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Pet Policies: Why You Need One and What to Include

December 4, 2022

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Why You Need A Pet Policy And What You Should Include

Around 72% of renters own a pet these days. 

Not allowing pets in your rentals cuts you off from that large chunk of potential tenants. 

Allowing pets also comes with some inherent risk, though.  

It’s important to develop strict policies and require extra fees to protect yourself against liability. 

In this article, we’re going to talk about pet policies in depth. 

What Are Pet Policies? 

Pet policies are provisions in a lease that map out the rules regarding pets for tenants. These policies protect you and your tenants by explicitly stating expectations around pet ownership as it relates to your property. For instance, pet policies highlight which types of pets are allowed in your property and the amount of pet deposits or fees. 

Leases are legally binding contracts, and once signed, everyone must abide by the guidelines within them. Make sure you include every important detail related to pets you can think of. The more explicit and detailed you are on the pet policy for your rental, the less likely you’ll run into problems down the road. 

What Do Pet Policies Cover? 

Now that we’ve described what pet policies are, let’s discuss what you should cover in them.  

Kinds of Pets Allowed 

Some policies allow for cats and not dogs. Others only allow even smaller animals. It’s important to get granular on what you allow for your property.  

Breed restrictions are usually a part of this section. Many landlords ban certain breeds that are deemed a bit dangerous (i.e., Doberman Pinschers, Rottweilers, pit bulls). Sometimes these restrictions are related to legislation around breeds within towns or cities. The restrictions can also relate to insurance restrictions or your personal preferences as a landlord. Animal rights groups continue to push back against these regulations, but some are still in place today. 

There is a possibility that potential tenants will appeal a breed restriction. If you find the pet well-behaved during a pet interview and the references make you feel more comfortable with it, you may decide to make a one-time allowance.  

Number of Pets Allowed 

It’s vital to set a maximum limit on how many pets someone can have at one time. The more pets you allow in one unit, the greater the risk for property damage. 

Also, it’s prudent to make tenants get permission from you before they adopt any new pets. You need to screen new pets as though the tenant in the same way you would pets that move in with tenants. 

Pet Weight Rules 

Most pet policies detail limits on how heavy pets can be. This comes down to your preference and understanding of your property. If the property isn’t very large, this can be a good way to prevent a big animal from living in a cramped environment.  

No-pet Policy 

Another option is to disallow pets from your property entirely. This will rule out any tenants with pets, though, so it’s not the most lucrative choice. Remember, nearly three out of four potential tenants own pets. 

Pet Deposit or Monthly Rent Increase 

You can levy three kinds of charges for keeping a pet: pet fees, pet deposits, and pet rent. Get very specific in your policy about the way you charge fees and what fees you expect. List the amount, due dates, and other relevant information. Also, if it’s applicable, let tenants know how and when they’ll get their refundable deposit back. 

In some states, it’s illegal to charge certain fees, so do your research. In states that allow charges like pet deposits, understand how many days you have before you need to return the money and what circumstances might allow you to keep it. 

Clarity around expectations is critical when it comes to pet policies. Spell everything out and make sure to leave no stone unturned. 

Why Are Pet Policies Important? 

Pet policies provide a number of benefits for you and your tenants. Let’s review the main ones here: 

1. Sets Clear Expectations 

Confusion is your worst enemy when it comes to pet policies. The more energy you put into making things clear in the lease, the better your relationship with your tenants will be. So, make sure your pet policy covers the points you need and leaves everyone confident that they understand the rules and boundaries. 

2. Builds Trust 

It’s important to have rules and boundaries about pets in writing. You and your tenants need something to ensure everyone is on the same page. It also shows that you’re trying to be upfront with your expectations.   

3. Increases the Chances for Long-term Renters 

Allowing pets and having a clear policy in place enhances the likelihood that tenants will stay longer at your property. Some landlords have a no-pet policy, which is part of why it gives you an advantage. 

Another reason you will have an advantage is that tenants want to avoid more non-refundable pet fees. They’ve often already paid these at their current rental, so it’s beneficial to stay. 

Furthermore, tenants and their pets may also start to feel at home in your rental, especially if you build a foundation of good communication. This, of course, starts with a clear pet policy.  

Conclusion 

Pet policies clarify your expectations and rules when it comes to pets. They’re a critical part of your lease. A well-developed pet policy can save everyone headaches in the future and create better relationships with your tenants. 

So, if you’re ready to allow pets at your rental, it’s time to create a great pet policy.  

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