Pets are a pretty emotional topic. People who have them generally love them. They treat their pets like family members. They could not imagine living anywhere without them.
That’s why it’s so important to think about pets and the tenants who own them when you’re deciding whether or not you want to allow them in your rental property. We understand the arguments against pets. They’re messy and loud and potentially dangerous. They can cause damage. They can bite.
However, they are extremely popular. More and more people are showing up in the rental market with at least one pet. How can you balance your need to protect your investment with your desire to attract as many potential residents to your property as possible?
We are taking a look at the pros and cons of offering a pet-friendly rental property and what you can do to protect your investment when you do allow tenants to move in with their beloved cats and dogs.
Pet-Friendly Pros: Attracting More Tenants and More Rental Income
For some rental property owners, allowing pets is a no-brainer. Maybe you have your own pets who you cherish or maybe you believe that not allowing pets is just bad for business. When you do allow pets into your rental home, you set yourself up for a pretty successful investment experience. While there are always risks to bringing animals into a rental home, the pros of allowing them generally outweigh the risks for a lot of landlords.
Here’s why it makes sense to allow pets in your property.
- You will reach a larger pool of tenants
An overwhelming majority of people moving into rental homes have at least one pet. The numbers have actually gone up since the worst days of the pandemic. While everyone was settling into a work-from-home lifestyle, many people decided to get a pet. Being home more inspired them to adopt a new dog or cat.
When you allow pets, you attract more potential renters. You don’t have to worry about alienating those tenants who are specifically looking for pet-friendly homes.
- Tenant retention is higher
Not only do you attract more tenants when you allow pets, you also hold onto those tenants. Studies have shown that tenants who are living in a rental home with pets are more likely to renew a lease agreement than those tenants who do not have pets.
The reasoning is pretty simple. Tenants with pets don’t want to struggle to find another pet-friendly property. They also don’t want to pay another pet fee or deposit at a new home every year.
Retaining tenants is good for your bottom line. You have fewer vacancy and turnover costs to worry about. When increasing tenant retention is a priority for you, it’s a good idea to allow pets. As long as you’re providing a great rental experience, you’ll keep those residents longer.
- Pet-friendly properties earn more rent
By accepting pets, you can maximize what you’re earning in rent. Pet rent has been pretty normalized across the rental industry, and it’s not usual to see landlords charging up to $50 per month per pet when tenants move in with their dogs and cats. That’s a lot of extra rental income, and it can also cover the cost of any extra cleaning you find you have to do once your tenants do move out.
- You can charge a pet fee
Not only do you have the potential to earn more rent when you allow pets, you can also collect some extra money up front. Most property owners will charge a pet fee or a pet deposit. It’s important to understand the difference. A pet fee is non refundable, which means you can keep the entire fee even if you don’t need it to cover pet damage or cleaning after a tenant moves out. Pet deposits are refundable, which means you do have to return the money to the tenant if you don’t need it. However, that can be an incentive for tenants to keep their pets clean and well-behaved.
- You’re keeping your tenants honest
Here’s the unpleasant truth: just because you say pets are not allowed does not mean you’re going to prevent every tenant from bringing in a pet. They might agree to no pets but then fall in love with a puppy. Do you think they’ll tell you that they’re moving in that puppy? Not necessarily. When you allow pets, you hold tenants accountable to your pet policy and their lease agreement. If you don’t allow pets, you run the risk of having tenants sneak in pets that have not been screened or documented.
Pet owners love their animals, and tend to take good care of them. These responsible residents will also take good care of your property. Welcoming pets into your rental home can be a great way to increase your income and attract a wide pool of residents.
Pet-Friendly Cons: Damage and Liability
Maybe you love your own pets but you’re not crazy about allowing pets into your investment property, which you’re working hard to keep well-maintained.
It’s not always easy to throw open the doors and welcome pets. Even the most well-behaved dogs and cats can be unpredictable. Here are the reasons you might hesitate before allowing pets:
- Pets can cause damage
Maybe you’ve had a dog scratch up your wood floors and you swore you’d never rent to tenants with pets again. Perhaps you’ve seen walls scratched up by cats and backyards dug up by outdoor dogs. It’s difficult to prevent damage when you have no control over how a pet acts in your property. After tenants move out, you could find yourself repairing pet damage, which can be costly and time consuming.
- Pets can require extra cleaning
If you’ve ever had to scrub cat urine out of a carpet, you know that the smell can linger. You might also find fleas after a tenant with pets moves out. Eliminating odors and pet waste can require extra effort, and you have to ask if you’re willing to make that effort.
- Liability and dog bites
Suppose a tenant’s dog attacks a neighbor or the mail carrier. What if your tenant’s pet begins fighting with a neighbor’s pet? You could open yourself up to lawsuits, claims, and disputes over a tenant’s pet that wasn’t leashed or escaped from the property.
Yes, there is the potential to earn more money by allowing pets. But, at what cost? Now that you’ve looked at the pros and cons to allowing pets in your rental property, let’s take a look at how you can allow pets on a case-by-case basis while protecting yourself and your investment.
If you’re planning to allow pets, make sure you screen them carefully. You can ask to meet the pet. You can collect pictures of pets. You can also talk to the vet or request vet records. Making sure the pet has been vaccinated and treated for fleas might give you some extra peace of mind. It will also show you that the tenant cares about the animal and will take good care of it.
You don’t have to accept every pet. You can say in your advertising materials that you’re willing to accept pet, and then screen them to decide which pets you’ll allow and which you’d prefer not to allow.
A solid pet policy will protect your property against the potential for damage and liability. In your pet policy, you can outline how much you’ll collect in pet rent and pet fees. You can also set up requirements and expectations. Dogs should always be leashed, for example, and tenants will be required to clean up after their dogs outside and in common areas.
You can also use your pet policy to place limits and restrictions on the types of pets you’ll allow. Maybe you only want to allow adult animals and not kittens and puppies. Or, you could say that only one pet is allowed per property or one pet per tenant. You can implement weight and size restrictions, too.
Check with your insurance company because not all dog breeds will necessarily be covered, and you’ll want to mention this in your pet policy. Many companies won’t cover Dobermans, Pit Bulls, German Shepherds, and other dogs that are deemed dangerous. If your tenant wants to move in with one of these animals, you may want to require that they purchase extra insurance to cover the risk.
Here’s something important to remember: service animals and support animals are not pets. Even if you decide not to allow pets in your rental home, you still cannot say no to a tenant who needs an accommodation because of a disability. Do not make this mistake, and do not attempt to collect pet rent or a pet fee for a service animal. The law sees service and support animals as accommodations, not pets.
If you have any questions about pets and whether you should allow them into your rental property, please contact us at California Pacific Realty. We’d be happy to walk you through your options.