September 27, 2023, by Christie Slatcher
Having a strong pet policy in place for your rental property is essential for protecting both you as the landlord and the tenants in your property who have pets. A comprehensive pet policy will not only provide clarity on what type of animals can live in your rental, but also cover important details such as accountability for potential damages to the property caused by pets. A good pet policy will establish expectations around things like animal health, behavior, and cleanliness.
Implementing pet policies at your property doesn’t have to be complicated or time consuming, especially if you’re working side by side with a property management company that has the experience you need when it comes to pets and liability.
First, we’ll make sure you understand the benefits of allowing pets. We know that some landlords hesitate before opening their doors to dogs and cats. That’s understandable. However, there are some serious financial benefits to being a pet-friendly property, and we are here to help you earn as much as possible on your investment. With the right pet policy in place, you can allow pets with less risk.
Here are some of the guidelines you’ll need to keep close when putting together your own pet policy.
Should You Even Allow Pets?
Pets come with risks and liability. There’s no getting around that fact. However, if you invest in a good pet policy and you adopt some of the best practices that we’re sharing as local property managers, you can reduce your risks and enjoy some of these important benefits:
More Tenants and Less Vacancy
You don’t have to be a local property manager to know that the numbers are in favor of pets in properties. More than half of the prospective tenants in Hawthorne, Long Beach, Redondo Beach, or any of the surrounding South Bay areas will have at least one pet. That means that if you don’t allow pets, you’re eliminating a large portion of your tenant pool right out of the gate. Why limit yourself so quickly?
When you have a smaller tenant pool to start with, you risk a longer vacancy period. That’s a lot of money you could potentially lose while waiting for a tenant who doesn’t have a pet.
Always include the fact that you’re pet-friendly in your listing and marketing materials. By saying you will consider pets, for example, you can keep your pool of potential residents pretty large. Then, you can make decisions on a pet-by-pet basis about whether or not you’ll approve them.
Higher Tenant Retention Rates
Not only do pet-friendly homes have lower vacancy rates; they also have lower turnover rates.
Retain tenants by allowing pets.
Pet owners are more likely to renew their lease agreements and stay where they are, especially if they’re having a good rental experience. Moving would mean paying another pet fee or deposit, and most people don’t want to do that. Pet owners also understand that it’s not always easy to find a pet-friendly property. They’ll be willing to stay in your rental home longer.
Good Pet Owners are Usually Good Tenants
When tenants care about their pets, they’re likely to care about their homes as well.
This has been our experience, at least. Our residents who move in with pets and are able to demonstrate that they take their animals to the vet, feed them well, and keep them healthy, will usually turn out to be responsible renters who are easy to work with.
It’s also an indisputable fact that animals have caused less damage than people.
Reasons a Pet Policy Makes Sense
We support the idea of allowing pets. But, we’re realists. There are risks. That’s why we encourage serious pet screening and a solid pet policy. It will help you avoid the following:
Pets Can Cause Property Damage
Scratches on a wood floor, carpet fibers shredded, and landscaping dug up. These are some of the potential damages that a pet can cause in your rental property. Even when you carefully screen a pet, you have no idea how that animal is going to act. The best-behaved pets can still act unpredictably. It’s unusual, but sometimes pet damage can go beyond the pet deposit you collect, leaving you with extra expenses.
Odors and Allergens
Pets can be stinky, and it’s very hard to get rid of pet odors, especially if you have carpet. You can expect to do some extra cleaning after a tenant with pets moves out. The smells can be especially problematic if your next tenant has allergies. You might find fleas.
Dangerous Dog Breeds
Here’s a worst-case scenario: your tenant’s dog bites a small child or a neighbor. You could be liable, and if you’re sued, you’ll want to make sure your insurance company is willing to cover you.
You probably know some very gentle Pit Bulls. That doesn’t mean you have to allow them in your rental property. A lot of insurance companies will restrict the dog breeds they’ll cover in their landlord policies. If you’re worried about the risks that dangerous breeds deliver to your rental property, you can allow pets but restrict certain breeds.
Pet Deposits, Pet Fees, and Pet Rent
A big part of your pet policy will be outlining the deposits and fees associated with bringing pets into your rental home.
You should always charge a pet fee or a pet deposit before your tenants move in. You can charge a one-time, non-refundable pet fee, which in California is typically between $100 and $400 per pet, or you can charge a deposit in addition to the security deposit, which is refundable and cannot exceed the deposit limits that California law sets up (maximum of twice the monthly rent for non-furnished homes).
In addition to the pet deposit or fee, you can charge pet rent every month. This is often $25 to $50 per pet.
The additional revenue is another good reason to allow pets in your property. If you need the money you collect to pay for damage, it’s available to you. But if you don’t need it, the pet fee and the pet rent stays with you.
Pet deposits, however do need to go back to the tenant if they’re not used. While this cuts into your revenue potential, many owners find this is a good way to incentivize preventing pet damage.
Before Approving Pets: Conduct Pet Screening
If you’re planning to allow pets, make sure you screen them carefully. This should be a process you have documented just like your tenant screening process.
- Ask to meet the pet.
- Collect pictures of pets so they’re easily identified at the property.
You can also talk to the vet or request vet records. Making sure the pet has been vaccinated and treated for fleas and ticks might give you some extra peace of mind. It will also show you that the tenant cares about the animal and will take good care of it.
Remember that there is no law that says you must accept every pet. You can set restrictions based on pet size and pet age. Maybe you’ll allow mature cats and dogs but not puppies and kittens. That’s reasonable. You can also say that all pets must be 20 pounds or less. You can say one pet per tenant is allowed, or one dog and one cat. Set up whatever restrictions will make you feel more comfortable about allowing pets into your property.
Implement a Strong Pet Policy
Keep in mind that even though there are risks present with pet-friendly properties, you can mitigate many of those with a great pet policy.
A solid pet policy will protect your property against the potential for damage and liability. In your pet policy, you can outline how much you’ll collect in pet rent and pet fees. You can also set up requirements and expectations. Dogs should always be leashed, for example, and tenants will be required to clean up after their dogs outside and in common areas.
Please always remember that service animals and support animals are not pets. Even if you decide not to allow pets in your rental home, you still cannot say no to a tenant who needs an accommodation because of a disability. Service animals and support animals are not subject to pet fees or breed restrictions.
We understand the owners who might hesitate to allow pets in their valuable rental homes. It can be difficult to trust that your tenant will prevent pet damage and bad behavior. With a good pet policy, however, and proper pet screening, you can set yourself up for a successful rental experience. As you can see with what we’ve shown you in this blog, the benefits definitely outweigh the risks.
You don’t have to take on all of this liability on your own. If you’re nervous about pets, work with a local property manager who can conduct frequent inspections to ensure your property is not being destroyed by a tenant’s pet.
We’d be happy to help you with pet screening, pet policies, and any extra work that’s required when you provide a pet-friendly property. If you have any questions, please contact us at Jamison Management Company.