Renting to folks with pitbulls

62 Replies

@Jen W. My full time job is in underwriting on the home and auto side. I agree with checking your policy but the other concern is their underlying tenant policy. Many carriers have exclusions for certain breeds and breed mixes. The part many do not understand is that certain carriers (believe State Farm) caps bite payouts at 25k. Pit bulls are undesirable for their severity more than their frequency of bite. I would want to be an apartment owner sitting with $1-$2,000,000 in liability coverage and have a tenant with a 25k capped limit and folks looking for deeper pockets. Moving on may hurt January’s cash flow but one of these gone wrong can do far more damage. Best of luck.

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I don't allow aggressive breeds in any of my units whether it's an apartment or SFR. I only allow small dogs and I'm reluctant to allow them. When they do have pets I collect a non-refundable deposit that will cover cleaning the carpets when they move out.

Heck no to Pit Bulls and I would not renew the tenant you inherited. It's not worth the risk. 

I do allow pets but I put a weight limit of 30 lbs which eliminates the "aggressive" breeds. 

Its a difficult situation for landlords: if you have a "no pets" policy you reduce the risk of liability and damage to your property. But then you also reduce the pool of qualified tenants. Large breeds are inherently more dangerous than smaller breeds. I have owned German Shepards that were very docile and friendly with their families. But their loyalty instinct can make them suddenly aggressive toward strangers. 

I owned a GS once that was probably 4 years old, very playful, and kind of submissive around other large dogs. But one day a kid in the neighborhood was walking by and the dog bit him unexpectedly. He was "just guarding his territory" it seems. 

Bottom line is, large dogs such as Shepards, Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, etc. are still highly protective over their owners and territorial over their property, and can be unpredictable. Don't ever be surprised when one of them bites someone for "no apparent reason." 

@Jen W. I will preface what I am going to say with that I am a "noob" here. But I did own a duplex many years ago. It was nice,so when I did have a vacancy I had many people wanting to be a tenant. Meaning if you have a nice property there should be no shortage of qualified applicants. Why put yourself in a position of liability, insurance policy or not. There should be many other quality applicants minus the anxiety of "if/or when an issue will arise" regarding the dogs. If someone gets injured, you are sure to be a defendant whether you are actually liable or not. Why put yourself in that position. Just my 2 cents.

Here in Atlanta, I have no problem renting our nicer single family homes with pet restrictions. We do not allow cats period because of the odor damage they can do down to the sub-floor if they spray carpet and padding. We do not allow aggressive dog breeds period, or aggressive dogs and we limit the weight to about 40 lbs. Renters insurance is required as well as a non-refundable pet fee. We also require a photo of the pet just as we require an official photo ID (drivers license) of all tenants 18 or older. Again no problem getting high quality tenants with these pet requirements.

@Jen W. Here are some of the reasons we do not allow dogs in a multi family dwelling. These are all based on direct experiences over the years:

1. Once you open the door to dogs for one apartment, you open the door to all of the apartments getting at least one dog and most of the time multiple dogs.

2. As the dogs accumulate in the units they become harder to fill with quality tenants that are not pet owners. In a multi family where you have people living in close quarters (above, below, next to, etc) they are really turned off by dogs barking and or worrying about dogs jumping on them coming in and out of their apartment, etc...

3. Restricted breed dogs can cause your insurance to go up in some cases. Check on that with your insurance agent.

4. If you have multiple dog owners living amongst each other in a multi family setting there will be problems between the owners, the dogs, or both. Dogs being aggressive, people not picking up after their dogs, etc...

Keep in mind, as your tenant class lowers in general the worse they are as pet owners and make sure you are collecting a sizeable pet deposit and/or a premium monthly rent in order to make up for some of the issues that will come up regarding dogs.

I’ve found that a lot of it depends on the dogs owners. I’ve seen professional tenants with pit bulls who were fine. Generally I will say no aggressive type dogs in my listing but have made the exception for a good tenant.

Whatever you do, be sure to create written guidelines and apply them evenly to all applicants.  I do not like the advice of "meet the dog and then decide" or "take it on a case by case basis" - this will open you up to claims of discrimination or unfair housing.  Personally I say no dogs or cats, no exceptions, in order to keep it simple.  However if you do decide to allow them then be sure you clearly communicate your guidelines (i.e., no dogs over 30 pounds, no puppies) to all applicants, and charge the same pet deposit and additional pet surcharge to all tenants.

Originally posted by @Gary Floring :

Its a difficult situation for landlords: if you have a "no pets" policy you reduce the risk of liability and damage to your property. But then you also reduce the pool of qualified tenants. Large breeds are inherently more dangerous than smaller breeds. I have owned German Shepards that were very docile and friendly with their families. But their loyalty instinct can make them suddenly aggressive toward strangers. 

I owned a GS once that was probably 4 years old, very playful, and kind of submissive around other large dogs. But one day a kid in the neighborhood was walking by and the dog bit him unexpectedly. He was "just guarding his territory" it seems. 

Bottom line is, large dogs such as Shepards, Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, etc. are still highly protective over their owners and territorial over their property, and can be unpredictable. Don't ever be surprised when one of them bites someone for "no apparent reason." 

Every dog is a wild animal. It is not even a matter that big dogs are more aggressive always. It is that big dogs are more powerful. Chihuahua are known to be aggressive and bite, but if a Chihuahua attacks you, it is minor injury and they are easy to fight off. Animals like pit bulls or rots, if you try to fight them off, they will win. By the same token, some large dogs are way less aggressive than shepards, pits or rots.  Golden retrievers and labs are gentile animals. 

But your point is spot on that animals usually bite when they feel threatened. That can be as simple as a toddler walking up behind a dog and pulling it's tail. Innocent move on the childs part, but if the dog feels threatened, it will attack. 

The other risk of larger dogs in general is that they have more energy. If they are not properly walked / exercised, that energy can turn destructive. I have seen dogs rip up flooring or dry wall, just out of boredom. And the final issue is pee and poo. The sheer volume from larger dogs can do way more damage.

We don't allow dogs in multi-family units.  It takes us a little longer to rent but we avoid the inevitable issues of tenant/dog conflict, everything from poop to barking to biting.  We do allow dogs without exception in our fenced single-families.  We do allow cats which opens up that much of the tenant pool.

I owned an "aggressive" breed (German Shepherd) myself as a kid, best dog ever. Thinking about adopting another. Mom's close friend had a pit bull for many years, sweetest dog you'd meet. 

With that said, your rental is different. I met someone from BP in Cleveland, who was rehabbing a wholesale duplex he'd bought, I think there were pit bulls in there, and they had done some damage (so did the tenants). Lots of insurance policies also don't allow it as noted. I would pass. 95% of the population does not own pits or similar breeds, so you'll find plenty of tenants. 

You can still advertise pet friendly and not allow agressive dogs by putting a 20-pound-mature-weight limit on any single animal and a 25-pound-combined-weight limit (cat and dog, for example) for all animals.

Charge a pet rent, too, unless it's a declawed cat or a goldfish.

@Jen W. ,

Can you put up a fence defining which yard is who's?    I feel like this is a People's Court case in the making.  I hate the insurance requirements (I couldn't find anyone to insure a tenant owning a pit bull), but I hate the idea of losing everything more-- double check with your insurance because  I highly doubt they allow them.  

At a minimum, if you do not put up a fence, make sure the dogs are spayed/neutered as a requirement.   Not only for unwanted litters, but also because non-spayed/neutered animals tend to be more aggressive-- and it's annoying, because dogs are just dogs-- they're animals (ie- unpredictable), and you have to expect them to be that way. 

Also-- make sure you charge a fee and pet rent.   We do low income, so ours are like $150 nonrefundable fee, and $15/mo pet rent.    Standard is $200-$300/animal + $20-$30/pet rent-- check your market to see what a comp is charging.   We do this to offset damages, but also because as @Michael Noto pointed out.. if there's no deterrent, you'd be surprised.    Our 2nd tenant (we were naive, no pet fee or pet rent!) came in with 0 animals... they now have 4 dogs.. absolutely charge the fees, it forces people to think about the responsibility and cost over cuteness/fun.

@Joe Norman .

No

Dogs, unless they are service dogs, are not a protected class. No one has to write up a process for that. 99% of housing Discrimination is perfectly legal just not against a protected class. It’s amazing how many landlords don’t understand this

I purchased a 2/1.5 Condo Last year.  I allowed the owner to obtain a puppy.  That thing was so mischievous and destructive he has caused me to rethink my pet policy.  The unit reeks of urine.  I'm guessing there were times he just urinated on the carpet.  He's scratched away at all the door frames.  There is just too much property damage that comes from dogs that I am tempted to add a no pet policy to future tenant.  The current tenant is moving out with her dog in 2 weeks.

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