Should You Allow Pets in Your Rental Property?
Deciding if you should allow pets in your rental impacts how much profit you make, whether your property gets damaged, and how many tenants will be interested in your property.
Did you know that 68% of U.S. households have a pet?
However, according to a survey of our landlords, only 55% of landlords allow pets. This has an impact on several tenants’ rental experiences. One tenant described:
“It’s a challenge to watch the search results get cut by half or more once you check the box for pets.”
-Jill, Rentalutions Tenant
As a landlord, this is your opportunity to have more tenants interested in your property. More than that, tenants with pets tend to be responsible renters who pay rent on time and take care of the space.
In this article, we’ll walk through the benefits and risks of allowing pets in your rental. If you decide you’ll allow pets, you’ll find detailed information on how to screen tenants with pets, and how to address pets in your rental lease.
Benefits of Allowing Pets in Your Rental Property
There are several benefits of allowing pets:
More Tenants Interested in Your Property
If you allow pets in your rental property, you can access an extra 70% of tenants who own pets. Conversely, if you say “no pets,” in your rental listing, then you’ll only be able to rent to the 30% of tenants who do not own pets.
Charge a Higher Rent Price, a Pet Deposit, or Pet Rent
Landlords who allow pets tend to make more money by charging pet deposits, non-refundable pet fees, or pet rent.
One landlord reported that she always tries to rent to tenants with pets because it is such a fantastic opportunity to make more money. She wrote:
“I have 15 rentals, and am trying to have pets in every one. I currently have 8 units with tenants paying pet rent. By having pets, I have increased my gross rental income by 5%, which equates to an extra $325 per month, or $3900 per year.
If I had two pets in each rental, I would make $9,000 extra a year. My tenants with pets are generally more responsible, more qualified for the rental and stay longer than people without pets.
With proper screening of pet parents and their fur babies, it is a win-win for all parties involved.”
-Dorothy, Rentalutions Landlord
Pet Owners are Responsible Tenants
Tenants with pets are typically responsible. One landlord responded to our survey writing:
“By allowing pets, I attract more loyal, conscientious, and thankful tenants.”
-Eric, Rentalutions Landlord
To take care of a pet, especially a dog, requires a lot of time and attention. Pet owners will likely put the same energy toward taking care of your property. They’re also more likely to view it as a home.
Pet Owners are More Likely to Renew the Lease
Pet owners tend to stick around longer. Moving with a pet is hard for a few reasons. One, there aren’t as many properties available to pet parents. Second, pet parents, especially dog owners, typically do not want to stress out their pets by moving often.
Risks of Allowing Pets in Your Rental Property
On the flip side, there are some risks associated with renting to tenants with pets:
Your Condo Association Does Not Allow Pets
We recommend checking with your condo association to see if pets are allowed. Unfortunately, if they’re not allowed, then you can’t allow pets.
Pets Might Damage the Property
Property damage from pets is possible, especially with dog breeds that tend to chew, especially if it’s a puppy. We surveyed our 40,000 landlords, and 64% of them stated a dog had damaged their property.
Property damage can include:
- Scratch marks
- Chewed wood
- Bad odors
- Chewed cables or wires
- Destroyed landscaping
Noise can disrupt other tenants or neighbors. If you allow dogs in your rental property, it’s very possible the dog will bark. It’s best to ask the owner whether the dog barks and how much. You should also follow up with prior landlords. You can ask if neighbors ever complained about noise.
With pets, there often comes allergens. This is especially true with long-haired dogs and cats that shed. While the owner is probably okay with these allergens, you don’t want to bother other people in the building. Allergens tend to spread through air conditioning ducts and also affect common areas. It’s best to notify tenants that it’s a pet-friendly building. That way, they’ll understand there’s a possibility of noise and allergens.
As the owner of the property, you don’t want to be liable for anything. According to our survey, only 7% of landlords had a dog bite occur on their property.
If you allow pets, we recommend requiring renters insurance. Renters insurance typically covers liability for dog bites on the property.
How to Screen Tenants With Pets
As we listed above, there are several benefits and risks associated with allowing pets. Let’s assume you are interested in making more money, finding more interested tenants, and providing a home for furry friends. The rest of this article will help you screen tenants with pets and sign a lease that addresses pets.
Should you place a size restriction on dogs?
Some landlords have a size limit for dogs. According to our survey, 43% of landlords do not have a size restriction. You can see the breakdown below:
Should you limit the number of pets?
We recommend having a limit that makes sense for the property size. It’s not common for tenants to have more than two pets, so this won’t be an issue in most situations. You also need to follow city laws for how many animals you can have in residences.
Should you place a restriction based on dog breed?
This is up to you and what you’re comfortable with. We recommend asking questions and meeting the dog to determine if the pet’s temperament is a good fit. Going solely based on breed is often not accurate for every dog. There are many friendly dogs that are often discriminated against based on breed.
According to our survey, the most common breeds that are discriminated against are pit bulls, followed by rottweilers, dobermans, and german shepherds.
Most tenants with these breeds feel discriminated against, especially if their dog is well-trained. A tenant at Rentalutions responded to our survey saying:
“The biggest problem that I’m finding is that with a large dog, that is a mixed breed that is supposedly an “aggressive” breed, landlords won’t even consider meeting the dog to see what their temperament really is. They also won’t see the dog to see how well trained it is either. It’s assumed, ‘You have a large dog mixed with an aggressive breed, then the dog is bad,’ and that’s just not true.”
-Henry, Rentalutions Tenant
One tenant found a landlord who was open to her dog’s breed, and it made her rental experience extremely positive:
“Our rental search consisted of many months of being approved for a rental just to later be denied for the type of dog we own. After months of searching we found a kind hearted, gracious landlord who did not discriminate against our little one. Our landlord took the time to meet our dog and decided right away that there would be no problem having her live with us at the property. We are forever grateful for property owners like our landlord.”
-Janessa, Rentalutions Tenant
What screening questions should you ask tenants with pets?
- How many pets do you own?
- What is the pet’s breed and size?
- How old is the pet?
- How long have you owned the pet?
- Have you ever been in a situation where your animal has acted out of aggression towards anyone or any other animal?
- Are you solely responsible for the pet?
- Is the pet trained?
- Is the pet updated on his or her vaccines?
- Does the pet get along with other people, other animals, and children?
Gathering information about a pet’s size, breed, and temperament will help you make an educated decision.
What does a responsible pet owner look like?
As you’re screening tenants and their pets, look out for these signs of good pet parents:
- Their pet is trained.
- They care for the pet and are very responsible.
- They have the right equipment.
- For example, a dog will need a collar, harness, leash, toys, and treats.
- They enforce rules for the pet.
If you find tenants who are responsible pet parents and their pet is friendly, then you should definitely consider renting to them. Be sure to also screen your tenants by:
- Reviewing the tenant’s rental application
- Verifying income
- Contacting prior landlords
- Completing a credit and background check
What about service, emotional support, or therapy animals?
If a tenant has a service animal or emotional support animal, then typically landlords have to allow that animal in the property, as long as it’s a reasonable accommodation. You’re allowed to deny therapy dogs since they are not protected by the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Fair Housing Act (FHA). Read more about the difference between service animals in rental properties.
How to Address Pets in Your Rental Lease
If you don’t allow pets, we recommend having a clause in your lease that states you do not allow pets.
If you are allowing pets, you’ll need to address these important items:
- Pet rent amount
- Pet deposit amount
- Nonrefundable pet fee
- Require renters insurance in your lease
- This will provide your tenants coverage in case of theft, a fire, or even a dog bite on the property.
- Customize your rental lease rules so you mention:
- Picking up after your pet
- Disposing of waste in outdoor garbage bins only
Should you charge pet rent, a pet deposit, or a pet fee?
First, let’s differentiate between these different payments.
Pet rent is charged monthly and is usually $20-100. It’s a rent payment added onto the baseline rent price. According to our survey, 34% of landlords collect pet rent. Learn more about pet rent here.
A pet deposit is a refundable fee paid by the tenants when they move in. The purpose of a pet deposit is to cover any damage done by the pet. If there’s no damage at the end of the lease, then you will return the deposit just like a normal security deposit. Be sure to keep it the pet deposit in a separate account, if your state law requires it.
Pet deposits are more common than pet rent; 77% of landlords collect a pet deposit.
And last, a nonrefundable pet fee is an up-front cost for the tenant. It’s essentially your fee for allowing the pet into the property.
Any of these fees will work well. It makes the most sense to pick one of these options. However, some landlords charge a fee and rent, or a deposit and rent.
What should you do if you don’t allow pets and then a tenant gets a pet?
One landlord responded to our survey saying: “We don’t allow pets, but tenants tend to ‘sneak’ them in anyway.”
So, what do you do if a tenant sneaks in a pet?
If your lease states that you do not allow pets, then technically the tenant has violated the lease. In that case, you have grounds for eviction.
We recommend speaking to your tenant about the situation. If there is another home for the pet to stay at, or if the pet is only staying temporarily, you might be able to work around the situation.
Now that you understand the benefits and risks, how to screen tenants with pets, and how to handle pets in your lease, you’re on your way to handling pets in your rental like a pro. Need more advice? Search our education page for any landlord topic that you need. And if you don’t find an article that answers your question, feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At Rentalutions, our mission is to make renting easy for DIY landlords and their tenants. Our software allows you to find tenants, screen tenants, create and sign leases, collect rent, and manage maintenance. The best part? It’s completely free for one unit.
Also published on Medium.