Roughly 44 percent of all U.S. households have a dog and 35 percent have a cat, according to an American Pet Products Association survey from 2015-2016. So every landlord who is considering allowing pets on their rental property, must make sure they have clear rules and regulations in order to avoid damage or legal complications. As a landlord, you are entitled to decide whether you want to allow your tenants to have pets on your rental property. There are as many different pet policies as there are landlords, but some smart guidelines will help you avoid a headache.
When it comes to furry friends, there is only one universal rule: come up with a clear policy before you even sign a lease agreement with your first tenant. Sometimes, pets could mean fleas, stains, odors, noise or damage and all these might not only cause trouble with your other tenants, but also affect your maintenance budget. Here are a few things you should definitely state in your lease agreement or pet addendum:
1.Always include a pet policy in your lease
Pet agreements should be part of your lease and signed even by non-pet owners. By signing this document, tenants accept that their tenancy depends on honoring these rules. Moreover, if a tenant gets a pet later, they already know what is expected of them.
2.Types of pets allowed
The pet agreement should clearly specify which types of pets are allowed. Usually, common domesticated animals such as dogs, cats, fish, guinea pigs, birds, rabbits, hamsters, gerbils or small reptiles are accepted. The document should also indicate any limit to the number of pets allowed, breeds considered dangerous or weight restrictions. Moreover, make sure you stipulate whether you allow only tenants’ pets or also their visitors’ pets. Also, make it clear you have to approve any animal that will live in the apartment.
3.Health and security
State and/or local ordinances require certain cat and dog vaccinations and licenses. Make sure all tenants understand that their four-legged friends must wear identification collars or tags, which include proof of current vaccinations. Always insist that tenants give you updated proof that they’ve complied.
Because of security reasons, tenants should agree to keep their pets under control at all times, so that they don’t bother other residents. Ask tenants to clean up after their pets, both inside their apartment and in common areas. Leaving pets outdoors or unsupervised in the apartment for an unreasonable period of time should also be forbidden. Make sure they keep their small reptiles in terrariums and birds in cages. Additionally, in order to reduce the risk that a tenant’s pet will cause injuries to other residents, consider requiring your tenants to carry renters’ liability insurance, if your state and local law allows it.
If permitted by your state’s laws, you should consider imposing a refundable pet fee in addition to the normal security deposit. This might make your renters pay more attention to their pets’ behavior. Be sure to include the amount of the pet deposit in your pet policy. You may also want to include what you consider damage, such as carpet stains, scratches etc.
One caveat: Never impose a pet deposit or fee for a resident who keeps a service or companion animal. Such animals aren’t pets, they are needed to accommodate a disability. When animals are fulfilling the role of an assistant, service or companion, there are completely different rules and regulations that apply.
You may want to modify your pet policy from time to time, depending on different situations. In order to easily make a change, state that you have the right to amend the rules by giving residents reasonable notice, typically 30 days.