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