Tenants who have dogs

13 Replies

I'm going to be leasing the unit of a duplex I am currently living in as I just bought a 4-plex i'll be moving into.  My Duplex has a nicely fenced in backyard and my girlfriend asked if i'd consider leasing to someone with a dog.  I was a bit hesitant being that the first floor is all hardwood but she mentioned in the past that she has had to put down a non-refundable pet deposit, an extra refundable pet deposit and paid an extra $50 a month in pet rent.  I'd be curious as to how others handle leasing a unit to a tenant who has a dog and if you make any of the before mentioned charges?  Do you find that the dog typically causes more damage than its worth?  I guess the same question would apply in regards to cats. 

There is no such thing as a non-refundable deposit in Wisconsin.  However, you can certainly charge a non-refundable fee.  Just don't include the word "deposit" in the description or title.  We call it a non-refundable Pet Accommodation Fee.  

We also require that all of our tenants (pet owners or not) have Renters Liability Insurance and that dog owners have liability coverage for dog bites.  In addition, we require that all pets be spayed/neutered and they must provide proof of rabies vaccination and local municipality pet licensing.  Having those general rules will usually ensure that you get only responsible pet owners.

We give our tenants the option of paying an annual Pet Accommodation Fee or a monthly Pet Accommodation Fee.  The annual fee is equal to 10 months and is non-prorated if they leave within the year.

In addition to Mark's solid advice, I would add an addendum that only authorizes the named and described animal in question so as to solve the problem of pet qty growth.  Talk to a local property lawyer about the issues associated with pets and in particular the emotional support animals.  https://petriepettit.com/ are pretty good.

I work in the insurance industry and tend to underwrite several properties.  We typically require a letter from a licensed professional and not one of those go online and give us $20 sites to get a certificate.  But is definetely tricky as its not just dogs but have heard of large lizards as well.  

$600 per year is kind of pricey for a dog. One positive about dog owners is they stay longer because it's hard for them to find a place that will allow the dog and moving is more expensive due to the pet fees. I charge a $350 pet fee at the start, if you can get additional rent from someone, go for it, but don't ignore the fact that you'll get consistent rent, longer from a dog owner.

We don't do pet deposits, biggest reason is because you have to be able to prove the damage was pet rather than human.  You can't use the pet deposit if the human's deposit didn't cover their damage to walls and fixtures.  If you can't prove pet damages you have to give that $ back.  We do a "pet rent" which is more than $25 per pet.

Most insurance companies will frown upon large dogs in multifamilies (40 lbs or more).  Also beware of "blacklisted" breeds.  Breeds insurance companies don't cover. (Rottweilers, pits, etc).  

You should have a pet addendum that talks about things like: pet waste, nuisances, restraining pet, AND gives you the right to require removal of the pet.  

Cats can be more destructive to the unit if not properly cared for (trimming claws, having ample places to scratch which they usually prefer furniture to wood anyway, and litter box not being cleaned) BUT hands down dogs will cause you more problems with fellow tenants. People rarely call to complain about a cat because they are unseen and unheard.  Dogs are seen and heard so they get more complaints.  (Barking, whining, unrestrained, jumping, poop, etc)


First, wanted to remind you that you may need to change the form of the 2 family policy once you move the 4 plex.  Most companies will only write the Homeowners form for owner occupied homes. 

Regarding the rental to a tenant with a dog, be sure to review with your agent the breeds of dogs that will be a problem for your policy.  For example, if your Insurance company has a restricted dog list that includes the breed of the dog your renter owns, your policy may be cancelled or not renewed.  At that point you will have to find a new company to insure your Duplex and it may be substantially higher.  You need to factor that into the costs.

Requiring a renters policy with a minimum of $500,000 as part of the lease might be a wise precaution.  If possible, have them name you on the policy so you get notification if the policy goes into cancellation.

Lastly, if you rent to a dog owner, you may want to consider an Umbrella policy.  Because you are the deeper pockets, they will find some reason to include you in a suit if the dog bites someone. 

Hi John,

I'll be switching the duplex to either a dwelling fire or BOP.  BOP's tend to be a bit more expensive but typically have better coverage mainly water backup being my biggest concern.  The company i work for has a pretty standard list that most use but will definitely need to check with whomever i end up with.  In Wisconsin it is difficult to go after the landlord for a dog bite unless you can somehow prove he was negligent like knowing of past bite history.  Definitely will be looking for $1m standard liability though on my policies as like you said deeper pockets are always a target.

I am in the pro- pet camp. I found that over all kids might be harder on properties than pets. And of course nobody is charging a kid fee to kid deposit LOL. 

We are pet friendly and charge only $25 per month, which is probably on the low side. Have to meet the pet and make sure it's friendly and behaved. No extra deposit. Pet owners tend to be long term tenants and usually very happy to pay for any damage. Over the last ten year I can't think of more than 3 incidents where we had actual damage and the tenants were very upfront with it an offered to pay, which never happens with human damage - more like: huh, what damage?? Oh we did not even see this..

Wisconsin Legal Blank has a solid pet addendum, so no need to re-invent the wheel.

Hi Marcus,  I think your onto something with that kid deposit/fee =D but I have heard that also.  That is good to know that they tend to be a little more honest/upfront about damages.  I did list dog friendly but had a weight restriction of 40lbs being that it is on the second floor.  I do like the idea of meeting the dog first to make sure that it is friendly and well behaved.

I am a huge dog lover, however:

Your house and lawn (pee and poop) will get destroyed.

The dog may bite someone on your property, and the next thing you know, you are dragged into a lawsuit. 

Don't do it...

@Kevin Janssen

So here's my thoughts on pets. I've been doing this since 2014 and have had quite a few turnovers now. First I've had tons of people renting that sneak in pets after they move in and never tell me. That's the worst. Then after they move out you find dirty pet hair all over the place and wear and tear on the floors/walls that has to be repainted. According to my PM after tenants move out then all you can do is take actual damages out of their deposit but you never get to collect a pet fee that they should have paid in the first place. 

Second tenants that rent cheaper properties aka lower deposits tend to trash properties more often when they leave...pet damage included. If someone has over 1K on the line in deposits they usually want it back & will leave a place in good shape. The ones who only have a few hundred bucks on the line will just leave garbage and dirty & trash it cause it's usually not worth their time to get $500 back or care how they take care of it. 

Another thing to think about with multi-family is the quality of life the pets creates for the other tenants. I have one tenant in a duplex that has dog poop all over the (shared) yard.  Another tenant in a duplex that I kicked out (inherited tenant) because they infested the whole place with fleas ...like serious horrible fleas that had to be sprayed 4 times to treat after they moved out.....from their dirty smelly dogs ...that smelled like dirty dog the first second you walked through the foyer and they had a horrible dangerous dog that was vicious & large and go after repairmen or anyone it saw. It was trying to break down the window to get to one guy. I had another tenant who was clean and nice and had a sweet little dog ...but it barked like crazy and drove the neighbor crazy downstairs. It barked every second the owner wasn't home. 

So just my 2 cents. I generally allow pets on houses because even if I say no pets I've found they sneak them in anyway and I might as well get the pet fee. Plus the tenants who tell me upfront they have a pet are usually better quality than people who lie and get them anyway. I would not accept pitt bulls or any vicious breeds or more than 2 pets. For multifamily I've been allowing small pets like cats or those tiny house dogs that even if they turned bad they couldn't hurt any of the other tenants cause they are too small. But in general I would prefer not to have any pets if given a choice between 2 tenants all else being equal. 

 I do recommend when doing yearly inspections to have the person doing it to make note if there are any pets there that shouldn't be there. To learn from my mistake I would have probably make a couple thousand dollars off pet fees had that been done on mine by my former PM. It could also save you from getting a pet hoarder or an untrained pet in there that could do thousands of damages. I bought and rehabbed a house from a landlord that was renting it out to an animal hoarder. She had 49 cats in there and left the house still with 22 of them in there. I'm guessing he was probably an out of state landlord & never did yearly inspections.  But after buying that house I realize how important it is to check in on the properties from time to time.

The nice thing about my duplex is my girlfriend lives 6 houses away so I literally will be driving by several times a week.  Definitely a good idea to limit the number of pets.  Hopefully with what Marcus was saying about meeting the dog before the lease is signed you can determine if its going to be a dog that will bark constantly.  I think I would put in any addendum that any pet waste needs to be picked up immediately or face a fine/fee.  I know  where my girlfriend used to live they always had to pick up right away even if its right next to there patio not in anyones way.  

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