Tips for Landlords Considering Pets

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No one knows better than you that tenant turnover is expensive. With a low supply of pet-friendly rentals, housing that allows pets tends to rent more quickly, and households with pets tend to remain in their apartments longer than other renters. Consider including pets in your lease up plan and save time, money and effort finding a new tenant. To make your transition easier, we have some recommendations to create a harmonious pet-friendly community.

Create Clear Pet Policies

Pet policies are intended to address the respective needs of management, pet-owning tenants and non-pet-owning tenants, as well as the needs of the pets themselves. A policy should aim to create a harmonious co-existence of everyone living and working at the property by fostering respect, cooperation and consideration. A policy should clearly lay out the expectations and agreements made.

Thinking About Breed Restrictions?

Are you thinking about prohibiting specific dog breeds? Screening dogs based upon their individual personalities and histories has been shown to be a more effective and accurate method for reducing dog-related liability, rather than prohibiting certain breeds altogether. Numerous governmental and non-governmental entities have adopted laws or policies consistent with this data. These include the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Bar Association and the American Veterinary Medical Association, as well as hundreds of states and local jurisdictions. The ASPCA strongly recommends that landlords reject breed-restrictive policies in favor of an objective, breed-neutral policy focused on the history and behavior of the individual dog.

Before Tenancy

Request references from people who are in a position to provide an unbiased assessment of the pet, including prior landlords and neighbors, trainers, daycare staff and veterinarians. A reference check will allow you to quickly find out if the tenant has a good rental history and maintained their prior home in good condition.

Create and Utilize a Lease Addendum

In order avoid surprises to you or your tenant, consider using a lease addendum or pet agreement as part of your contract with your tenant. The addendum should be signed by both parties and should clearly lay out all your expectations. There are great examples of pet agreements online, or consult your legal counsel.

For Prospective Tenants with Assistance Animals

Federal Fair Housing laws prohibit discrimination in the rental of a dwelling as a result of disability. Discrimination includes “a refusal to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services, when such accommodations may be necessary to afford such person equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling.” This includes a request that an assistance animal be permitted in rental housing. Under fair housing laws, an assistance animal is not considered a pet and is, therefore, not subject to pet prohibitions or restrictions, including the payment of pet deposits. Please consult your state’s fair housing and accommodation laws for further guidance.

Know Your Furry Tenants

Ask your prospective tenant to bring their pet for a meet and greet. Once a tenant and their pet are accepted, request photos and other identifying information about the pet to keep on file.

Set Clear Pet Rules for Common Areas

 Be clear about your expectations for pet owners in common areas, too. Designate at least one common area for pets to relieve themselves. Require pet waste to be appropriately removed by the pet owner  and consider a small fine for those violating the requirement. Pet waste bags should be provided, and pets should be restrained (cats and dogs must be leashed) when on development property outside the owner’s apartment. If there is a designated, fenced pet-walking area, pets could be unrestrained in those areas.

Thinking Ahead

What if a tenant has a medical or other emergency and leaves their pet? Prior to the tenant moving in, ask them to provide the name and contact information for a caretaker who will assume responsibility for their pet(s) should the owner become unable to care for the pet. This information should be updated annually.

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