Pet lover? So are we!
There are some great reasons to allow pets in your rental property… and some risks. What are the pros and cons of allowing pets in your rental? Is renting to tenants with cats better than allowing dogs? What are the risks of each?
Most importantly, how can you mitigate those risks as a landlord, if you do allow dogs or cats?
Glad you asked! We put together a handy-dandy infographic to help you set your own landlord pet policy, and because, well, who doesn’t love a fun infographic?
A Profitable Landlord Pet Policy
Over two-thirds – 68% – of US households own a pet, for a total of roughly 85 million households. Of those, 60.2 million households have at least one dog, and 47.1 million households own a cat.
So while your landlord pet policy could be two words long at “No pets,” to do so you automatically disqualify over two-thirds of your prospects. That makes it much harder to find a qualified renter.
There’s an old proverb that I like: “When the winds change, there are two types of people: those who build walls, and those who build windmills.” You could reflexively go into a defensive posture and ban pets entirely. Or you could ask yourself how to profit from renting to tenants with pets, even as you protect your rental property against pet damage.
Pet Security Deposits
One obvious way to protect your property is to collect a higher security deposit. If the pet causes damage, it comes out of the security deposit.
And while it’s a reasonable landlord pet policy, it comes with a few caveats.
First, keep in mind that in the eyes of the law, all refundable deposits fall under the legal umbrella of “security deposit.” That means that the state law limit on security deposits apply to the sum total of all refundable deposits you collect.
For example, if your state limits security deposits to one and a half months’ rent, you can’t collect one month’s rent for the security deposit plus another month’s rent for a “pet deposit.” It all gets lumped together as the security deposit.
In fact, you should never use the term “pet deposit” or “pet security deposit” in your lease agreement. If you do, you may not be able to use it to deduct for any damage other than pet-caused damage. It’s a common security deposit mistake made by landlords.
Instead, consider a landlord pet policy that all tenants with pets must pay a higher amount toward their security deposit. And in the meantime, tenant-proof your property to make it indestructible!
Many landlords confuse a pet fee vs. a pet deposit.
By definition, a deposit is refundable. And all refundable deposits count as part of the security deposit, as outlined above.
In contrast, fees are non-refundable. You can collect a higher security deposit when renting to tenants with cats or dogs, and you can also charge a one-time pet fee to cover the additional wear and tear caused by pets if you like.
Because pets do cause more wear and tear on your property. It’s inevitable.
While pet fees are a one-time charge, pet rent is ongoing. Every month, the tenant pays extra money for their pet to live in the unit.
I like pet rent more than pet fees, because the longer a pet lives in the property, the more wear and tear they cause. And let’s be honest, ongoing income is the name of the landlording game, right?
In the past I’ve charged between $15-30/month per pet. It’s enough to add up over time, but not so much that it will break the renter’s budget.
Cats vs. Dogs in Your Rental Property
Not all pets are created equal, of course. A quiet fish tank does no damage to your property, assuming it doesn’t break. A pack of pit bulls is another story entirely.
Dogs and cats also pose different risks to your property. You may allow one but not the other, or allow dogs up to a weight limit, or some other custom landlord pet policy.
Should you allow pets in your rental property? We argue that you should, but that you know the facts beforehand, and that you charge accordingly.
Without further ado, enjoy the Cats vs. Dogs infographic!
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FAQ About Allowing Dogs and Cats in Rental Properties
Q: Can I collect a separate deposit to cover pet damage?
A: It depends on the state. Most states regulate security deposits, some more strongly than others. In California, anything you accept as an advance payment to secure something is considered a security deposit. So, this would include a pet deposit. Furthermore, California does not permit non-refundable deposits (which technically should not be referred to as a deposit). Where Alabama has limits on only collecting one month security deposit, and an extra security deposit is permitted for pets. In South Carolina, there are no statutes at all on how much you can collect or whether it is refundable or not. Check your state statutes, contact an attorney, read our state rental law guides, or use our Ask an Attorney feature!
Q: Can I increase the rental amount for people with pets?
A: Most often you can. But be careful and be sure there are no laws prohibiting it in your state and city. And never charge those with service animals extra rent. That can get you into some hot water in court – the boiling kind, not the jacuzzi kind.
Q: My lease does not permit pets; my tenant has one. What can I do?
A: Start eviction proceedings immediately! They broke the lease agreement. Follow your state’s procedure for notice and get to it as fast as possible. If your tenant is otherwise responsible, feel free to try and negotiate, after you’ve filed for eviction. But think twice about a tenant who is sneaky, they’ve already proven untrustworthy.
Q: Can you really be liable for your renter’s pet if they hurt someone?
A: YES! First of all, attorneys always look for “deep pockets.” And a good injury lawyer is very good at finding those with the most assets. Furthermore, if you have an insurance company that specifically does not cover a specific breed and your tenant has one of those uncovered breeds; you may be without insurance back-up as well.
Q: My rental is a condominium. Can I allow pets?
A: Buyer beware! With condos and properties located in organized neighborhoods with homeowners associations, not only must you adhere to state law but you must also adhere to your condo association’s rules. Many associations have rule books with hundreds of pages of what to do and not to do. Before you lease to a renter with pets, make sure pets are permitted and always add a clause in your lease agreement, stating that your tenant must follow all rules of the condo or homeowner association!♦
Do you allow pets in your rental properties? If so, what kinds of pets? Do you place a weight limit or breed restrictions on dogs? Share your stories with pet-owning tenants, positive or negative!