Updated January 1, 1 . AmFam Team
With so many young tenants seeking pet-friendly spaces to live, you may be wise to open your doors to dogs and cats. But you’ll need to do it in a way that protects your property and safeguards others as well. Navigating the pros and cons of allowing pets in your rental can be difficult, so we’ve put together this guide to help you make the right call.
There are many reasons why opening your rental up to pets can be great for your tenant and your bottom line. Non-profit animal-advocacy foundation, firepaw.org, conducted an in-depth study of what motivates pet-owning renters and how a “pets ok” policy impacts the average landlord’s finances. Take a look at their findings and learn why allowing pets in your rental property can be a good idea, and even better for your business:
Pet-friendly spaces are in high demand. A little more than half of the rentals in the US allow pets. By allowing pets into your rental you’re effectively opening up your rental to twice the amount of applications you’d see otherwise.
Pet-friendly rentals foster tenant loyalty. Once a tenant knows that their rental is a good fit for their four-legged friends, they’re less likely to move. According to Firepaw’s study, pet-friendly rentals saw exponentially higher rates of renewal, with an average lease time of 46 months. Now, contrast that against rentals that didn’t allow pets. The average lease extended only 18 months — it’s easy to see why allowing pets has advantages.
They experience shorter vacancy rates. Housing that allowed pets saw a four percent reduction in vacancies compared to those that had a “no pets allowed” policy.
They spend less on marketing costs. Real cost savings were measured in advertising, where pet-friendly homes and apartments saved landlords more than fifty percent versus rentals that didn't allow pets.
Pet-friendly rental damage is nominally higher. The average amount of damage from tenancies where pets were allowed was around $362, compared to an average of $323 at “no pets allowed” spaces. The difference in that average amount is less than $40 annually.
Higher rent rates for allowing pets can increase net income. Because landlords charge more for pets, they average a net benefit of around $2,700 annually. This is compared to similar rentals that don’t allow pets. It’s clear that allowing pets has opened rental spaces to thousands of extra dollars annually!
Aside from additional wear and tear that your rental may experience by allowing pets, there are a few drawbacks:
Your liability exposure will be a bit higher. Your insurance company will suggest that your rental business carry a commercial umbrella liability insurance policy in case a tenant’s dog bites someone. Most landlords were able to make up that cost within the first month. That’s because of the increase in the rental rate for allowing pets.
Noise complaints are common. Landlords report that rentals which allow pets sometimes are the target of noise complaints, as dogs do like to bark. Most of the time, terms in the lease can be written to manage noise issues. By delivering verbal warnings and levying fines, most tenants will work to keep their pets quiet.
A large percentage of landlords reported some damage. Around 80 percent of landlords found damage to their rental unit at some time while the space was rented to pet owners. Most also reported that the increased security deposit more than covered the costs to remediate that damage.
Tenants will keep pets in the rental anyway. A surprising revelation was made when data came back indicating that almost twenty percent of “no pets allowed” tenants kept pets in the rental illegally. Landlords were left without an additional security deposit, and didn’t benefit from charging extra for pets either.
Consider writing terms in the lease that require additional rent and pet deposits for tenants discovered to have pets living on site. Additional fines and retroactive rent increases can be imposed against tenants attempting to skirt the terms in your lease.
Here’s more good news. Almost half of the landlords and property managers stated that they’ve never experienced any pet damage from companion or service animals. That’s almost a 35 percent reduction in damage compared to landlords allowing pets of any kind.
Some landlords have elected to screen for this type of potential tenant first when allowing pet owners into their rentals. Be sure to have your real estate attorney verify that your lease is in compliance with the Fair Housing Act and other state laws and local codes.
If you’re considering offering your rental to pet owners, there are a few thing you can do to minimize added wear and tear and prevent pet damage in your rental unit:
Require renters insurance. By building terms in your lease that mandates tenants to have renters insurance, you’ll be insulating your finances from loss. If the tenant causes damage and can’t afford to pay the total amount, they’ll be more likely to pay for the deductible of a covered loss. That way, your space gets restored and the tenant can afford to continue living in your rental.
Install vinyl flooring across the space. More than just extremely durable, fluid-impermeable vinyl flooring is affordable and can help contain pet accidents. Because a tight seal connects the pieces of this flooring together, pet urine and odors are less likely to be trapped in the floor. And clean-up is much easier. Investing a little time between tenants to upgrade your space can help preserve and protect it.
Paint the unit with semi-gloss paint. Applying a coat of paint that cleans up easily can help keep the space sparkling clean. Consider painting doorways, walls and common areas with this type of paint to keep repainting costs down over the years.
Require a pet interview when tenant screening. By working with pet owners and fortifying your lease, you can prevent some issues. Write terms that require a “pet meet and greet” and you can help to screen out dogs with aggressive dispositions. Or, some landlords will only allow pets that are spayed or neutered, and weigh less than 40 pounds in their rental.
Write terms mandating frequent inspections. Pet problems, when left untended, can damage your unit. By frequently checking in on the rental, the tenant will be more likely to keep the place clean.
Require a professional cleaning upon exiting the lease. Specify a professional cleaning service will be required to scour the rental upon your tenant’s move out. Collect that fee upon signing.
Establish pet waste elimination zones on your property. Define terms in your lease that require the tenant to walk their dog only in marked areas. Also require them to clean up after their pet each and every time, or face fines.
And there you have it! With all the benefits of allowing pets come a few more responsibilities, but the financial advantages are there as well.
While you’re crafting your rental’s pet policy, be sure to check in with your American Family Insurance agent (Opens in a new tab) and update your coverage to accommodate pets as necessary. You’ll find that having the right policy for your real estate investment offers real peace of mind. With the knowledge that you’ve insured your property carefully, you’re free to pursue your financial goals.