Does Allowing Pets in Your Rentals Make Sense (or Just Scents)?

by | BiggerPockets.com

To be quite honest, in my close to 30 years in property management, I’ve never had a problem with pets. My problems have always been with the pet’s owners.

For example, it’s usually not the pet who doesn’t change the litter box, and it isn’t the pet’s idea to have 8 dogs in one apartment. Yes, that has actually happened to me. I had bought a duplex once, with two one-bedroom units, where I inherited a tenant with one dog who suddenly had a record-setting eight pups. The funny thing was that my tenant decided she wanted to try and keep them all. People are crazy. Obviously, the idea of turning a one-bedroom apartment into a kennel didn’t work out very well.

No Pet Policies

I’ve heard many of the super landlords talk about how they have these “no pets” policies; they’re the type with zero tolerance. One guy I know claims he walks through his apartment building unannounced with a dog whistle trying to catch unsuspecting tenants. This may be taking it to a new level, but I do agree to a point.

Related: 4 Things to Check Before Allowing Pets in Your Rental Property

I have a no pet policy too, especially if I have a newer unit that’s in high demand or a unit that’s just been renovated with a lot of new carpet and flooring. Other than a seeing-eye dog, my first inclination is “no pets.”

When Pets Make Cents

Still, there are scenarios when pets can actually make you money. For example, when I’m looking at a rental property to purchase, one that has a strong pet odor can be bought at a good discount.

There are ways to get rid of the odor in most cases, whether that’s removing the carpet, sealing the floor, or using a product like OdorExit to mask the bad smell. It’s pretty rare that you would have to replace wood, as you can usually encapsulate it, or in other words, seal it off. Anyone who’s done a fire restoration job would know what I mean.

There are some other scenarios that make sense too. Maybe you have a property that’s tougher than normal to rent or isn’t in the safest area. Maybe you can charge a pet deposit or a monthly fee.

If you catch a tenant with a pet, this may be a good solution. If the unit had a previous tenant with a pet or the carpet is on the way out, maybe pets would work out okay in this scenario, and you could get some extra cash flow.

Paying pet fees is not a logical thing; it’s an emotional one. To many people, their pet is a family member for which expenses are considered well worth it.

Know When to Draw the Line

That being said, there are times when we all have to draw line, and for many, the line is at wild animals, reptiles, or dangerous breeds.

Related: Why I Allow Pets in My Rental Properties

Please note that many homeowner and landlord insurance policies will not cover you with these types of situations, so be sure to check with your provider. Also, this is a good reason to explain to your tenant why it may be an unacceptable situation.

And, of course, insurance policies only cover legal activity, so it’s the landlord’s responsibility to stay up-to-date on any municipality or deed restrictions in regard to pets.

For example, I have several rentals in a town that banned reptiles after a large snake ate the neighbor’s small dog.

As you can see, it’s a crazy world property managers live in.

[Editor’s Note: We are republishing this article to help out our newer readers.]

So, what’s your craziest pet story? What is your policy when it comes to pets in rentals?

Be sure to leave a comment, and let’s discuss.

About Author

Dave Van Horn

Dave Van Horn is President at PPR The Note Co. - an operating entity that manages several funds that buy/sell/hold residential mortgages, both performing and delinquent. Dave has been in the Real Estate business for over 25 years, starting out as a Realtor and contractor and moving onto everything from fix and flips to Raising Private Money.

37 Comments

  1. nicole carey

    As an animal lover and owner of two rescue dogs, I cringe every time I hear “dangerous breed”. I understand the no pet policy, but if you are going to allow some, why not a case by case basis rather than the breed? I know plenty of mellow pittie mixes and plenty of crazy little yappy dogs.

    • Susan Maneck

      The reason is that insurance companies often exclude certain breeds like pit bulls, rottweilers, chows etc. When it comes to other types of dogs I do it on a case by case basis. I always want to meet the dog in any case. And please, no puppies. I used to require a pet deposit on cats too, but no longer. The tenants with cats never complain about rodents and without a cat, getting rid of rodents can be very expensive.

  2. Roy N.

    Dave,

    Sadly, the need to remove the wood (subfloor even) is not rare enough. We use to allow pets in non-rehabbed units, but no longer.

    At the moment we are looking at two SFHs we would ultimately tear down and replace with a multi-unit building. Both of these house currently have pets and, since we do not plan on keeping them, we would rent allowing pets until it was time to demo.

  3. Andrew Weikel

    I’m currently in the process of buying an almost turnkey rental. I’ve spoken with a guy that may be interested in renting it if everything works out. I’ve been trying to figure out what to do as far as charging the himfor his two small dogs. I was thinking somewhere between $30-50/month, and also raising the deposit from the one months rent ($850), to $1000.

    Thoughts? Recommendations?

      • No one mentioned barking! I allow pets in a SFR with a $250 per pet deposit. It’s theoretically for outside dogs only, but hard to monitor. When my current tenant isn’t home, sometimes his dog barks for 15 minutes straight, bothering me and neighbors. After 20 minutes it is a misdemeanor and the police can be called, but not a great solution. Best to work with the owner, relocate the dog, muzzle, electric shock collar. Calling the owner on his cell phone when the barking happens is fairly effective.

        • Jaudat S.

          I think, shock collars should be written under the animal abuse act! How can you even think of doing such a thing? The world has enough bad stuff going on, why add? You don’t like to have a dog at your place, we don’t! Why inflict harm on anyone, may it be human or animal(I think animals are more humane than humans themselves)

    • Dave Van Horn

      I think these numbers are pretty reasonable. Every situation is a case by case basis, and if you need a tenant bad enough some times the deposit alone could be enough. Some landlords try to check out where the prospective tenant is currently residing (maybe by dropping off the lease at their residence) to see how well their place is kept with said pets.

      Best,
      Dave

  4. William Morrison

    The deposit issue can be a state by state or even a county by county limit. And you may have to be separate from the basic deposit.
    Our County limits the deposit for the renter but allows a separate pet deposit.
    We use $400 to $500. Now our County also requires we pay interest on both deposits and the deposits cannot be commingled with any other funds. So the tenants we rented to with pets have been ok with it.
    It’s big enough to provide an incentive for the tenant to take some care. We have had to repair or replace a door using that money. Some keep their dog in the garage say, and dog scratches at the door when left there.

    Just a side note, the interest rate is set by the county and has been a couple percent higher than the going rate for the last few years and we are required to make up the difference. Thanks “Bank Bailout” zero percent

  5. Matt Slakey

    According to fair housing rules in Oregon, “therapy animals” are not subject to “no pets” and “pet rent” rules.

    Quoting the Fair Housing Council of Oregon:
    “For Fair Housing purposes, the terms “assistance animal,” “therapy animal,” “service animal,” and “companion animal” are interchangeable, and none of which should ever be considered a “pet.”

    “The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines a service animal as any guide dog, signal dog, or
    other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability. If they meet
    this definition, animals are considered service animals under the ADA regardless of whether they
    have been licensed or certified by a state or local government.

    This applies animals that are:

    “…Providing emotional support.”

    Doesn’t every (loved) pet provide emotional support?

  6. Robert Steele on

    Is this conversation limited to apartments or does it include SFH’s too?

    It seems to me that is one of the reasons people rent houses over apartments – so they can have pets.

    So keep saying “no pets” to all those looking to rent a house as it means more demand for me 😉

  7. Colin Smith

    Pets are definitely a tricky subject. You know they will do damage to the property, but allowing them also opens up the possibility for more rent and more availability of tenants… Always a tough decision!

  8. Katie Rogers on

    When I was a tenant, I always appreciated landlords who allowed pets at no extra cost. I never left an apartment with any evidence there had been a dog or cat. I especially appreciated the landlord who left me raise a guide dog puppy in the apartment at no extra cost. Since so many blind people live in apartments, agencies that provide guide dogs really prefer that their puppies be raised in a similar environment to the one where they will eventually be assigned.

    On the other hand, I looked at an 8-unit building that allowed dogs, and the smell was horrific.

    • William Morrison

      Katie, If asked I might wave the monthly increase for someone raising a guide dog. I have a lab and a Golden before that. I have a friend that raises/trains guide dogs (labs) with his daughters. I was looking for a reject. They seem to fail for being less business than required but still great dogs. I found there is a long waiting list. I got a rescue instead.

      I would still set the increased deposit. Everyone sounds great when making promises but not always so good in the end. We pay a county set rate on the deposit. I think it’s 4% so not all bad.

      We have had one tenant for 4 or 5 years. The house is kept better than ours. I would probably think about it with her. But we have a track record. You just don’t have that with a new tenant.

  9. We typically recommend that our clients allow pets because it dramatically increases the pool of potential tenants. Surveys show that as many as 90 percent of renters have pets. The key is ensure you screen, screen, screen to find a responsible tenant. This may also include doing a background check on the pet by calling the vet and prior landlords. Extra deposits, where allowed by law, and pet fees provide an extra layer of protection. Be sure you also have crystal clear pet policies outlining expectations for noise, waste disposal, damage, limits on numbers of pets, and other critical issues.

  10. Dante Pirouz

    I don’t agree with this article at all. We always allow pets with a deposit and an extra rental fee per month and this tends to get us more stable and responsible tenants. Pets are like children…a tenant is more likely to pay more per month if they are really responsible and since many landlords don’t allow them you are getting a tenant who really wants to rent with you. We have mostly hardwood floors in our units but we make sure to put in a thick coat of varnish to protect the floors. If there is any damage we charge that on the move out and make the necessary repairs. All around pet lovers like families are more likely to stay long term in our town so I see it as a win-win. I think it all depends on your market and your tenants so saying that pets are all bad is not the right way to approach this issue…it all depends!

  11. Curt Smith

    Our entire business model focuses blue collar families with dogs. We put in fences if the house doesn’t have one and specifically say we love families with dogs like labradors etc.

    We charge a $400 pet fee (non refundable).

    No dogs on the bad dog list.

    Some landlords are adding $10-$20/mo per pet on top of a fee (vs deposit).

    Search in zillow: click dogs vs not. In GA / Atlanta area is 1/3 allow dogs, 2/3 do not. WOW I want to be in the `1/3 and cull for the best families.

    See my talk I give to landlords on how to target great rentals. Go to my profile down on the right a file I uploaded.

    • A $400 nonrefundable pet fee is outrageous. I have had pets, including cats, labradors and shepherds, all my life an none of them have caused even $10.00 worth of damage. It is just another way to move more money from the tenants’s wallet to the landlord’s wallet. Pay the cost or get rid of a beloved family member. Just awful. That is what the security deposit is for, damage. The source of the damage is irrelevant. Children cause more damage than pets.

  12. I love most cats and dogs, but as a long distance landlord, my Property Managers have allowed tenants to have pets 99% of the time without my permission and without deposits. The area I own houses is rife with bad tenants. I have a house where a tenant has had 3 elderly cats who (under 3 separate Property Managers) has kept the cats most of the time in the basement where the laundry is. The cats have used this area as a toilet,
    for 4 years. To top that, tenant obtained (without permission) an American Pit Bull. I have only found this out by my Contractor who tells me that the dog is not toilet trained and pees on the carpet in front of him. I asked the PM to make sure tenant has renters insurance and to scan me a copy of the certificate, as advised by my insurance broker. That has never appeared.
    Thankfully, tenant is moving. How do we get rid of the terrible cat pee smell that has penetrated the earth and cement in the basement. There is a product from Atlanta Georgia, that has been suggested, the basement is saturated with and then covered with black plastic for a few hours, and then repeated.
    This house will be unrentable/unsaleable until the cat stench is removed. Grateful for any known remedies.

  13. My daughter is allowing a roommate with a cat in her new house. She charged her a $300 non-refundable fee (what her former apartment charged) but not pet rent like her apartment that charged an extra $10/month, and “met” the cat. The tenant signed a “pet addendum” to the lease which states basically that if the pet causes any damage just like if the tenant causes any damage that they must pay and repair it immediately and not have it taken out of the general deposit or have the landlord make the repair. It also says that if the pet becomes a nuisance in any way. Like causing repeat damage to the property or furnishings or noise etc. that the owner may ask the tenant to remove the pet promptly. Hope this works as I know cats can ruin carpet, curtains, furniture, and personal belongings (knocking things off the shelves). We also said the owner must keep the litter box in her bedroom.

  14. We have rented to tenants with pets (dogs or cats only) for 16 years. We remodel all apartments as we add them to our stable. So they all have new hardwood floors, new hallway carpet, refinished woodwork, etc. We are in a fairly fancy marketplace. The worst problem we have had with dogs is a tenant who left little bags of feces right outside the main door to an apartment building “until she was walking toward the dumpster anyway.” She was gone after 6 months when the other tenants shamed her into leaving. That building has 70% dog apartments and 10% cat apartments. We ask prospects if they like pets and are willing to live with them, even if they have none. We meet ALL pets as part of tenant screening. We bring them into our office, let them wander and meet new people. I challenge dogs for dominance by standing over them and looking them in the eye. We are looking for (1) aggressive behavior; (2) eliminating inside (both cats & dogs); and (3) excessive barking when in an unfamiliar environment. Prospective tenants with pets have commented how much they appreciate our technique because they don’t want to live with a badly-behaved pet anymore than others do. We charge a $200 per pet deposit (in addition to a 1.5 month regular deposit). Taking a new tenant into your building is always a risk. We find pets are no bigger risk than people, and take as much care choosing them as people.

  15. Tessa Dramer

    I only have one rental so it is easier to keep an eye on it, but I have always posted in my ad that pets require a non-refundable deposit, references and a pet interview. I don’t really call the references or insist on an interview, but the response to this request tells me a lot about the owners of the pets. I’ve had great applicants show up with printed references and told me about all of them with their dog in tow when they haven’t even seen the property yet. These people are the pet owners I will happily rent to, they are responsible and excited to find a house they can keep all their family members in. I think that most irresponsible pet owners don’t bother to respond to such requests and I have had very little damage (mostly holes in the yard). I also find that this brings me a very good pool of renters that are desirable tenants in general that other properties aren’t getting.

  16. Joseph Moore Jr

    I have a dog myself so animals are allowed in my rentals. The area where I am there is large demand for pet friendly rentals. Will discuss what the appropriate up front fee is to charge with the new property manager. Would manage myself but I travel extensively so easier to have a pm.

  17. Ryan Marquette

    The latest trend in Fargo with this mega quasi-luxury apartment complexes popping up all over is to not only allow pets, but to actually attract pet owners! Dog run on the roof, indoor fake turf for playing, grooming stations, etc. People love their pets and would gladly spend tons of extra money on a nice place that actually encourages pets! Theres a place called 300Lime in Fargo, ND that’s killing it by catering to this niche!

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