Minimum age for dogs or cats

19 Replies

I am just starting to accept applications from people with pets in my two 4-plexes. I am changing from my no-pet policy because of long vacancies, and I get many requests from would-be tenants with pets. I see lots of people saying in the forums that they will not allow puppies. I have Leigh Robinson's Landlording book which has a sample pet policy. The sample policy has minimum ages of 3 months for a cat, and 9 months for a dog. I assume the principle issues are potty-training and chewing for puppies, and potty-training for kittens.

My question: For a cat or dog, what minimum ages will you accept?

I know several apartments in my area won't allow dogs under 1 year. Seems to be a reasonable rule considering the destruction puppies can do and usually the dog owner can only prevent so much when they are that young and wild.

One year and it has to be verifiable. I'm sure there's a more accurate number but I don't care to put that much thought into it.

The solid "1 year" criteria is helpful.

This tenant let me know a few days ago that he was thinking of getting a puppy. I committed to finalize my rules and send them, and that there would be a minimum age for dogs. After I sent him the rules (2 days after his original inquiry), he informed me that he hadn't been honest about his plans. He already paid $1000 for a 4-month old Dalmation on the basis that I had told him a few months back that I was planning to begin accepting pets.

Anyway, this tenant has been VERY URGENTLY pressing me to let him have it in the apartment, promising to get rid of it if there is any problem. They plan to move out in 3 months to buy a house. I thought about letting them have it at first and just put down a big deposit (North Dakota allows up to $2500 deposit), because they're good tenants, but then decided that there was no way I should bend on it, so I told him "no". However, my main point of weakness has been not knowing a good minimum age for the chewing and potty training issues, since I have no prior experience with dogs. Obviously, 4 months is far short of 1 year, so I can now be more confident in my position.  

I have told him definitely no about 3 times now.

@Tim Bartel

From my experience with pets, it seems that dogs mature at different rates depending on breeds. The bigger breeds stay in their "puppy" stages much longer than a smaller breed dog. 

There are a lot of good training certifications for dogs out there now that could potentially help in easing concerns about a dog's destruction level. An option could be to require that the dog be certified by a reputable program if below your threshold age (if you were wanting to expand leniency in any way on the policy).

Interesting point about large dogs maturing more slowly. I'll look into the certification idea, but I'm thinking certifications won't be common in smaller towns. This is a town of 4,000 people in North Dakota.

Hi Tim, 

Another thought is just to consider pet interviews. Different breeds of dogs really do have completely different personalities and energy levels. If you're concerned about have an age policy, this could be an alternative. The apartment complex I lived at and used to work for would potentially allow any breed and any age dependent on its pet interview and how it got along with other dogs that were in the office. 

Always something to keep in mind! 

Originally posted by @Ashley Cote :

@Tim Bartel

From my experience with pets, it seems that dogs mature at different rates depending on breeds. The bigger breeds stay in their "puppy" stages much longer than a smaller breed dog. 

There are a lot of good training certifications for dogs out there now that could potentially help in easing concerns about a dog's destruction level. An option could be to require that the dog be certified by a reputable program if below your threshold age (if you were wanting to expand leniency in any way on the policy).

 So True!  I had a lab puppy who loved to dig in the backyard, and chew up my hoses.  I can't tell you HOW MANY HOSES I went through before she finally tapped out and went on to other things.  Unfortunately for me, it was my couch(es).  She was probably 3 years old before the chewing and digging stopped, and probably 6 years old before she could calmly move around the house, and that was with MUCH training.  She was a very high spirited dog.

Anecdotal, but I was the impatient tenant many years ago. I was already in contract to buy a house and foolishly started “browsing” petfinder for dogs. Found two basset hounds begged my landlord to temporarily wave the “no pets” rule.

She agreed but also assured me any damage would come from the security deposit. It ended up costing us the carpet cleaning fee for the only carpet in the unit.

Possible option would be add a clause to the lease requiring pet rent, pet deposit and they pay for carpet cleaning / house cleaning fee upon move out?

Probably the biggest concern for me is chewing or significant urine damage requiring changing out the entire carpet. In a few months, a dog could destroy cupboard corners or doors that require LOTS of repair $$, and a long vacancy, and the tenant will not understand what it will cost me, so there could be a big disagreement over the withheld deposit. In this case, the tenant thought paying "a little extra rent" would cover the costs.

Originally posted by @Tim Bartel :

The solid "1 year" criteria is helpful.

This tenant let me know a few days ago that he was thinking of getting a puppy. I committed to finalize my rules and send them, and that there would be a minimum age for dogs. After I sent him the rules (2 days after his original inquiry), he informed me that he hadn't been honest about his plans. He already paid $1000 for a 4-month old Dalmation on the basis that I had told him a few months back that I was planning to begin accepting pets.

Anyway, this tenant has been VERY URGENTLY pressing me to let him have it in the apartment, promising to get rid of it if there is any problem. They plan to move out in 3 months to buy a house. I thought about letting them have it at first and just put down a big deposit (North Dakota allows up to $2500 deposit), because they're good tenants, but then decided that there was no way I should bend on it, so I told him "no". However, my main point of weakness has been not knowing a good minimum age for the chewing and potty training issues, since I have no prior experience with dogs. Obviously, 4 months is far short of 1 year, so I can now be more confident in my position.  

I have told him definitely no about 3 times now.

I had a tenant sort of like this once. No pets policy in place. Tenant was buying a house so they got a puppy dog and decided it was better for them to housebreak it before moving. They gave notice shortly after i was informed of the puppy by neighbors.  Rather than starting eviction, they were moving anyway, so I did not bother to try to evict. Then their house purchase fell through, and they wanted to stay - I said NO! and that they had a dog in violation of no pets policy, and had they not given notice I would have started eviction, and if they do not leave when they said I will be starting eviction. I don't know where they moved to, but they were out of my place on their move out date that was in their notice.

When I allow pets, I just use twelve months of age minimum for the pet.

I've always said "no puppies", but never thought about at what "month" a dog is no longer a puppy.  Now this post has me thinking about it!  I'd probably determine that on a case by case basis.

For cats, as long as they are litter boxed trained, I don't really care about their age.  Interesting pet factoid.  Using a litter box actually goes hand in hand with a cat's natural tendencies.  Even kittens will usually quickly learn to use one.  Alas, puppies are not nearly so cooperative, lol.

@Tim Bartel any cat or dog over the age of 1 year is considered an adult and at that point several behavioral problems have been corrected and they should largely be up to date with pet vaccinations. I would use 1 year as a guide but know that like everything else, this can vary greatly from case to case. Have you considered a contingency that you need to meet the pets? I've advised landlords that I work with in my area to do so and it seems to work well.

Originally posted by @Jennifer T. :

For cats, as long as they are litter boxed trained, I don't really care about their age.  Interesting pet factoid.  Using a litter box actually goes hand in hand with a cat's natural tendencies.  Even kittens will usually quickly learn to use one.  Alas, puppies are not nearly so cooperative, lol.

 We've fostered over 30 kittens, some very young, and it's rare that they have litter box issues at all, and if they do it's short lived.  The kittens are harder on your legs, mistaking them for trees to climb, than on anything else!

As far as meeting the pet, I have a "Lease Addendum for Pets" which has a statement:  "Tenant agrees to allow Landlord to meet the pet prior to approval." 

@Tim Bartel ,

With a 4-plex, you need to think about quality of life, for the tenants, and also for the animals.     I'd definitely  accept cats (spayed/neutered only!)-- cats don't make noise, go to the bathroom in the litter box,  and other than destroying the tenants furniture, not much else, as long as the tenant keeps the box cleaned. 

With dogs, if they  have a tiny dog, tiny dogs BARK, and BARK.. and BARK... ( my irresponsible sister has 2 chiwawas (sp), I think to date she's been kicked out from 3-4 apartments because of their barking)... also, because they are tiny dogs, people often leave them out and do pee-pads... which is great, if they are perfectly trained.. most aren't, so if you have carpet... expect to replace it.  Depending on the flooring, this may or may not be an issue.    If they are young, or not well trained, they will destroy blinds, they will chew on edges of cabinets, window trim, whatever they can find... you just need to make sure your security deposit covers this in advance.      We only do ceramic tile floors for this very reason, and also only allow dogs if there is a fenced in back yard. 

If I were in your shoes, I'd accept cats with a set security deposit, and only 1 dog (over 1 yr) -- breed restrictions and a much higher security deposit, and of course monthly pet rent.    I'd also have monthly inspections for the first few months.     Just be ready if there are multiple especially little dogs, there will be complaints from other tenants about the noise.  If there isn't a set space for each tenant's dog, make sure you require renters to have insurance-- dogs fight, and vet bills are very expensive, and they will be quick to involve the rich landlord and somehow try and make it your fault.

Lastly.... how the dog acts is  99% reflective of  the owner, we have one duplex unit, she has 4 dogs, takes A+ care of them, walks them, lets them out.. 0 damage to the unit.. so it's really all about the owner!  

Originally posted by @Linda D.:

@Tim Bartel ,

With dogs, if they  have a tiny dog, tiny dogs BARK, and BARK.. and BARK... 

 Exactly why we allow cats but not dogs. Some dog owners don't even realize their dogs bark all day long.  And our neighbors who are crappy dog owners, unlike your tenant with 4, have had big dogs they leave in the yard all day barking.

My lease addendum for pets says that I won’t except pugnacious breeds, with a list of the typical ones. I wonder if I should also have a list of small barky breeds that I also won’t accept, e.g. Chihuahuas.

If you’re takin pets, add a pet fee, put “PET FRIENDLY” as your first headline words, inspect monthly for the first 4 months, expect a surprising number of “im a dog trainer so my animal is exceptional” responses since calling yourself a dog trainer is as easy as grabbing a saw and calling yourself a carpenter, and ALWAYS meet the animal - preferably at the showing so you see how it reacts in a higher stress situation of new people and new noises etc.

Nearly 10% of my income comes from additional charges for adding animals. I target pet owners almost exclusively. Glad to help if you need anything.

@Tim Bartel - cats - won’t matter people will have a cat and most times you won’t even know it. For dogs once they hit about 6 months it is very difficult to tell there age. Putting an age limits on pets sounds like a good idea but impossible to enforce

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