According to research (Zillow.com), 48% of renters list allowing pets as a requirement for renting a home or apartment. While many tenants consider a pet to be a cat or dog, some tenants may also have some unusual, but legal pets as well! Allowing pets to live in your properties comes with associated risks, yes, but landlords can easily manage those risks with a good pet policy in place. With that, we recommend as a landlord that you allow you Harford County residents to bring pets with them. However, we also recommend you pay attention to the pros and cons. Read on to learn more.
Pros and Cons of Allowing Pets in Your Harford County, MD Rental Property
There are plenty of benefits and pros of allowing pets, but also some cons. The cons shouldn’t scare a landlord away from allowing pets, but be in their mind when developing policies and pet addendums in the lease.
- Larger Tenant Pool: Taking into account the statistic above regarding how many individuals require pets to be allowed when finding a home or apartment to rent, the tenant pool and number of prospects will be much more significant if you choose to allow pets on the property. Nearly 50% more individuals may be interested in your property with favorable pet policies in place.
- Happier Tenants: People love pets, and tenants are more comfortable when they can bring their pets with them. However, they may also be pleased if they choose to buy a pet while living on the property and know it is allowed. So, happiness applies to both prospects and current tenants.
- Higher Renewal Rates: Again, whether they moved in with a pet or got one while if this is important to them, and you have kept them and their pets happy, they are likely to renew. Plus, they won’t have to leave and search for a new pet-friendly property, which makes things easier for them!
- Increased Income Potential: Pet fees can vary depending on the type of pet and how many pets, but regardless there are pet fees you will apply to the lease monthly. People expect these as all properties tend to have them so that it won’t be a deterrent to leasing. Therefore, on top of rent collection, you will be collecting additional rent each month for allowing pets. Extra money is always good for a landlord.
- Aggressive Breeds: Some breeds are deemed to be more aggressive than others. Aggressive breeds may cause neighbors to be uneasy and could also lead to property damages or another pet or tenant getting injured. We will discuss below how to avoid this, though!
- Pet Related Damage: Intentional or not, pets do tend to cause at least some damage to the home. Pet-related damage can include soiled carpets, chewed woodwork or cabinets, damage to landscaping including holes in the ground, or damage to the grass. Larger breeds also tend to cause more damage due to their size and weight.
- Pet Related Cleaning Expenses: The good news is when a tenant moves out, there is always a turnover, which generally includes a deep clean. However, if pets have lived there, it may be a bit dirtier, depending on how well the tenant took care of the property. Pet-related damage could result in a more expensive turnover, clean and carpet replacements. In some instances, you may also need to have the air ducts cleaned to prevent allergies for future tenants.
Pet Policy Tips to Protect You and Your Rental Property
The following pet policy tips will help protect your property from the cons mentioned above.
- Pet Limit: Limit the number of pets that a tenant can have to 2. Two is the standard pet allowance number for most properties. Any more than two pets can cause more damage and mess, as discussed above. Be clear about the number of pets allowed and ask the tenant how many they have before moving in.
- Size Restrictions: Limiting the size of pets will help with the damage that often comes along with larger pets such as damage to floors and yards. For example, some landlords limit pets to under 50lbs.
- Breed Restrictions: Many landlords opt to restrict aggressive breeds for reasons of liability. Check with your homeowner’s policy before allowing any aggressive breed, as many companies have restrictions. If you do allow an aggressive breed, consider requiring an insurance addendum that limits that landlord’s liability. Some examples of aggressive breed include:
- Wolf Hybrids
- American Pitbull or Pitbull Hybrids
- Bull Mastiffs
- German Shepards
- Pet Deposits: Always charge a pet deposit in addition to the standard security deposit. A refundable pet deposit provides a greater incentive for pet owners to ensure their pets are not damaging the property. Landlords can only deduct for damage explicitly related to the pet.
- Pet Rent: One of the advantages of allowing pets is the potential for additional income. As pets do increase the regular wear and tear of a home, landlords should consider an additional monthly “pet rent” fee.
- Pet Addendum: With these policies, be sure to have a well-written pet lease addendum. The addendum needs to ask for the weight and breed of the animal and specify the related fees once the tenant signs this if their pet is larger or a different breed than put on the lease, that is grounds to evict them from the property.
Understanding Service Animal and ESA Laws
It is also imperative to know and follow all service animal and ESA Laws when applicable. Learn more about the laws below:
ADA Service Animal
An assistance animal is one that provides a service to a disabled individual, such as a seeing-eye dog. These animals may break the pet policy when it comes to size or breed. However, as they are not a pet but a service, landlords may not discriminate and deny individual housing.
Besides, you cannot charge pet fees or deposits for service animals. They are considered an extension of the tenant and not a pet. Waiving of pet fees and deposits is regarded as a reasonable accommodation. This means if someone with a certified ADA service animal requests the removal of pet fees, the housing company or landlord need to understand and follow the laws surrounding this issue. Also, if the property has a no pet policy, they still must allow those with disability and animal assistance to live on the property. Denying them due to an ADA service animal is discrimination and not allowed under housing laws.
Emotional Support Animals
An ESA is an emotional support animal. This form of assistance is still newer, and policies for housing are changing for these, as many tenants have found ways to take advantage of this system. There are online sites where tenants can purchase a document stating that their family pet is, in fact, an ESA. However, a documented need for an ESA is covered under Fair Housing and the Americans with Disabilities Act. You cannot deny a reasonable accommodation for a tenant with a need for an ESA.
We recommend a standard policy for reviewing all ESA and Service Animal requests. Consider requiring that tenants complete and submit a Request for Reasonable Accommodation. Carefully review each application and verify the information as necessary. To avoid legal trouble, check with your attorney or contact a professional Harford County property management company if you are still unsure.