Pet policy

39 Replies

hey guys, my name is scott from lancaster PA. I'm a new guy, my first property isn't even ready to advertise yet but I'm trying to nail down what I want my policy to be, right now pet policy. 

I'd like to allow pets, but is it best to charge a pet deposit or up the rent a few bucks? From what I understand (which is very possible I understand wrong), that in PA I'm allowed to charge up to 2 months as security deposit, but can only hold one month after the first year. Again, from what I understand that includes the pet policy. If that's true I'd assume it's better to have a monthly fee per pet. 

Thoughts?

Hi Scott,

I'm also in Lancaster and struggled with how to pursue pets for a while. I just allowed my first rental with pets so we'll see how it goes. If you plan to allow pets, I would rehab/choose the place accordingly; of course things like avoiding carpets in favor of durable laminates (that won't retain smells) will factor into your decision making.

Ultimately I decided I'd rather have a high quality tenant with a pet. Few properties in Lancaster allow pets so it gives a competitive advantage, but you have to expect the accelerated wear on your unit (i.e., plan to change the carpet, if you have any, every 3 years instead of every 5). I charge an additional fee of $25 per month per pet to account for this. The tenants are also well aware that any damage above normal wear and tear will be repaired by them or from their security deposit.

Best of luck!

I agree with @Michael L. . Here in Philadelphia I charge $15/pet. Perhaps I should charge more! I don't allow dogs in units that do not have access to a yard. I'm more flexible with cats, but I require all pets to be spayed/neutered. They are generally calmer (read less damage) and less territorial (read less damage).

I asked a few people what they would prefer before signing the lease, flat fee vs. extra deposit and monthly charge, and both chose a flat pet fee due at lease signing.  I went with $250.00 comes out to $20/month for a year, and if they stay longer then a year, no turnover - yea!

Originally posted by @Scott Stallings :

but can a tenant argue that the monthly fee should cover all pet expenses? Not just extra wear and tear?

 Of course these are always the risks that you run. The best bet is to have a very specific lease. 

I have always rented to very reasonable people who I suspect would note the difference between a house that requires normal cleaning following a turnover and one that has urine stained carpets, chewed up woodwork, etc. The key is that the lease should not only protect you on the back end, but perhaps even more importantly, make sure that everyone is on the same page before anyone takes the keys. 

Originally posted by @Renee Fulcer :

I asked a few people what they would prefer before signing the lease, flat fee vs. extra deposit and monthly charge, and both chose a flat pet fee due at lease signing.  I went with $250.00 comes out to $20/month for a year, and if they stay longer then a year, no turnover - yea!

 I considered this method as well. I went with the prevailing local norms. Believe it or not, several of the larger townhouse apartment complexes will charge both a $200 upfront fee (non-refundable) in addition to the increase of $25/month/pet in rent! I wasn't going to try both; one or the other seemed to be fine.

@Scott Stallings , welcome to BiggerPockets. This forum right here is what makes BP such an awesome place! Everyone is here to help.

When you write up the policy, choose your words carefully. A 'deposit' must be returned, a 'fee' is yours to keep. 

I live in Colorado, where it seems I am the only one without a pet. Most rentals are pet friendly, and a $250 pet fee (not deposit) is very normal. People with pets are happy to fork it over for the privilege of living with their pet. I have also seen $25/month pet rent, which is also a fee not a deposit.

Check with your insurance before you rent to a tenant with a 'large breed' dog. If your insurance won't cover Pit Bulls, then make sure you write that into your policy. If you are going to allow animals, ask to meet them before the tenant applies. If the animal is mean or aggressive toward you, you probably don't want to rent to them. 

A pet policy does not allow you to disregard the Fair Housing Act, which says (basically) you cannot discriminate against people with disabilities, which includes service animals. Read here for a little more about service animals. Good luck with your first rental!

Originally posted by @Scott Stallings :

is a pet deposit the exception to the "only one month security deposit" law? Or are you guys outside of PA?

There is no such exception. That's why charging extra rent per month works better in PA - you get a few extra dollars for deposit too that way. 

You can try the non-refundable pet fee. Of course, tenants will assume you apply that fee toward damages so there might be some damage as a consequence. 

@Scott Stallings go visit on of the local big box apartment complexes and get a copy of their pet policies. I assure you that you will have your eyes opened. A friend of mine lived in a  complex that had a pet fee of $500 and $200 per month in pet rent per pet. No its not a typo. People paid it!

ok here's another question.....do you only charge a fee(s) for cats and dogs? What if they have a caged animal such as a rabit or bird or snake? They typically don't do damage. 

@Scott Stallings , you would be surprised at how much damage an uncaged bird can do. Fish can cause water damage if the tank leaks or breaks. I would call it a pet fee, and charge to ALL pets. That way, you aren't being discriminatory. 

I don't know anything about snakes, though.

@Scott Stallings we only accept dogs or cats. No rabbits, the tenants let them out of the cages in the house (no matter what they say) and they chew the trim. NO SNAKES. They are escape artists. You don't want the next tenant waking up with a snake in their bed. No birds as tenants also let them out of their cages as well. They poop everywhere and some are also destructive to the woodwork. No ferrets or related types either. They smell horrific and the smell will linger and makes it impossible to show and rent while they are living there. In short, dogs and cats only. 

Out of 10 units, I allow pets in 2 units.  Both of those have yard's & it seems to open us up to a wider market, however, no cats.  I don't like animals that do all of their "business" in the house & not outside.  We also state that we charge a pet deposit, somewhere around 1/2 month's rent non-refundable to cover the extra cleaning that goes into cleaning after move out & we also reserve the right to meet the pet prior to acceptance.  No restricted dog breeds, no St. Bernard's in a townhouse etc.

I charge a $250 non refundable fee and $30/month per pet.  I grew up with a lot of animals and I know what they can do.  I prefer not to foot the bill for it but don't want to keep away plenty of good tenants with animals that will pay extra for it.

We allow dogs of any breed or size in all of our rentals here in Portland OR (dogtown USA) but no cats and no other types of animals. We meet all the dogs. We only allow potty trained dogs - no puppies. We are fine with pit bulls and any other wrongly misaligned breeds as I know dogs and I know these breeds are super sweethearts. We always always always meet the dogs (I meet all the potential tenants). The insurance against pits and rotties etc is largely a myth and you can always find different insurance. I've found most "no pits" policies to be purely a racist home owner.. We charge $500 per pet refundable fees. I want people to want there to be no damage so I'm happy to give it back. All hardwoods no carpet in all our rentals.

Go with the extra rent per month per pet.  And my suggestion is to NOT allow vicious dog breeds and set a limit on the number of pets. Have a separate pet addendum to the lease that is specific for the property.

I current charge $25/month more and $150 deposit more for each dog, but heard yesterday that some of my peers are charging $1000 non-refundable fee and people are paying it, even low income.

My insurance doesn't care what breeds we allow you may want to check.

Here is what is in our procedure manual regarding pets:

Pet Policy

For duplex where porch is shared, no pets are allowed, due to units close proximity to each other.  For upstairs/downstairs duplex, no pets are allowed due to noise concerns.

For all other properties, cats and reptiles are not allowed. Cats like to mark their territory and the markings go down into the subflooring. Approved dogs, birds, and other pets are allowed, with additional rent of $25/month each and increased deposit of $150.00 each.

We must meet and photograph all pets prior to granting approval. We will evaluate tenant applicants and their pets on a case-by-case basis. When deciding which pets are allowed, our first concern is how friendly they are and how comfortable we would be entering the property when the dog is home but the owner is not, in case of emergency. The next concerns are whether they may be likely to inflict harm on others or the property.

Some questions to ask the pet owner to make an informed decision:

how long has the tenant had the pet?

where will the tenant get the pet (if not owned yet)

has the pet attacked anyone? Children?

whether the pet has caused any property damage or other problems

are they spayed and neutered? Required, because this makes them less likely to exhibit dangerous behavior.

who will look after the pet when the tenant is away.

If an animal is a service animal, cannot charge higher rent or higher deposit. There is a three part test where the applicant/tenant needs to be able to show us:

  1. Provide documentation of a disability (normally letter from physician).
  2. Animal must be trained to serve a function related to the persons disability. Puppies are not trained.
  3. The request to have a service animal must be reasonable.

If these three conditions cannot be met, animal doesn't qualify as a service animal under WAC, and if the pet is already living in our unit, tenant must pay extra fees (if allowed) or get rid of it.

In general we avoid these breeds, but realize that size and breed aren’t indicative of a pet’s temperament:

*Dalmation. Very protective dogs, can be aggressive towards humans, need lots of exercise.

*Boxer. “headstrong”, which makes them difficult to train

*Presa Canario. A guardian breed with man-stopping ability, incredible power and a complete lack of fear.

*Chow Chow. Aggressive if poorly bred, needs constant reinforcement

*Doberman Pinschers. Guard dogs, aggressive if provoked.

*Alaskan Malamutes. Needs to be active, destructive if bored.

*Huskies. Gentle temperament, but tied to dog bites resulting in fatalities.

*German Shepherds. Fearless & confident.

*Rottweiler. Guard dogs, keen territorial instincts.

*Pit Bulls. Fearless, reputation of mauling people.

Smaller dogs do not make better tenant pets. They are difficult to house train. 

Originally posted by @Scott Stallings :

hey guys, my name is scott from lancaster PA. I'm a new guy, my first property isn't even ready to advertise yet but I'm trying to nail down what I want my policy to be, right now pet policy. 

I'd like to allow pets, but is it best to charge a pet deposit or up the rent a few bucks? From what I understand (which is very possible I understand wrong), that in PA I'm allowed to charge up to 2 months as security deposit, but can only hold one month after the first year. Again, from what I understand that includes the pet policy. If that's true I'd assume it's better to have a monthly fee per pet. 

Thoughts?

 Hey Scott,

This is a really good inquiry. The policy is at your discretion. In my opinion, it is better to charge an additional fee for pets on the premises. This way unexpected damages are covered going forward. It will also give you provide a peace of mind.

I would also make sure you have something in your lease that says "Only the pets that are disclosed on the application and written into this lease are allowed in the apartment. Other pets are not allowed unless Landlord gives written permission."

That will help safeguard against additional animals joining the fun along the way.