There are lots of variables to consider when determining whether or not you should rent your property to a particular tenant. A bad credit score can tell you a tenant might not pay rent on time. A messy background check can indicate they’ll miss-treat your property or even be a danger to their neighbors. These are obvious red flags and make it easy to disqualify. But what about a prospective tenant’s four-legged friend? Should you allow tenants to have pets in their rental unit?
Some landlords find that their tenants’ pets can cause more trouble than it’s worth. Others claim that by appealing to a niche market and implementing pet fees, the long-term benefits of allowing pets can outweigh any issues that arise. So, what should you do? Ultimately the choice is yours, but here are some pros and cons to help guide your decision:
Overview – Renters with Pets
Americans love their cats and dogs – According to the Insurance Information Institute, 68% of households in the US own pets, totaling nearly 85 million families. This percentage is even higher among renters, of which 72% owned a pet in 2014. For the most part, landlords have been reluctant to allow pets in their units. Trulia found that in the 25 largest US markets, only 20% allowed cats and 18% allowed small dogs. Large dogs, on the other hand, were accepted by just 4% of their listings.
Why You Should Allow Tenants to Have Pets
Increase your tenant base – Renters with pets make up a significant part of the market, and many are limited when finding landlords who will accommodate them. Often, for these renters, pet-friendliness is the number one factor when deciding to rent or not. By opening up your units to pets, you’re able to stand out from other landlords and increase your potential tenant pool. As a result, you’ll see lower vacancy rates and an overall smoother flow of traffic to your units.
Bring in more money – Pet owners understand that they’ll have to pay a higher price to accommodate their pets, so don’t be hesitant to add on to the regular rental payment. The main ways landlords charge for pets are pet deposits (a refundable upfront fee), pet fees (a nonrefundable upfront fee), or pet rent (a nonrefundable monthly payment made in addition to the actual rent). 78% of landlords in major markets used only one of these methods. The average national one-time fee was around $150, but this varies by location. As always, understanding your market is best; research local averages and ask other landlords. And be sure to make any pet-related charges transparent to your tenants.
Increase happiness – At the end of the day, being a landlord is a business, and keeping your customers happy plays a large role. Tenants won’t be forced to choose between a home and their pets, and they’ll be extremely grateful for that. The pets will be happier too; they get to stay with their owner and out of a shelter.
Why You Shouldn’t Allow Tenants to Have Pets
Physical damage – It’s no secret: dogs can be especially guilty of wear and tear on your property. They can dig up carpeting, scratch at walls, and damage hardwood floors (and we know how much effort you put into preserving your hardwood). Pet fees may or may not be enough to cover the damages, not to mention the time it takes to make the repairs.
Enjoyment of other tenants – Pets can be the cause of many public nuisances, such as noise, odors or allergy-related issues. In an apartment setting, this can be extremely disruptive to neighboring tenants. If the problem persists, your renters may end up looking elsewhere. While uncommon, physical harm to other tenants can also occur. If a tenant’s pet were to harm another person, there are certain situations where landlords can be held liable for the injuries.
Pet-Proofing your unit – If you do decide to allow tenants to have pets, you may need to make some changes to your units to make them more pet-friendly. Depending on the rental, these adjustments can be costly and time-consuming. Carpets may need to be replaced with more durable flooring, fencing may be required, and certain furnishings may need to be swapped with textures that are less prone to pet scratching.
Take extra precautions – Taking extra steps to support your decision is always encouraged. It doesn’t hurt to meet the tenant and their pet in person, so you can judge its behavior first hand. You can also screen your pet as you would a tenant. The American Human Society recommends that landlords use this checklist to help learn about their dog and/or cat.
Trust your gut – If you’re still uncomfortable with the idea of bringing pets to your properties, don’t do it. Take the time to formulate a pet policy that makes the most sense for your situation. Perhaps the demand in your market for pet-friendly renters isn’t there right now, but it’s important to stay open to reassessing in the future.
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