While over 60% of United States households have at least one pet, there are nowhere near that many pet-friendly rentals available on the market. After 10+ years of dealing with tenants and pets as property managers in Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo, we have put together an accurate list of the good and bad and ugly aspects of renting to pet owners. In this post we will go over the pros and cons of allowing pets at your rental property.
In today’s market, tenants expect to pay extra for pets. It’s important to note that pets are a privilege not a right (we are not talking service animals here). Some charges that you can include are Pet fees, pet rent, and increased security deposits.
By going pet-friendly in your rental home, you are improving the level of satisfaction for your residents. You will often hear us talk about the importance of happy tenants. This is because Happy Tenants = Good Tenants. Happy tenants are more apt to
- Pay on time,
- Report damages (think water leak damage)
- Take better care of their home (your investment)
- Stay longer
More Tenant Prospects
When you don’t accept pets, you immediately shut out at least 50% of the prospect pool. With pet-friendly rentals in high demand, you may actually see a formerly lackluster rental get a waiting list of interested residents within days of changing your pet policy. Pet owners jump on the opportunity to move into pet friendly units.
It’s important to also weigh the con’s when making the decision to allow pets at your rental property. The following are both issues we have experienced or concerns we hear from investors.
Allowing pets in a rental property can be messy and can sometimes lead to costly damages. Pet odor can be extremely difficult to remove from a rental. Animals scratch surfaces and can ruin lawns. There are ways to help protect yourself from this as you will read below.
Disturbing the Peace
Unless you have one of these dogs, dogs will bark. Dogs also need to be cleaned up after outside. Neighbors of barking, pooping dogs are not happy people.
When you allow pets at your rental property, you are opening yourself up to increase liability. If a dog attacks or bites someone or another dog, you could be looking at litigation. While some dog breeds definitely are more prone to more outbursts and violence, we have found the greatest indication of this risk is the pet owner.
Mitigating The Risk
We have found that most of these con’s can be avoided through a few different ways.
Pet policies are a great way to create an expectation up front and lay down the law. In order for them to be effective, you must inspect what you expect and enforce them.
Increased Fees and Deposits
One of the obvious ways to mitigate the risk of pet damage is to increase the security deposit. Make sure you know your state laws as in Michigan, you can only charge up to 1.5 times the monthly rent for security deposit. You could also charge an upfront fee and/or pet rent to help offset costs associated with pets.
When you are a landlord, you expose yourself to increase liability in general. Even if you don’t allow pets in your unit, and your tenant brings one anyways and it bites someone, you could still have liability. Be sure to talk with your insurance agent to ensure you have adequate coverage for your exposed risk.
Screen Pet Owners
This is the tactic that will be the most important to your success of allowing pets in your rental. Responsible pet owners will care for your unit, pick up after their pet and have good pets. When you screen a prospect, be sure to screen their pet too. You can specify what you will or will not accept like breed, vaccine records, if they have been spayed or neutered, size of the animal, etc. Be sure to treat each person and pet the same and you can make any rules you want about pets.
Emotional Support and Service Animals
This is an area that many amateur and DIY landlords do not understand. If someone comes to you with an ESA (emotional support animal) or service animal, they are no longer a pet. That means that you cannot charge any extra fees, deposits or rent for the animal. They still need to show their animal is vaccinated and also show proof from a doctor that they require the animal. They are also responsible to clean up after the animal and can be charged for any damage it causes. However you may be asked to make “reasonable accommodations” in regards to breed, size, etc. But that is up to you and your attorney to decide.
Have Questions? Reach out and we’ll be happy to help answer any questions you may have regarding allowing pets in rental properties!