This topic is widely debated among landlord circles, I venture to say it's one of the hottest landlord buttons. If you ever want to ruffle some feathers at a Landlord networking event, voice a strong opinion on Pet Policy.
BB French's opinion on Pet Policy is the Standard Pet Policy at Fresh Look Management:
Up to 2 pets allowed with a 30 pound per pet weight limit.
Benefits of Allowing Pets in Your Rental Property
Wider Tenant Pool
The first and most obvious benefit is a wider tenant pool. Many people have pets for a variety of reasons, when searching for housing, these people use search filters that allow pets. This article from Seattle Magazine cites a fun statistic:
There are more dogs in Seattle than there are children.
No one is going to get rid of their pets in order to live at your property. When you do not allow pets, these renters do not even consider your property as a place to live.
Reduce Turn Over
Moving is more expensive and difficult for a pet owner. When you have a pet owner tenant, they will stay longer, reducing your turn over & vacancy loss.
Existing tenants will appreciate the option of being able to add a pet later if they choose:
- I've had a tenant move out because she was not allowed to get a dog.
- I've had a tenant move out and into her boyfriends apartment. They were moving in together, he had a dog, they preferred to move into her existing apartment at my building, but the owner had a No Dog policy, so we lost a 2+ year tenant.
Dealing with the Liability
How Much Damage do Pets Cause?
Firepaw, an animal advocacy non-profit, conducted a study regarding Pet Policies. They found that 85% of landlords permitting pets reported having some amount of pet-related damage at some time.
The data suggests there is little difference in damage between tenants with or without pets. In this study, the biggest differences in damage from tenants with pets and those without was under $40, with an average for $323 in damage for tenants without pets and average of $362 for tenants with pets.
Increase Income to Off Set Expense
Because pets will increase the cost of the turn over, we charge a Pet Rent to off set the expense. After this tenant moves out, we replace carpets to prevent any allergy issues with the next tenant. Rather than attempt to justify this and withhold a deposit, we simply explain this is the policy and that is why we charge a monthly Pet Rent.
I don't like pet deposit and prefer Pet Rent. How can I prove the damage was caused by the dog and not the tenant? I really have no way of knowing who actually peed on the carpet.
Most tenants will prefer Pet Rent to increased security deposit because it will reduce their move in costs, again increasing your tenant base.
Cats versus Dogs
Some landlords swear by a cat only policy. Others can show you documented proof that cats cause more damage than dogs.
I choose to remain neutral on the topic. Both animals can cause damage and pet dander & hair will end up in the carpets. The weight limit reduces the security issue presented by dogs.
| Truthfully, there are no bad pets, just bad owners.
Another hot topic among landlords, tenants, and animal rights advocates. Many properties will allow pets, but not allow 'Aggressive Breeds' providing a list of unapproved breeds.
I've found this approach to be problematic. First of all, any breed can be aggressive depending on the situation. Secondly, most dogs are not pure bred breed.
I've had tenants tell me they are moving in a 'mostly lab' that looks amazingly similar to a pit bull. When asked, they state the obvious "it's a mixed breed."
- How am I supposed to prove it's more pit bull than lab? To make matters more complicated, the dog was totally fine. There was no reason to make a big issue of it, other than not wanting all the neighbors to go out and buy pit bulls!
Rather than a breed restriction, we do a weight restriction. This is objective, no room for debate on this issue. No, I don't carry a dog scale in my car. You can usually estimate the weight of a dog, if its close, I've requested vet papers which will state the dog's weight at their last check up.
| How many cats is too many cats?
I suppose it depends on who you ask, but for our purposes the answer is three. 3 cats is too many. 3 dogs is too many. Our tenants are allowed to have 2 pets in any combination they desire.
- I've never experienced an issue with this policy.
Pet Friendly Ads Get More Traffic
Rental advertisements that are pet friendly get more views. There are key actions you can take to ensure your pet friendly rental advertisement shows up correctly and highlights the pet friendly features.
By pointing out the aspects that make it ‘pet-friendly’ in your listing, you’ll attract more potential renters rather than alienate the 61% of American households that have a pet!
The Power of Pets
Whether a dog person, a cat person, or someone who prefers the company of another pet species, 99% of pet owners say that they consider their animal to be family. When finding a home, 95% of animal owners believe it is important that a housing community allows animals.
A recent study by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) revealed that there are many aspects of the home search experience that are greatly impacted by American’s love for their pets.
This should come as no surprise as $66.75 billion was spent on pets in the U.S in 2016, with $70 billion projected for 2017. NAR’s President William E. Brown shed some light on the impact of pet owners and their home search,
“In 2016, 61 percent of U.S. households either have a pet or plan to get one in the future, so it is important to understand the unique needs and wants of animal owners."
Still not convinced? Consider the following Pet Statistics:
- 89% of pet owners say they would not give up their pet due to a housing restriction
- 81% of Americans say their pets play a role in their housing situation
- 31% of animal owners have refused to put in an offer on a home because it wasn’t a good fit for their animals
- 19% of Americans say they would consider moving for their pet
- 12% percent have moved for their pet
Make your Advertisement Stand Out
The most important item is to ensure your advertisement has the "Pet Friendly" box checked. Whatever internet site you are using-- Zillow, Trulia, Hotpads, etc-- each have an option to include pets.
This is a vital step because pet owners will filter ads out of their search that are not pet friendly.
Secondly, include your complete Rental Property Pet Policy in your rental advertisement. Are there additional fees / deposits? Weight / pet type / breed restrictions?
Finally, point out features of your property that are Pet Friendly, such as :
- Fully fenced in backyard – (91% of pet owners ranked this as the most important feature of a home to accommodate their pet)
- Locations of dog parks/walking paths/pet-friendly beaches in the area - (71% ranked this as the top feature of any neighborhood they would consider)
- Proximity to veterinarians / groomers / pet supply stores - (31% ranked this as the top feature of any neighborhood they would consider)
Renters love their pets and will look for pet-friendly features in the home they wish to rent, so take advantage of this knowledge by pointing out your properties ability to meet their needs.
If you decide to restrict the policy to No Pets, that is your decision. The property may sit on market a little longer, but eventually it will be rented. If you decide you love animals and people who have pets, you can go with the most liberal pet policy of all - No weight, breed, or number restrictions! Bring all the animals! You will likely rent your unit in 2 days.
Fresh Look Management prefers a happy medium to increase the tenant pool, accommodate reasonable pet requests from existing tenants, and off set the liability with restrictions and Pet Rent.