The best pet policy?

9 Replies

Wanting to brainstorm or at least get feedback on an appropriate pet policy.

My rentals are mostly in rougher neighborhoods, but far from the inner city warzones that some landlords are used to, as all my properties are in smaller towns/rural areas. 

One of my struggles this past year has been with pets. My preference is to allow them since most families do have pets, and many landlords around here do not allow them period. In some cases you see people sneak them in without the knowledge of the landlord. I would prefer to allow them from the start with a pet policy that HOPEFULLY limits my damage/risk as much as possible.

Up to this point, I've required a flat $150 for the first pet plus $75 per additional pet. It has worked out decently well, however in three instances now the pet deposit didn't make up near enough for the damage done to the properties, most of the cost came from treating for fleas brought in by dogs. 

So, one improvement I thought of (and unfortunately I haven't done this yet) has been to ask for shot/registration records on the pets. My leases ask that they have shots and register their pets, however I really haven't been enforcing it. Shame on me for not doing it, however I'm curious about the effectiveness you all see with such a policy.

I allow pets at my properties as I feel it offers me a competitive advantage in the area as there is a short supply of pet friendly rentals in my area, especially rentals with enclosed back yards as my properties have.

I protect myself through a rent premium due to the competitive advantage discussed above, $300/animal pet deposit -or- $15/animal/month non refundable pet "rent", plus utilizing pet friendly flooring materials (laminate / tile).

Hi Brandon,

I'm right in the middle of these issues myself! I use a pet application and Pet Agreement out of Lee Robinson's Landlording book, and I require that both be executed before a pet moves in. Hah. People come up with so many reasons why the dog had to move in before getting legal. So far, I've been lenient and made them do the paperwork ASAP, reminding them that I don't have to accept their pet and their lease says, blahblahblah...

Anyhow, Robinson's application asks about shots, grooming, etc, and the Agreement spells out that the tenant will get dog-bite insurance and give me a copy. He has lots of other useful terms, too.

I, too, have tended to be too relaxed about compliance, so I'm now giving dates by which I expect various items to be completed. I can't bring myself to kick a tenant out over these issues if they're otherwise good, but I did recently look one tenant in the eye and say, "You keep breaking your lease. I haven't kicked you out because you pay the rent on time, you're a good guy, and you take good care of the building. But you tell me: Why are you having problems keeping your agreements? If you don't stick to the lease, there will be consequences."

I require a $300 deposit per pet, but I've been known to allow, say, a $500 deposit for two cats. 

On another thread (http://www.biggerpockets.com/forums/52/topics/225432-how-do-you-deal-with-tenant-dog-poop?page=1#p1496020), I got a lively discussion going about issues I'm having related to dog poop. You might find that interesting, too.

Shots won't help for fleas though.

I require $300 per pet. Its a non-refundable pet fee. And I've only been questioned once on why its non-refundable. People love their pets and are just happy that we accept them.

That being said, I actually only allow dogs these days. Cats leave a smell that seems almost impossible to get out. We have yet to have a problem with a dog leaving a small that you can't get out.

Sure it'll happen. But for now, this seems to be working pretty well.

My recommendation would be to bump your pet fee up and make it $300 per pet. If they ask why, give them my answer - pets cause more wear and tear on the house. So even though they may not be damaging the property in a way that would let me use the sec deposit for, they are in fact causing a lot more wear and tear.

But how much is the flea treatment? You are entitled to keep the security deposit if they cause a flea infestation. So I'm wondering why you're losing money there......

Is it more than the pet deposit/fee AND the security deposit?

Never had it done so now I'm curious.

I quit charging a pet deposit and simply upped the rent per pet.  The advertised price was without pets....pets are NEGOTIABLE.  All vicious or exotic breeds as identified and not covered by insurance are not allowed at any time or for any reason.  The rest get an extra $20/month + $1/lb over 20lbs.  

Has it cost me otherwise great looking applicants?  Yes.   Has it stopped the issue in it's tracks when existing tenants ask me about getting pets?  Yes.

Has it ever prevented me from getting a unit rented or causing any significant delays in filling a unit?  NO

I require a $500 per pet deposit and $25 per month pet rent and have no problem charging them for new carpet or repairs if it is pet related. I NEVER allow puppies or kittens. The older I get the less tolerant I become with tenant's pets given all the challenges I encounter. I may double my pet deposit in the future just to help cover potential damage. It is amazing how many people will pay a high pet deposit and I expect they think twice before allowing their pets to create problems. I own higher end SFR rentals so I must be diligent in this area because pets issues can be devestating. Good luck!

I don't allow cats (at least so far, I'm allergic). All dogs must be fixed and reasonable for the people/situation, i.e. I'm not going to allow a 100 pound woman to move in with 2 175 pound Mastiffs, or someone with a chihauhau to move in to a joined house with another tenant. Tenant must also be able to name their vet - if they can't, it means they don't have a vet, with is not a good omen for the dog being cared for properly. 

I don't charge a separate fee or deposit. Either I let the tenant and the dog in, because they are good people/dogs, or I don't let them in at all. It works for me. Some people charge extra rent, and if that works for them OK; I believe charging extra rent gives the tenant a frame of mind that they are "paying" for their dog to have the run of the house, whereas I want all of my tenants to understand that their dogs are there only but for my good graces to allow them to be part of the lease, and they better treat my house, yard, and neighborhood right as a part of the bargain or they will be out on their ***. 

Hi Brandon --  We have breed restrictions in some counties and some not so great caselaw holding owner responsible for tenant's dogbites.  Nevertheless, I do allow pets generally and have a pet question on the application and if the applicant says they have a pet then they get a pet application.  In box me if you want a copy.   The application also requires a picture of the pet.  My general requirements are that the pet must be appropriate for the property, e.g.,   no big dogs in small condos.  

I do not charge a pet deposit or extra fee but make it clear that destruction by animals (including fleas, ticks, etc) come out of the security deposit.  

Also, when people fill out the pet application, they provide shot records and the name of their vet.  If I don't see a vet, that is going to count against them in the application process.  Before I started this process, I have had a turtle left at a property, a couple of rottweilers, and a dog's body left in a freezer.  With the process, so far, no problems.  

Best, Teresa  

Hi Brandon. Typically, we charge a minimum, refundable $250 pet deposit per pet. The pet agreement states that this is an increase to the overall security deposit and can be used to cover for any damages upon move out, whether caused by the pet or not. For the most part, we've had to deal with dogs and so we tied the deposit amount to the weight of the dog. Our standard is $10 per pound with a minimum deposit of $250.

Great idea regarding picture of the pet, I think I will start doing that as well. So far I have "met" all the prospective pets to date but that is a good idea for future reference. My experience with pets is the same as my experience with people: ask the right questions and have the right policies, and the troublemakers go rent from the next guy.