How to Set Pet Fees for a Tenant

Are you having trouble finding tenants for your rental property? One of the easiest ways to open your home up to a new market is to allow pets. Tenants with pets often cause less damage than tenants with children, so as long as there aren't allergy concerns, you've got a good chance of getting your rental unit off the market quickly! Setting the pet fees for your unit then becomes important so that you can easily repair any damage that a pet may cause without having to go to court or collections to get your money back. Here's a few things to consider in setting pet fees:

Should you charge a non-refundable pet fee? Some landlords utilize a fee to allow pets because this gives them immediate money in the bank for repairs if they need to happen. The stipulation on the fee can usually be pretty basic as well: this fee is to simply allow for the luxury of pets on your property. Any damage caused by the pet that needs to be repaired comes from the security deposit or from a direct charge. It's smart, however, to keep this fee on hand and let it build interest just in case your tenants flake out on you later on.

What about pet rent? Some tenants might balk at having to pay a fee for their pet, but they don't mind paying a few extra dollars per month in rent to have their pets. If you want a $350 fee and you can't get a tenant, why not try adding $30 in pet rent instead to see what kind of response you might get? A lot of families who rent might not have the lump sum fee and will look elsewhere. Most families can afford the $30 per month for their pets and find that to be more of an investment.

Are you adding requirements to the security deposit? Every pet that is allowed on a rental property brings with them the potential of damage. That means every pet should also have an associated increase in the security deposit to cover these potential problems. A standard increase per pet usually falls between $300 to $500, but it is important to note that the deposit is refundable. Don't fall into the trap of just taking the money because it's there like some landlords do – if the pets do no damage, then smile big and hand back the deposit.

Do you charge for damage to items you've taken on depreciation? One of the most common mistakes that landlords make in charging pet fees is that they'll overcharge the cost of the repair and put themselves at risk for litigation. A new carpet, for example, depreciates fully in about 7-10 years depending on local guidelines. Pets can make a mess out of a carpet! If that carpet is more than 10 years old, however, you'll find it difficult to legally charge the pet owner for the full replacement cost. In this scenario, if you must replace a 9 year old carpet because of excessive damage, then you could charge the tenant 10% of the replacement cost and for any cleaning that is required.

Do you have a lot of woodwork in your home? If there's a lot of trim in your home, windowsills, and door frames that have wood, then you'll want to consider adding more to your security deposit requirements for pet owners. A good idea is to take stock of each item that would need to be replaced and then put that full cost into the security deposit. Structural items are different than comfort items, like carpet, and so they fit into a different category.

With a little planning and effort, you can set good pet policies that will get your unit rented quickly. Take these under consideration today and maybe you'll have a new tenant by tomorrow!

Posted on May 15, 2014


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