Pit bulls, Pythons and Property Managers

oh my…..

As a Property Manager there is always the question on allowing renters to have pets. If you have been in the business long enough, you will inevitably have an issue with either pet damage to the property or neighbor complaints due to pet behavior. You can enforce a NO Pet Policy but the reality of the situation with rental homes and pets is this: Over 70% of renters have or own a pet. According to the American Pet Products Association (APPA) National Pet Owners Survey, Americans now own approximately 83.3 million dogs and 95.6 million cats.

Even if you don’t allow pets, understand that a good majority of renters will either acquire one or not let you know they have one in the first place. As a property manager it is your choice in renting to a pet owner (except in the case of service or therapy animals, which is mandated that you allow) Having a good pet policy in place and communicating with your tenants about their pets is best practice.

You can have a pet policy that restricts certain types of pets, breeds or dictates a weight limit or number of pets. The most popular pets in order are Cats, small dogs, medium or large dogs and fish/birds/small mammals. If you are restricting cats you are eliminating about 37% of your renters pool and the same goes for dogs.

When considering some of the most “dangerous” breeds, really give some thought to what the neighbors think and the general safety for those living around the rental property. It is really a nature vs/ nurture argument. You can exclude the “bully breeds” but keep in mind that some of the smaller dogs with a “Napoleon complex” are more vicious and more likely to bite a neighbor kid. Evaluate the temperament, owner and the breed before making your decision.

“Dear Landlord,

I am so excited to move into your property and can’t wait for my baby crocodile, Killer, to move in and meet the neighbors. Do my neighbors have any small animals, do you know? Thanks for renting to us, Caden says hello!


Your New Tenant and Caden the Croc”

Check your state laws on whether you can charge a pet fee or a pet deposit. There are some landlords that also charge an additional monthly rent if you have a pet in addition to a pet deposit. A pet fee is non-refundable. A pet deposit is refundable in the event that the pet does not cause any damage to the property, inside or outside. Some landlords choose to lump the “pet deposit” into the security deposit altogether.

There are some ways to mitigate issues with pets in your rental property:

Take the luxury hotel approach and embrace the pet loving populace. They charge an extra fee for each night and require a refundable pet deposit. There can be an additional income as well as a happier tenant that tends to sign a longer lease.

Getting references from previous landlords as well as properly screening the tenant to make sure that “Fluffy” hasn’t had any previous judgments or issues in the past is good practice.

Factor in a higher rent for those with animals. Knowing that even the best behaved or trained animal can be messy or be harder on the interior finishes of a house should be enough to command a higher amount of rent. (Thankfully animals don’t usually color with Sharpies on the walls, can you charge a higher rent for toddlers, too?)

Require Renters Insurance from your tenant that covers animal bite issues. This will protect you, as a landlord in the event that Taco the Chihuahua with an attitude bites the mailman. In most situations the landlord is not responsible. IF you knew the dog was dangerous, you were out of compliance with the lease, or you failed to fix the gate which you knew was broken you might however, be liable.

Writing into the rental agreement and move-out documents that as a pet owner there are other responsibilities that will be expected. Professional carpet cleaning as well as air duct cleaning to remove pet dander and hair that might exclude other tenants with allergies in the future is part of this addendum.

Also keeping in mind that vaccinations as well as mandatory Spay/Neuter programs are in place in many communities. Requiring proof of pet health care is a good idea if your town or city dictates it.

Following protocol and embracing the pet loving renter can be a win-win for you both. Protecting yourself from liability as a Property Manager and putting in place the proper safeguards for renting to pet owners can be easy and can make you and your Tenant AND Fluffy stay comfortable and sleep well at night!

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