How Much Is that Puppy In Your Window…Going To Cost You?
Tenants who have pets bring a unique kind of risk with them. On the one hand, people with pets tend to be more laid back. On the other hand, pets tend to occasionally damage goods and property just by their nature. (If you’ve ever inspected a property of a seven year tenant and seen the damage their German Shepard’s nails have done to the linoleum in the laundry room, you know what we mean.) So what can you legally do to defray the costs?
Not Accept Pets
The most obvious choice is to simply disallow pets. This can take the form of a blanket pet ban, a ban to all uncontained pets (which would allow, for example, fish, reptiles in tanks, tarantulas, and so on), a restriction to just dogs and cats, or almost any configuration you can imagine. But when you realize that three out of four Millennial renters have pets, you have to ask yourself just how much of that crowd you want to disqualify yourself from. So it might be better to pick another option.
Ask for a Pet Deposit
Pets damage property, and the law fully recognizes that by allowing you to ask for a larger security deposit if the tenant brings a pet with them. You don’t even have to set the increased amount ahead of time; Royal Rose Properties negotiates a deposit with each tenant based on the kind of pet, it’s activity level, and the apparent conscientiousness of the owner. If we’re talking a goldfish, we’ll probably skip it altogether; if we’re talking about a pair of ferrets…that’s a different story.
Increase the Rent
We totally do this, too: if your tenant has a pet that you can safely anticipate will cause even minor extra damage over a long period of time, feel free to increase the rent slightly. If they have a dachshund that is a digger, for example, you can increase their rent by $25/month to pay for the landscaper’s extra time. As with the security deposit, RRP leaves that line on our lease blank and we chat with the pet owner about what they have, what their intent is for dealing with it, and we agree on a reasonable amount. Most pet owners not only understand, but they love their pets and are more than willing to pay an extra amount per month to keep their fuzzy friends nearby.
Follow Up with a Surprise Inspection
Nothing will tell you more about what a pet is being allowed to do to your property than seeing it with your own eyes. Our lease informs tenants that we’re going to do two surprise inspections — one 30 days out and one 90 days out — to check on their pets’ effects. In general, there are not many tenants that remember three months later that we’re going to be checking in, so it’s not hard to get a solid idea of what’s going on with the animal on your property.
Establish a Pet Policy
Your lease’s Pet Policy should include three basic elements:
- Containment: It should explain to the tenant when and where they need to keep their pet under strict control (i.e. “all common areas,” “whenever outside of the home/fenced area of the yard,” or so on.)
- Pet Health: It should explain that their pet needs to have all common vaccinations, and if relevant, needs to be spayed or neutered.
- Cleanup: It needs to specify that the tenant is responsible for 100% of costs related to pet cleanup. That includes paying your landscaper for any time spent cleaning up pet ‘landmines’ in the yard so that they can do the rest of their job safely.
One other requirement we exercise prudently is requiring tenants with pets to purchase a one-year Renter’s Policy that covers animal bites. Be sure to have yourself named as additionally insured for not only the extra coverage, but also so you’ll be notified if the policy is cancelled.
If you give your tenants the courtesy of dealing with their pets respectfully, you can open your doors to a much larger chunk of the rental market that’s willing to pay more — which means fewer vacancies, shorter vacancies, and happier tenants. Win-win!