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Too many landlords impose blanket “No Pets” policies without considering the potential upsides.

Deni and Brian break down exactly how to earn more money on your rental units by accepting and charging for pets. From faster turnovers to longer tenancies to pet rent and beyond, we skip the warm-and-fluffy and talk dollars-and-cents.

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Resources Mentioned in This Podcast & Video:

live off rents podcast transcript
Brian Davis:
Hey guys, happy Tuesday. It’s Brian Davis and Deni Supplee here from Spark Rental. Hello everyone. We are super excited to have you with us today. Last week we talked about seven real estate investing tools to boost your returns. Today, we’re talking all about landlord pet policies and how to earn more money, a higher return on your properties by renting to pet owners.
So many landlords, just dig their heels in and say no pets. I’m not allowing any pets at all. But the fact is landlords are leaving a lot of money on the table by barring all pets. Before we jump in, we do have an announcement today. At the end of this broadcast. We are going to announce the winner of our giveaway for three months of premium access to Mashvisor. We like to give products away periodically.
This was in celebration of having 2000 likes on our Facebook page, which is always fun. So, all right. Without further ado, Deni, tell us why landlords should reconsider their stance on renting to pet owners.

Deni Supplee:
Well, the majority of households have over 50% close to 68, 70% of households have a pet, at least one.
So that broadens your renter prospects and provides higher rents. You can charge an extra $50. I’ve seen some people will do $25, $50 per pet. That’s significant, you know, in the long run. There are non-refundable pet fees that you can charge ideally to go towards any kind of wear and tear or damage, but it’s still non-refundable. Just don’t call it a security deposit because if you call it a pet security deposit, it’s going to be returned, but that’s not a bad idea to do either because if the pet destroys anything, you have an actual security deposit just for that. So if their pet does destroy it, then you return it, and it gives you a little bit extra security that they’re going to take care of your apartment or rental and make sure that their pets take care of the rental.

Brian Davis:
Absolutely.

Deni Supplee:
And it’s not that I’m not I’m a pet lover, sometimes when I’m on here, you’ll see my dogs.
We’ve had arguments between my dogs during Facebook live. There’s a misnomer, I think, out there about pet owners. I mean, there are good and there are bad, but a lot of pet owners are not, bad, you can tell too because they’re grooming, ‘them, they’re spending money on them and the whole nine yards plus paying their vet bills.
Pets overall are, are not that terrible. They conduct less wear and tear than people.

Brian Davis:
Well, I hear that, and I happen to agree. We have a question here from Misbah. Misbah says, hi, I have a question. I know you can’t charge for service animals but are emotional support animals considered the same emotional support animals.

Deni Supplee:
There is some relaxation for a security deposit or pet deposit regulations. Yeah, we have a good article and I’m going to put the link up here that goes into it in more detail. But it’s not as stringent as service animals, with service animals, you can’t charge any extra pet fees.
You can’t charge any pet security deposit or anything like that for emotional support animals. There are some areas and some reasons that you would be able to. If any of those animals, whether it’s emotional support or service animals do damage, then your tenant would have to take care of that. It’s not like they can just rip apart walls and then leave the rental and you’re stuck with it. They still have to take care of that.

Brian Davis:
There are some questions that you can ask as a landlord about emotional support animals and some questions you can’t ask. So, check out that article, it goes through the exact questions that you should ask as a landlord to protect yourself when it comes to emotional support animals.
Unfortunately, tenants can get away with having an emotional support animal, even when they are not needed. They have legal protections, but you don’t as a landlord. When it comes to ESS. So, unfortunately, they’re super easy to register because there are, all these websites online, where you pay 20 bucks and get a fake registration.
And there’s no official body that registers these animals. So, tenants can just go online, get one and print it off and suddenly they have an emotional support animal.
But that article does go into some very specific detail about what you can and can’t do as a landlord in screening emotional support animals.
All right. So, Deni. People don’t just have cats and dogs as pets. How should, landlords’ approach other types of pets beyond the typical, you know, Fido?

Deni Supplee:
Fido and ocelots?
Well, you know, it’s interesting. We had a rather long post on one of the Facebook groups, the hub is what we call it. And it’s one of our larger Facebook groups. And it was all about the differences in animals. Like not just the dogs and the cats. And it was just interesting to see the difference of opinions. Like so many people think if it’s in an aquarium, you’re good to go, but I’ve had an issue where there was a large aquarium that busted. It was on the second floor and it broke, did damage to the ceiling on the first floor. Fish are quiet, and they can still cause damage. I had mentioned snakes. They can crawl up into ceilings and that’s all one needs is to have a drop ceiling and have a little old lady next door who’s afraid of snakes and have a snake, keep its head out, and her to freak out. You have to protect yourself from not just dogs and cats. You need to make sure that you’re protecting yourself against all animals and let your applicants know that. Don’t just ask? “Do you have a cat or a dog?” Do you have any pet alligators or ocelots and (giggle), or snakes, fish, or birds? I’ve had complaints because of birds because they’re loud sometimes.

Brian Davis:
You laugh, but you know, there was a woman in the news a couple of years back, had an alligator and she would dress the alligator up and she had it registered as an emotional support animal, an alligator and she kept that as a pet. When she first had it, it was small, of course, but it got big. And this is the last thing you need in your rental properties is a seven-foot alligator running around and eating all the other neighbors!
Right? Yeah, you have to be careful with pets then, like you said, even the ones that live in a cage.
When I was a kid, I used to have a bunch of pet snakes and all that kind of stuff. And they were constantly getting out of the cage and, causing a ruckus.
Sometimes we never even found them. And there would just be snakes loose in the house or the neighbor’s yard.

Deni Supplee:
Even gerbils and things like them, you’d be surprised, by the damage they can do if they get behind the walls chipping away. You want to make sure and ask specifically what kind of pet, not just whether they have pets. Always ask what kind.

Brian Davis:
All right. Deni, other than charging a higher security deposit or charging a non-refundable pet fee upfront or ongoing pet rent, what are some other things that landlords can do to protect themselves from some of these risks of pet-owning renters?

Deni Supplee:
The main thing is the lease. The lease is going to protect. And for you to have the proper information for the lease, you want to make sure, you know what kind of pet it’s going to be. And then, assign the rules for that. For instance, maybe only allow people with fish aquariums on the first floor but know, the number of gallons in the tank, right?
There could be, also issues with your insurance company. I don’t think an insurance company would even allow an alligator because they could be dangerous and hurt a child. And depending on the different state or local laws the landlord could be responsible for allowing them.
Ask your insurance company and I would also check local laws. Some local laws won’t allow certain types of snakes, alligators, pigs, goats, or you name it. There are certain towns, with a lot of restrictions on what a household pet may be. My husband had an alligator and we ended up having to get rid of it because of that.

Brian Davis:
So I’m from Baltimore. And in Baltimore, they passed laws that make the landlord liable legally for pit bulls and a couple of other breeds of large, sometimes aggressive dogs. If a renter’s dog attacks someone and it’s one of those named breeds, the landlord is liable.
The reason they did this was that they wanted to outlaw pit bulls and some of these other breeds, but that was politically infeasible. What they did instead was shoved the blame onto the landlord. Making the landlord liable with the assumption that landlords would stop allowing these breeds.
If they’re liable or if landlords weren’t informed enough to follow the laws, the officials have someone who’s amazingly easy to collect from.

Deni Supplee:
I hate to say it, but the landlord is demonized because we look like the bad ones that are making this rule of no pit bulls up. It’s not always the case.

Brian Davis:
There is a small percentage of the population are landlords, right? And a huge percentage of the population are renters. So, it’s politically convenient and expedient to make landlords the bad guy. Which, we just saw yesterday with the eviction moratorium extended another three months.

Deni Supplee:
Yeah. We get it on all ends, literally. Anyway, you want to make sure to have a pet policy. Be knowledgeable of what your locations permit. Our lease for Spark Rental contains a pet addendum that goes into pretty good detail.
And it’s also very editable. If you might be in one of those rural areas where you can have an ocelot, make sure you have a strict policy.

Brian Davis:
So even if landlords do have, a thorough and protective lease agreement in writing, signed with a tenant; how do they enforce their pet policies and protect themselves that way?

Deni Supplee:
Well, one of the things that you must do, especially if it’s a dangerous situation or the rental is in a tenant-friendly location, is to get right on it. Especially if it’s dangerous. I would reach out directly to the tenant or visit them and let them know that this is permitted! Bring the lease with you with the pet policy and show them in writing, the specific violation. Tell them, “I see that you have this. Alligator. Not once did you tell me that you had an alligator in this apartment and it’s not allowed in this township and for that reason, you have to get rid of it now? And then stay on top of the situation and make sure that they get rid of it. And if it is an illegal animal in that location, then contact the authorities and have them deal with it, just to be sure that it’s taken care of. And don’t get me wrong. I’m not anti-animal or anything. I’m not a fan of alligators, but I certainly don’t hate them. You gotta keep yourself protected.

Brian Davis:
Well, this is, this is a perfect example of why landlords or their property managers need to inspect their rental units every six months. So that you can look for illegally brought-in pets. Right? And if your lease says no pets. And you walk in, in the inspection and there’s dog hair everywhere, you now know, you have a problem. And other lease violations too, of course. You have that deadbeat boyfriend who has moved in without your knowledge or maybe the tenant is just trashing your property and abusing it. And it’s also a good opportunity for you to look for needed repairs and maintenance well and catch those kinds of issues early before they become expensive. But this is exactly why landlords need to inspect every single rental unit every six months.

Deni Supplee:
And don’t let these things slide because the more you do that the harder it is to enforce it. So, if you happen to be driving by and you see a giraffe in the yard, get right on that. Because if you don’t, it gets worse the longer they have it. Stay on top of your renters., Send the letters, notices, emails, or call them; whatever it takes! Make sure that they follow through be a pest until they get rid of the pet.

Brian Davis:
And we do have a pet violation notice. It’s free on our landlord software. So, feel free to log in, create a free account on our online landlord software, SparkRental.com and create an unauthorized pet notice to the tenant. It’ll auto-fill in your saved rental unit information and your saved tenant information.
All you have to do is click download and, and you can print it out.

Deni Supplee:
And you’ll see, there are free leases on there. There’s the lease with the pet addendum and some other addenda’s as well.

Brian Davis:
And disclosures for all 50 States.

Deni Supplee:
Yes and for some cities too.
All right.

Brian Davis:
Well, before we announced the winner of the Mashvisor giveaway Deni, is there anything else that you want to raise regarding the issue of pets and why landlords should allow pets but should protect themselves very aggressively as well?

Deni Supplee:
Like we said earlier, allowing pets can be lucrative. It can bring in extra money. But you also want to make sure that you’re being proactive instead of reactive. Do the inspections, make sure you have a good lease and, and get all the information. Don’t assume anything.
I had somebody who had a cat in a unit. The cat passed away and they got a dog. And I found out they had a dog because the dog was barking, and I got a complaint. So, I went to them and they said, well, we already were allowed to pet. I said, well, the pet was a cat. and cats don’t bark.

Brian Davis:
Yeah. So, your lease should have a specific. section naming the exact animal that you have allowed to live there and only that named animal is allowed to live there. That should be written in black and white in your lease.
All right, you want to give away this Mashvisor subscription?

Deni Supplee:
Sure do!

Brian Davis:
It’s three months premium access to Mashvisor, which, if you’re not familiar with, by the way, is an awesome analytics tool to help you identify good markets and neighborhoods to invest in. They have great data on cap rates down to the neighborhood level. And they can help you compare cap rates, not just for long-term winners, but also for short-term, Airbnb rentals. They’ve got calculators that help you compare the returns for any given property, long-term versus short-term Airbnb rental usage, and a ton of other, just nifty features in there.
Alright, Deni, you got the names ready and a hat to draw them out of?

Deni Supplee:
I don’t have a hat and I have a cup. Brian where’s that drum roll?
And it goes to Quentin Thomas! He is the winner! Congratulations, Quentin Thomas, and Tara will be getting in touch with you to give you all that information.

Brian Davis:
All right, guys. Well, we will wrap it up at this point. We’ll see you next Tuesday at 2:00 PM. Eastern 11:00 AM Pacific. And in the meantime, let us know what you want to hear about next week.
It’s all about you guys. This is not just about us and. Stay in touch. Don’t be a stranger. That’s right. Have a good one. You guys we’ll see you soon.

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