR and DR. We pulled up the carpet and refinished and stained the bedroom floors to match. We were struggling to get a tenant and a couple loved the place, but had two dogs. After reading posts on here, I told her she could move in but would be charged an additional $50/mo in rent for the 2 dogs. This would cover the up front cost of me poly'ing the LR and DR floors to protect them (something i had not planned on doing otherwise). They have been there less than three months and one dog already broke a window trying to climb out (which they paid for immediately) and I just went in today to get our refi appraisal and my brand new beautiful floors are completely scratched everywhere! 

They will have to be re-done when they leave and I'm just sick about it. I am also struggling on how to present this issue with the tenants as she noted on her Move In Inspection that the floors "scratch easily". We have the same flooring and poly in all of our units and have never had any issues before. It's their dogs, not the floors. Should I do something now to prevent further damage or just wait until their lease is up? I had hoped they would renew as they are good tenants otherwise, but at this point, I'm not sure I want them to! I also wonder if she is going to fight me as I will have to take it out of her security deposit to re-do them again. 

Personally, I would say if you can avoid pets, do it. I am seriously re-considering myself, even if it means waiting longer to find a tenant. 

 Well, nice try on the "scratches easily" comment on the form, lady LOL. The move-in form is regarding the current condition, not as a warning about future condition.  That's really hilarious.  That's like writing in the stove section "Gets dirty easily" LOL.  Ah, well, nothing to worry about there.  Judges aren't stupid people.

BUT, that said, don't kick her out if she's otherwise a good tenant!  Why incur the cost to fix those floors any sooner than you have to.  And I wouldn't do anything as far as scolding her about the scratch marks.  She's made sure it will be an issue when she moves out.  No need to stir the bees nest before you have to.  And, heck, maybe she'll stay for 10 years and the useful life will be up by then anyway, and you won't be able to charge her for damage to the floors anymore.

As far as competing with landlords who accept pets.  I'd look at it from the point of view of a market that has few landlords who will accept pets (like the SF Bay Area).  The landlords who do accept pets, charge a higher rent for the privilege.  But, the cost of turning them over costs more.  So, are they really ahead?

You could look at your unit as one that is cheaper to rent, because pets are not allowed.  But, your turnover costs will also be less.  So, why not price your units a little lower and stop trying to compete with the pet landlords?  And/or market it as a great unit for people allergic to pet hair :-)

Originally posted by @Bret Faszholz :

Lots of good information here in the replies, and I like the idea of charging a pet rent per month, in addition to the pet deposit. I have prospective tenants for my SFR with two dogs (85lb lab, 25lb schnauzer), and in addition to the $500 deposit, will ask for a monthly fee for the pets. What's acceptable - $25 or $30 per month on top of rent? Thanks.

 Pet rent fees are not legal in CA.  Lots of landlords do it, but savvy tenants will win when they sue you to get them back.  Any non-refundable fees are not legal.

What you can do, however, is charge them the full amount allowed by CA law for a security deposit - for unfurnished that's twice the rent amount, for furnished it's 3 times the rent amount.

The Nolo CA landlord book also advises against separate pet deposits, because that can limit you to what you can deduct from which deposit.  But, any fees collected in CA, other than the initial application fee (can only be actual out of pocket amount you paid for credit checks, etc., up to $42ish - amount is set by law), are all considered part of the security deposit, no matter what they're called. And the security deposit can't be more than the 2X or 3X rent amount.

This Nolo book is great and contains all the forms you could ever need and great contracts, too.

https://www.nolo.com/products/the-california-landl...

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