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Sit. Stay! Renting to Pet Owners – What You Should Know

April 13, 2015

It’s official –Americans have gone paw-sitively pet crazy!

These days, it’s quite common for pets to be treated like part of the family. In light of their new honorary status, it shouldn’t be surprising that 40 percent of those who keep family photos in their wallet also keep pictures of their pet. From luxury pet beds to bottled water for dogs –there’s no shortage of ways that we’re spoiling our furry friends.

Given our devotion to pets, it’s understandable that the majority of renters who have animals, are unwilling to part with them due to non-pet-friendly accommodation. Would-be tenants who have pets will often opt for a number of alternatives, like paying more in rent, or even opting to stay in a rental that may not have been their first choice –to avoid giving up their pet.

According to the American Veterinary Association, nearly one out of every two renters in the U.S. has pets. That’s a huge percentage of potential tenants that non-pet-friendly landlords are missing out on!

Opening up your rental to pet owners can help you to draw from a larger pool of potential tenants, meaning that you’ll be able to rent your property faster. But what about the drawbacks to welcoming Fido and his people into your rental? The risk of property damage –and the idea of numerous complaints from the neighbors about barking dogs is often enough to put landlords off the idea.

Still, there are plenty of landlords who rent their units as pet-friendly – with remarkable success. Should you make your rentals pet-friendly too? Before you make the decision, let’s run through some of the pros and cons associated with renting to pet owners.

Benefits of Allowing Pets

  • The Potential for Higher Rental Income: According to a 2011 study of the condominium market in the Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics, landlords who placed no restrictions on pet ownership were able to enjoy an 11.6 percent rental premium over landlords who do not allow pets. Consider checking into other available rentals in your area, to see if pet-friendly accommodation is going for more.
  • Longer Tenancies: Landlords who allow pets often enjoy longer tenancies from their renters. Tenants with pets were found to stay longer than tenants without pets by an average of 46 months, according to a 2005 Firepaw study, despite the higher rent.
  • Lower Vacancy Rates: The same study also found that the vacancy rate for pet-friendly housing was significantly lower than “no pets allowed” rentals. Landlords also rented their properties faster, spending less than half the usual amount of time marketing pet-friendly accommodations.
  • Larger Tenant Pool to Draw From: Only a small minority of rentals have no pet restrictions, less than 10 percent according to Firepaw. The study also found that landlords with pet-friendly accommodation received twice as many applications for a vacant unit, giving them a wider tenant pool to choose from, and allowing them to select the very best applicants.

Risks of Renting to Tenants With Pets

  • Property Damage: Dogs and cats can cause damage –scratching the doors, chewing the floors, and having accidents on the carpet are just a few of the exploits that unattended, and improperly trained pets can have.
  • Increased Liability: Increased liability is another concern that many landlords have. Although it’s worth noting that most states have strict liability statutes which hold dog owners, not landlords, responsible for the behavior of their dogs.
  • Increased Insurance Costs: Pet-friendly landlords can face higher costs. For example, during the Firepaw study, pet-friendly landlords reported an average annual insurance premium of $150 more. Consider checking with your insurance provider to see if becoming pet-friendly will affect your rates, but keep in mind that these expenses can easily be recovered in rent premiums.
  • Risk of Physical Injury: With dogs, especially large breeds, there’s always an increased risk of physical injury –to other residents, visitors, and even the landlord. This is one reason that some landlords impose size restrictions on animals. Smaller breeds can, and do bite, but the risk of serious injury is much lower when the dog is small.
  • Potential Complaints From Neighbors: Complaints about noise is another concern that landlords have. Although noise complaints may be less common than you think. According to Firepaw, only about one-third of landlords have ever had noise problems.
  • Allergies: Future tenants can be allergic to animals, and a rental that’s had pets may require significant cleaning or even renovations to make it suitable for tenants who have allergies.

Mitigate Risks

Consider raising the security deposit to cover any potential damages caused. Just be sure to check your state’s legislation first, to make sure you’re within your rights to implement pet-related fees. There may be limits on how much you can charge for a security deposit.

Consider charging a monthly pet fee, or outlining what pets are allowed in your rental –such as size restrictions, limits on the number of pets, or stipulations that pets much be spayed or neutered.

If you own a multi-unit complex, consider taking extra precautions and requiring that all pets be up-to-date on vaccinations. You may also want to require a health certificate and obedience-training certificate. These measures can drastically reduce your chances of ending up with a dangerous or improperly trained dog.

What About Service Dogs?

While the decision to allow pets, or not to allow them, is at the discretion of the property owner, there’s one situation where the landlord cannot refuse to rent to someone with an animal. That is, in the case of an applicant who has a disability and requires a service animal.

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, service animals including guide and signal animals are not considered “pets.” So landlords who have a no pets policy cannot refuse to allow a disabled person to have a service dog. Make sure you aren’t discriminating against anyone with disabilities by barring service animals from your property.

When it comes down to it, there are plenty of benefits to opening up your rentals to pets, but there are just as many arguments against allowing them. The important thing is to do your research ahead of time and to make an informed decision, one that’s best for you and you property.

While a “no pets” clause in the rental agreement may seem like a simple solution, keep in mind that there’s really no such thing as a risk-free tenant. While pets can inflict a tremendous amount of damage to a property –tenants can easily cause just as much damage, or more, on their own. Make sure you have an airtight tenant placement process to screen applicants, or hire a reputable property management company to do this for you. Careful assessment is the key to reducing the chance of damage, from both humans, and their four-legged friends!

Which side of the fence are you on? Pets or no pets? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!

Photo Credit:Kaboom Pics