Change Pet Policy or Wait Longer for Tenants

16 Replies

Hello BP Community,

I've a situation that I'd like to get your thoughts and wisdom on.

We have a rental townhouse that has a no pet policy. House has been on market for ~7 weeks with only 5 showings. We understood from our realtor that market in the neighborhood is generally slow and other homes have also been on the market for some time now.

We received an application from a potential tenant that has two small poodles less than 9 months old. The applicants look good - military family with good credit history. However, we're not sure about the pet aspect since we don't know anything about pets (never owned any).

Is it better to change the pet policy or just wait for the right tenants going into the holiday season? What do you think? A class community with rents in couple of thousands. We have already dropped the rent twice. Wondering whether lost rent would be worse than any potential damage from the small dogs. Any thoughts?

Many thanks in advance.

Pets, espically small dogs can be fine but if both the dogs are under 9 months I would wait. They are still in that chew everything, not quite sure where to use the bathroom at phase. Im going through that with my pit right now and she's a little over a year old but I think being in the pound for so long might have messed her up.

I have been in this situation where you have a place sitting vacant and you're starting to feel the pressure and thus start to question reducing some of the controls you have in place for good tenants. 

One suggestion I would make would be to collect a non-refundable pet deposit, something along the lines of $500 for two dogs, and then make sure your lease is clear that the tenant is responsible for any and all damages caused by the pets. I would then conduct regular inspections of the property and make sure the tenants are replacing or repairing any damages in a timely manner. Worst case, they aren't and you can have repairs done and charged to them. Best case, their dogs are well mannered and you never have an issue. 

I personally allow dogs in my properties (no cats) and have never had anything major that the $500 deposit didn't cover. 

More important to me would be a previous landlord reference that can comment on the dogs.   I usually consider pets only on a case by case basis.  If you decide to do it specify the specific pets in the lease.  I attach photos.  In the case of a good landlord reference and a property that is middle of the road this is something I would consider.    Poodles are non-shedding so that is a plus.   I can't speak to the chewing. We have interviewed dogs to see if their behavior was aggressive but if you don't know animals you may not be the best judge of this.

Hi there, 

I manage a few pet-friendly buildings in NYC with over 250 units and almost 40% of our residents have pets. I don't think having a pet should ever be a disqualifying factor. Instead of being afraid of pets, just add a pet rider to the lease agreement, charge for additional pet deposit (refundable) and create a pet rules / policy and have your tenants sign off on the policy.

After-all, pets are our furry friends!

I would agree with Matt above. Charge a pet deposit, obtain vaccination records (up-to-date) and make sure your lease is clear about damage caused by pets. 

I would also check with the insurance company to make sure you are covered if the pets do anything (bite, etc).

I would do regular inspections to make sure that the pets are OK. Good luck!

I do a $300 non-refundable pet fee per pet. I've only had one person every question the amount and why nonrefundable. I came up with something on the fly and actually use it today. Tenant was fine once I explained it.

But basically, its that the pet may not doing any damage that you can deduct from the deposit. But the pet is definitely going to add more wear and tear on the property that if they didn't have a pet.  So thats why the pet fee (non-refundable).

Couple of issues I would throw out there.

1) There are a ton of people with pets out there. Not accepting pets really cuts down your tenant pool. Never good.  That being said, we say no cats and no aggressive breeds. Surprisingly enough, that seems to get about 90% of them.

And we've found that people with pets tend to be pretty good renters and stay longer - maybe because not all landlords allow pets or because they don't want their dog to learn a new house? Not sure. But it works.

2) This is a bit different. You're renting a townhome. What if the dogs bark and it keeps the neighbors up? Thats where I would be a little worried. Not so much on the dogs doing any damage to the house  Between a security deposit and the pet fees, you should have limited your downside some right there. 

But what if the dogs constantly bark and bother the neighbors? That might be an issue. In a SFH, no. But a townhome, maybe.

So, yes, I would definitely recommend allowing small/medium dogs in a rental. We've had very good luck over the years wihen we have allowed it. And not doing so, cuts your tenant pool in half pretty much. l

But I would check with your HOA to see what they could do if you had a dog (or two) that barked excessively and make sure that those consequences - should they occur - would be borne by the tenant and not you. :-)

Take a pet fee to cover any  future damages just in case. As far as the 9 months of age the dogs should be potty trained and done with their chewing phase. Check out the dogs make sure they are playful, and if the family checks out then there is no reason to let 2 small poodles stop you from renting.

Love pets, but - - they are not good neighbors and can mess up the yard and interior.

I just love getting calls in the night about a barking dog (not).

Try hard not to be desperate taking the first deal that pencils out

Thank you for all the great responses. The potential tenants decided to go elsewhere - they wanted a response on their application within 24 hours. Begs another question - how long do you typically take to approve/reject an application?

We're going to allow pets - leaning toward a refundable security deposit maximum allowed by state. And a higher rent per month. Only concern with non-refundable fee is that the tenants would think its sunk cost and would not bother if there are mishaps.

@Mahesh P. - What we have found is that tenants with pets become very reliable tenants.  They will do most anything for their pet - it is a member of the family.  We charge a refundable pet deposit with an additional monthly pet rent.  We have had one instance where damages were caused by a pet and it was a minor very minor issue.  Most of our pet owner tenants have rented for multiple years - reducing the turnover costs.

@Dan Perrott  you my friend are 100 percent correct. Tenants with pets, will bend over backwards for their own. They are definitely more reliable, and follow all the rules in fear of not having a home for their pet. 

@Mahesh P. Seems a little rash to decline after 24 hours. A respectful response would be associated within a time frame of 2-3 days. It is their loss not yours, but consider a home with a pet more of an advantage than a disadvantage.

Tenants with pets, especially a large but friendly dog, have a difficult time finding a place to rent.  They tend to stay longer.  That means less turnover.  And more wear and tear.  So we do allow non-violent dogs.  My insurance doesn't approve of those "certain breeds" of aggressive dogs, so we don't allow them.

Cat urine is a crazy difficult substance to get out of a house, so I do not allow cats (even though I have one myself).

I agree with Jerry. I used to allow dogs because I have dogs and am sympathetic. However, not anymore! I have been hit in the wallet so many times now because of allowing dogs that it has become cheaper to wait for a Tenant without animals.  Even with a large deposit of $600 I have lost tons of money. 

I will say this...It depends on your property. If you have new or newer carpet I wouldn't recommend it. 9 times out of 10, pet damage (even the self proclaimed cleanest pet owners) will be unreversable on carpet and the pad. I am talking about smell, stains and claw snags. You can count on having to replace the pad and carpet at a cost of $1000-$2000. This damage is more prevalent in a SFH situation like yours because you probably have an outdoor area that the dogs will frequent and bring inside. Obviously if your townhome is all tile or mostly tile you are better off.

I do allow pets in my rentals only if I know that the carpet is on its last use and that it would have to be replaced after the tenant anyway.  But I still charge high deposits because if there are any fleas brought into the home you will have to do flea treatments (up to 3 depending on the severity) even if you are changing the carpet.

My rentals are town homes and this is my personal experience and perspective. Good luck!

@Peter Mason @Mahesh P. - I agree that allowing pets could cost more if you have carpet.  In my prior comments I did not mention that I do not have carpeting in any of my units.  Therefore the repairs or damages from dogs is minimal.  I do not allow cats since I am highly allergic to them.

I also should have mentioned that I do have size and breed restrictions.  We also require that the pet immunization records be presented with the application.