As an owner of a residential rental you are eliminating a large percentage of applicants by not permitting dogs or cats. There should be a process for addressing the common desire of humans to own pets. A process that includes a pet application and approval.
Some people are just not happy owning one pet. They need to own several. As a tenant, they may believe since they were approved for one pet they can add more. The pet application and approval process must also make it clear that it only pertains to pets listed. No tenant should be confused and acquire a new pet before obtaining approval.
Seems obvious, right?
As I walked into a property under our management I noticed a 40 lb. bag of dog chow and a large cedar bed. There was one of those large rawhide chew bones and a large food and water dish. I thought that was strange as the documented pet to occupy the home was a Maltese breed. Yet, no sign of a dog.
The tenant knew I was coming on this day so they had apparently removed the dog. This indirectly made me suspicious that the tenant realized there is a big difference in a Maltese and a German Shepherd (which I later found out now resided in our home). According to the tenant the Maltese had met its demise and they had gotten a new dog, with no thought of there being a need to contact the manager for a new approval. The tenant’s logic was that they already had paid a pet fee and had an approval for a dog. They clearly did not understand our Pet Application and Approval procedure.
Why Pet Application and Approval Is Important
There are so many types of pets and so many breeds within each type of animal. The approval process is for a single specific animal. Think of it like this. You are approved to rent with a roommate. The roommate leaves and you replace them with a person who nobody knows is a violent felon. See why that might be a problem?
It’s the same for pets.
For instance, back to my story. There is a great deal of difference between a Maltese and a German Shepherd. I am not labeling a German Shepherd a violent felon, but they are known to be more aggressive when put in certain situations. These are two different types of dogs with two different types of personalities. Not to just go after German Shepherds, even little dogs can be quite a challenge to a property.
In our application, the potential tenant must identify the kind of pet, it’s breed, weight, age, training.
Deposits and Fees
I am hard pressed to ever remember a pet deposit refunded in full. Pets may not mean to do any damage but it is likely there will be more costs to an owner after a pet moves out than if one never existed in the home. Most people consider the companionship worth it.
For this reason, we prefer to use pet fees. It puts some money in the owner’s pockets, upfront, to address the probability the approved pet will do something. They are animals after all. I like fees because I do not like to have to discuss (and with some people argue) whether damage was caused by a pet or not. Before I decided I liked pet fees I even had a tenant try and convince me that a vagabond animal was able to come in the home through a small crack in the basement and scratch the heck out of some cabinets. While their pet cat just slept through the whole thing.
I’m sorry but people never fail to amaze me at some of the stories they tell.
Everybody always thinks first of the damage a pet may cause. There are good reasons to be concerned about damage but the most significant cost issue is the potential liability. Lawsuits and the awarded damages are costly. When a tenant’s pet attacks an innocent person, in the backyard next door, the cost of the lawsuit will pay for several new rentals.
Checking the owner’s insurance is usually the most important step once a pet application is received. Tenant’s insurance does provide some liability coverages. Be sure and ask the tenant to find out what are the exclusions regarding pets. They may be surprised to learn that Fido’s tendency to chase an 8 year old and bite them in the rear end is not insured.
Tenants need to understand that pets must be approved before they are brought on the premises. Otherwise, the tenant faces large penalties and possibly eviction. At the time of the initial application it should be clear to the tenant that any approval only applies to the pet listed. The whole process must start over if there will be an addition to the pet family.
An owner needs to have the ability to review the pet deposit (or fee) already in place. While considering the application and if an approval will be granted, it should be clear to the tenant that there will be additional costs.
How To Document The Pet Request
After approving the pet application, there should be a Pet Agreement added to the lease. For good measure, have new tenants verify that they understand the rules. Even if a new tenant does not own a pet, they must make a request prior to bringing a cute little puppy (or any kind of pet) into the home.
In the Pet Agreement there is also a list of rules for the owner to follow. The agreement also states the amounts of any deposits or fees that the tenant will pay in order to receive approval of the pet.
It’s very important to us that all pets make application. It is a clear violation of the terms of the lease if an application is not completed with any change in the animals approved for the property.
So many lessons in property management are learned as actual circumstances present themselves. When a tenant does not clearly understand that each pet must be approved, it is imperative the owner or manager provide notice of these conditions. Taking these steps strengthens your position as landlord if a pet resides in a home that has not been approved.