If you wish to rent your property, a common question involves whether or not you will make your property a pet-friendly one. Allowing pets on your property has both pros and cons.
The big advantage of being a pet-friendly landlord is that you will be making your property open to a considerably larger pool of potential clients. Consider these figures for example: According to a report published by National Pet Owners Survey, as many as 68% of US households owned a pet, as of 2017-18. And the number was even bigger with the younger demographics. A Zillow report tells us, for example, that when it comes to millennial renters, more than 76% of them own pets.
From the above statistics, it should be clear that pet-friendly properties hold an obvious advantage in the rental market over properties that don’t allow pets. Another big advantage is the reduced tenant turnover. Since not all rental properties allow pets, the pet owners generally have fewer choices and are much more likely to renew their lease than renters without pets.
On the flip side, pets also pose certain risks to your property and can turn out to be a source of nuisance in more than one way. There is the risk of damage to property, such as excessive and lingering odor (both within the property and in common areas). There can also be excessive noise (especially in the case of dogs, birds, and cats), and finally, there is the risk of a pet causing injury to others.
Prepare a ‘Pet Agreement’ for the Lease
However, the good news is that if you decide to allow pets within your property premises, you can minimize the above risks by preparing a carefully drawn up pet agreement policy. Renters with or without pets (some may decide to get a pet after you have leased out your property to them) should be required to sign the pet agreement at the time of renting and will thus be bound to abide by all the provisions included within the agreement.
Now, in order to prepare this agreement, you need to have the proper knowledge regarding pet policies for rental properties. You also need to know what your rights are as a landlord when it comes to allowing or prohibiting pets within your property. Here are some examples of pet policies you could enforce:
Policy 1: Permissible Pets
As the landlord, you have the right to decide which species of pets you will allow within your property. Animals such as dogs, cats, rabbits, and birds, as well as small caged animals such as hamsters, ferrets, gerbils, guinea pigs, mice, rats, and small reptiles are the pets which are commonly accepted by most apartment buildings and condominium associations.
Although laws regarding pets on a rental property, in certain aspects, vary from state to state, normally it is within your rights as a landlord to prohibit any of the above-mentioned species of animals as long as those are not service or assistance animals. Service animals are specially trained animals able to perform certain tasks that assist people with disabilities. Legally, they are considered to be medical tools rather than pets.
As the landlord, you also have the right to decide the number of pets you will allow within your premises. You can also set a weight limit for the pets and prohibit supposedly ‘dangerous breeds’ of dogs such as Rottweilers or Pit Bulls.
Finally, you have the right to decide whether or not to allow tenants’ guests to bring along their own pets while visiting your rented property. So, make sure to specify this within your pet agreement document.
Policy 2: Restrictions and Requirements
Again, as a landlord, it is within your rights to decide whether or not you will allow your renters to keep or breed pets for commercial purposes. However, landlords will rarely permit renters to breed pets within their premises since this is likely to cause more litter, odor, potential damage, and other nuisances. As for condominiums or apartment buildings, raising pets for commercial purposes is not allowed anyway.
Make your tenants responsible for the proper behavior and upkeep of their pets. Pets should not be left unattended outdoors or in balconies or patios. Even within the apartment or house, the pets must be kept in appropriate and contained areas and they should not be left unsupervised for any unreasonable amount of time. Also, before you rent out your property to a pet owner, make sure to ask who will take care of the pets during their absence, such as when they go on a vacation. It would be good to require tenants to keep their pets on a leash or carry them in an animal carrier when in transit.
The tenants must also be responsible for waste removal associated with the pets, both within the apartment and in common areas. You may also need to include additional clauses regarding waste removal (especially in case of an apartment building property). These may include:
- Cat or dog litters cannot be disposed of in toilets or down the trash chutes.
- All pet droppings must be securely bagged and disposed of in certain designated areas only.
- All pet droppings in common areas must be picked up and disposed of immediately.
If your renter has dogs, make sure that they carry the dog owner’s liability insurance. Additionally, you may want potential tenants to carry a renter’s liability insurance (which is allowed in Texas). They should make sure that the insurance covers damages caused by pet incidents and that the policy does not include limitations such as a dog bite exclusion and the like.
Make sure that your tenants comply with all pet license and vaccination requirements as specified by your state law. You may ask to see the current vet’s bills or the municipal license receipt to ensure that your renters have complied with the above requirements. Your pet policy guideline must make it clear that all cats and dogs must wear identification tags or collars which will typically include proof of all recent vaccinations.
Policy 3: Charging a Pet Deposit or a Pet Fee
Now, when it comes to pet deposits, state laws vary considerably. For example, landlords in California cannot request a separate pet deposit beyond the security deposit. In Texas, however, the landlord can request either a pet deposit or a pet fee.
Pet deposits work in the same manner as general security deposits. If the pet (or pets) cause any damage to the rental property, the repairs for the damages will be covered by pet deposits.
Now, one thing about pet deposit is that, in Texas, it can be made either a refundable or a non-refundable one, according to the landlord’s choice. Now, one thing to keep in mind is that a non-refundable deposit may seem more convenient and lucrative at first glance. However, it may not be the best choice after all. This is because, in case of a refundable deposit, the tenants will typically remain more cautious regarding any damages caused by their pets.
Again, whether or not you can charge a monthly or annual pet fee for pet-friendly rentals depends on the relevant state laws on the subject. In Texas, the landlords do have the freedom to ask for a fixed pet fee from their tenants. Based on the terms of the lease, the fee can be charged annually or monthly.
Regarding pet fees, one thing to keep in mind that the fee is charged on the assumption that pets cause more wear and tear to a property and is not reliant upon any documented damage caused by the pets. For this reason, the landlord should determine a reasonable cost as a pet fee. Depending on the type and number of pets, an annual pet fee of $100-$250 falls within a reasonable range. In the case of monthly pet fees or pet rents, you may charge $10-$20. Of course, these prices depend on where you live, and maybe even the type or size of a pet. Keep it in mind that if the tenant feels that the fee is unnecessary or excessive, and accordingly decides to challenge it, a judge holds the discretion to not enforce the charge.
In addition to the above, you may also consider including a ‘right to amend’ provision within your pet rental agreement. This will entitle you to make a change within your agreement at any time during the lease.
Also, as a landlord willing to permit pets within your property, you must first check with your insurance company about coverage relating to renting your property to pet owners. Check whether or not the policy provides cover for damages or injuries caused by animals.
Finally, regardless of your pet rental agreement, make sure to do a thorough background check on your potential tenants. Check renter credit reports, eviction history but also make sure to obtain a detailed income insights report. The latter will help you determine whether your tenants really make what they say they make.
Do keep in mind that renters with responsible past behavior will be your best tenants and you may be confident that they will be totally responsible with their pets as well and will comply with the guidelines of your pet agreement policy. They will not only take good care of their pets but will also see to it that the pets do not at any time prove to be a nuisance to the landlord or to other neighbors.
If you have questions, concerns, or need help handling issues related to property management like this, contact Specialized Property Management in Dallas today! Our team is well-trained in knowing how to handle difficult situations, and we know how to keep you and your tenants happy.