Posted over 6 years ago

How to Avoid A "Ruff Ride" When Renting to People with Pets

Normal 1462944289 Pexels Photo 92378 Renter And Pet With Landlord

Sooner or later all landlords must decide if they are going to rent to people with pets. After all, pets cause damage. Pets increase insurance rates. More importantly, pets will mysteriously multiply in your rental if left unchecked. 

Yet if you exclude applicants with pets, you could limit your number of potential tenants by as much as 40 percent, according to a recent American Humane Society study. If you decide to allow pets in your rental, here are a few ways to reduce your risk.

 Charge a Pet Deposit or Pet Rent

Don't be a nice guy landlord and neglect to charge additional rent or pet deposit for applicants with furry friends. Most reasonable tenants expect to pay a fee. You have to decide what that is. Traditionally landlords have charged pet deposits. This figure can range from $500-$1,500 or more. Any damage done by the tenant's pet can be deducted from this amount when the tenant leaves. However, in order to deduct this amount, you may have to prove the damage was caused specifically by the pet. The other issue is that this number is finite. If the tenant stays a number of years, cost of damage done by the animal may exceed the deposit. Many landlords are now charging "pet rent" - an extra rental fee paid by the tenant of $35-$75 per month. This amount can be put into a savings account to pay for any damage caused by the pet. Whatever pet policy you choose, put it in writing and have the tenant sign it.

Include Pet Acceptance Criteria In Your Ad

Even if you are willing to accept any breed of dog your tenant owns, your homeowner's insurance policy won't. This is one reason why you should first interview pets prior to move-in.  Nothing is worse than asking your tenant to get rid of an animal you approved after they move in.  Filter out tenants and their animals who don't qualify by listing any breed, weight (for example, no adult dog more than 25 pounds) and pet number restrictions in your ad. Ask tenants to provide proof of current vaccinations, registration, and alteration certificates. Insist any applicant you rent to also carry rental insurance with a minimum of $100,000 liability that includes coverage for dog bites.

Pet Proof Your Rental

If you decide to rent to people with pets, consider choice of flooring, window dressings, etc. before you remodel and do improvements. Laminate and tile floors are much more pet friendly than wall to wall carpeting. Trade in curtains for cordless vertical blinds. Install fencing in the back yard and keep it in good repair. For pets that like to chew through or dig below fence boards, install chicken wire across or underneath the boards. Encourage tenants to store pet food in sealed containers and not leave filled pet dishes outdoors. Doing so will help prevent vermin and other pests from entering the home. 

By following these guidelines you can make renting to pets a less risky business for both you and your tenants.

What tips can you offer when renting to people with pets?

New Note: This article pertains only to animals deemed as "pets". Certain items discussed in this article do not apply to animals that fall under the description of "service animal", "therapy animal" "comfort companion animal." For example, it is a violation of the American Disabilities Act and Fair Housing laws to charge a separate pet deposit or pet rent for these types of animals. I will be writing a blog post soon regarding this topic.

Comments (4)

  1. Thanks for your comment, Jon! Unfortunately, you can't predict how an animal will behave until after it's moved into your property. It looks like you have already been proactive in "pet proofing" your rental which is great. If you are considering allowing pets for this unit, I would interview the animal first (see my other blog post) and determine if it would make a good fit for you and the neighboring tenants. You may want to query the owner if dog is a digger. Also, make sure plants you put in are not poisonous or high maintenance (most tenants are slipshod about watering or plant upkeep). I would also charge a higher security deposit to cover any future damage caused by the animal.

  2. Interesting article, thank you for the info. I am currently deciding whether to allow pets. Quite a few applicants have pets. This is a brand new property, with high end renovation, so I don't want it to get destroyed by animals. However, I did install porcelain tile floors and cordless blinds throughout, which may turn out to be good decisions if I choose to allow pets. I also have professional landscaping done in the back yards of these units, and I am concerned that dogs might find it amusing to dig up the new plants or dig under the new privacy fence, etc.  Still, I hate saying no to renters with dogs, especially when it is obvious that they are good pet owners. Two units of the triplex have rented without pets. The final unit seems to be getting a lot of attention from people with pets. Still uncertain.  

  3. Thank You Kenneth for your comment! The key to allowing pets is setting limits and being willing to enforce them. Feel free to PM me if you have any more questions about Sacramento in general.

  4. Penny,

    Your posts are very interesting ! Well done. My partner and I are actively seeking out a property in Sacramento, and deciding to allow pets has been a big talking point for us. I can't believe that almost 40% of people have a pet ! That definitely throws a wrench into my plan of just saying no to being pet-friendly. Thanks for the information!

    Kenny Reimer