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Pets In Rentals

First..full disclosure. Yes..I own pets and have all my life.  So anything stated in this post is not because the writer does not appreciate all the benefits of pet ownership.  This is a simple attempt to discuss the issue of pets in rentals from both a pet owner to a landlords perspective.

Like anything, there are two sides to the discussion.

Owners/Landlord versus Tenants

Owners of rental properties have certain considerations that begin with the type of property they own and include the fact that their insurance will not protect them from liability of certain aggressive pets causing harm.

Tenants want to enjoy all the benefits of pet ownership.  In some cases they live alone and a pet provides security and companionship.  Hard to argue those needs.

Sometimes though, the needs of an owner and tenant just do not mix.  If all the issues are out on the table, decisions and policies might end up with a better world for pets...and people.  So, here is my outtake on some considerations for rental owners and tenants when reviewing whether or not to have pets in rentals.

Renter Considerations Regarding Wanting A Pet

It is true that many renters decide to move out of apartments to enjoy more space.  Part of this desire may include wanting to have a nice area for a pet to roam.  By the way, while most of this article seems to be about dogs, cats also roam.  So do some other less typical pets but 95% of pets in rentals requests involve dogs and cats.

If you are a renter, and you want to get a pet, ask yourself a few questions.

Can I financially take care of the pet?

Not only food, but vaccinations and medical treatment.  Vaccines are often overlooked or opted out of.  That will likely lead to trouble with your landlord and medical costs that could have been avoided.

How much money could a renter save if they limited themselves to one pet?  Our dog, who is in pretty good health, gets into something once a year and a subsequent several hundred-dollar investment with our vet takes care of the problem.  How much cash goes into maintaining multiple pets?

Does my home lend itself to the pet I desire?

Seriously, is a large breed dog a great idea in a 600 sq foot duplex with a little yard?  Just one example but there are other issues.  Adjoining walls and barking do not go well together...like in a duplex.  I know duplexes are less money but depending on what kind of pet you want, maybe spending a little more to provide the right home needs to be your objective.

Do you have time to exercise the pet?  Pay attention to it?

If you don't, the pet will get destructive and ultimately you will be charged for those damages.  Most landlords will have no problem going to court to get a judgment against you for damages.  The problems of a destructive pet are not to be taken lightly.

So, once you have considered all of these factors, then check out the landlords policies.  Don't just move a new pet into your home and not have asked the landlord.  It is rather cruel to the pet, and yourself and family, to have to find a new home for the pet because you did not check out all the rules first.

Rental Owner Considerations Regarding Pets In Rentals

Owners of homes need to be prepared for applications from tenants with pets.  Some random, internet-based research I completed seems to indicate that 70% of all renters own a pet.  From my own experience, I would concur with that number.

Some owners want to prohibit pets.  I certainly understand that..but...you are shrinking the potential rental pool way down.

Some owners prohibit certain types of pets.  This also makes sense as different animals usually produce different behaviors.  I suspect it is true that there are no bad pets...just bad pet owners.  Approving a risky renter with a pet that is rather low risk (lets say a poodle) might create the most damage-prone poodle known to man.

So here is what should matter most to owners.

Insurance

The owner's most important consideration is insurance.  Check with your liability insurance carrier.  You do have umbrella liability coverage...right?  Find out if certain breeds of dogs are prohibited on your property.  You may be quite surprised at the types of pets you are not insured to have kept at your property.  If you do not have insurance coverage, then you just must decline those tenants. Or find new insurance.

Insurance companies have created lists of aggressive breeds which generally become an exclusion to the homeowner policy.  This means if a tenant keeps one of these breeds, and the pet causes harm that causes liability, the owner may be left with all of these expenses being out of pocket.  Even if the owner did not know about the pet.  Ouch!

More About Insurable Breeds of Dogs

The website Reviews.com provides the following research on dog breeds most commonly restricted by insurance companies:

Reviews.com doesn’t ascribe to the belief that certain dog breeds are inherently dangerous, but some insurance companies do, based on their analysis of statistics. According to our research, here are the 10 most common dog breeds that home insurance companies include on their restricted lists.

  1. Pit bull
  2. Rottweiler
  3. Alaskan malamute
  4. Akita
  5. Chow chow
  6. Doberman Pinscher
  7. Wolf hybrids
  8. Mastiff
  9. German shepherd
  10. Siberian husky

By the way- this list is not all-inclusive or exclusive.  A rental owner needs to confirm with their insurance carrier to understand the restrictions in their insurance.

With that being said, there are now supplemental polices being offered to cover liability from aggressive breeds.  Going back to the fact that tenants are renting stand-alone properties so they have a home for their pet, we advocate being properly insured and having a lease with appropriate deposits, rents and policies regarding pets.  It just makes sense in order to be competitive.

Type of rental

Another issue is what are you trying to rent?  A single family home with a fenced yard screams bring your pet.  A four-plex with nothing but concrete parking lot...not so good for a dog.  Duplexes can be problematic also.  Because of the demand, if you own a duplex, consider a good way to divide the back yard.  I know one owner who added a nice fence down the middle of the yard and solved all the pet issues in a duplex.  He also earns almost $100 more per side than the competition.  That paid for the fence in year one!

Create An Application Process To Prepare for Pets

Applicants with pets should be required to have their pets complete applications also.  Every detail on the pet should be disclosed..particularly past behavioral indiscretions.

We require photo ID's of tenants; we should also have a photo on file of the approved pets on a lease.  Be prepared if you are going to have a pet living with you to be asked to complete a screening.  One of the fastest growing vendors in the property management business is a company called PetScreening.com and they have created a system for doing exactly that.  Our leases use the results to determine deposits and pet rents.

Yes..pets should be listed on the lease.  Once approved, the lease should include a list of standards the pet owner agrees to maintain with their pet.  That way bad pet behavior can be made a violation of the lease.  We have a set of rules for pet owners that if violated become a lease violation.

I am a proponent of non-refundable pet deposits.  Through the years I have learned a few certainties.  One is that a pet will almost certainly cause some extra damage.  The best pet may never cause any problem but it may shed and an extra great cleaning will be required.  Another certainty is that many damages caused by pets are found later or are debatable as to who or what caused them.  The big hole dug under the fence that has to be fixed.  "That was an animal on the outside trying to dig in."  No way to know.  Stay away from deposits with pets.  Collect fees for the damage that will certainly occur.

Conclusions

As long as there are people, there will be people who want pets.  They represent a large part of our population.  Everyone needs to work together to use common sense when deciding how to handle the next request for pets in rentals.

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