The Cost-Benefit Analysis of Allowing Pets

Landlords have a hard decision to make when deciding to allow pets.

Permitting them can cause costly property damage, and potentially drive away some renters.

But forbidding them means narrowing the field of potential renters.

Why Forbid Pets?

Most landlords can intuit the main reason why they should forbid pets: they can cause property damage.

Animals can get fur and various fluids everywhere, and that can wreck floors, walls, and furniture.

Dogs can dig up lawns, or create burn marks on grass from their nutrient-rich waste.

Levying a pet deposit can cover that damage on move-out day, but not always.

You may also consider also that many tenants don't like to live with animals in an apartment complex.

They may be allergic to the cat down the hall, or dislike the idea of listening to the Pomeranian yipping all day or skittering around on hardwood floors.

They or their children may even be scared of animals, especially large dogs.

Why Allow Pets?

With all that in mind, why allow pets at all?

The most obvious reason to allow pets is because it opens up your property to a broader range of potential renters, which often more than counteracts those who stay away from pet-friendly residences.

A "no pets, please" notice in a rental ad will automatically cause most pet owners to pass over your place.

If you're having a hard time renting a place out, narrowing your audience like that can be a problem.

Despite all the horror stories above about the damage pets can do to a property, it doesn't happen that often or to catastrophic degrees. Many pets are perfectly well-behaved.

By accepting pets into your properties, you're essentially making a bet that the pet won't cause property damage -- or, if they do, that the pet deposit (plus the pet deposits from owners of better-behaved pets) will cover the damage.

While it may not worry many landlords or property managers, some prospective renters will bristle -- a lot -- if all or even most of your properties are 100% pet-free.

People get very emotionally attached to their pets, and some tenants believe that landlords who allow pets are warmer and more open to compromise.

Especially in a small, tight-knit community, you may get a reputation as a hard-nosed, inconsiderate landlord if you don't allow any animals.

And that brings us to a subtler reason to allow pets: some tenants will try to sneak pets in.

You may not know that Fido or Felix has lived in an apartment until you're cleaning up after a tenant has moved out, and you discover scratch marks or urine stains ... and you never collected a pet deposit to pay for it.

If you ask for pet information and a small, reasonable security deposit, your tenants are more likely to tell you about pets and help you prepare for any damages.

So What Do I Do?

There's no easy answer to this question, and it depends on the landlord and the demographics of prospective tenants. It's a good idea to look at both sides of the question in-depth before rendering a decision.

Keep in mind that even though this issue looks binary, it's not.

You must allow service animals, for example. You can always choose to allow pets at only some of your properties, or permit only some pets.

And if you make a regrettable decision one year and discover it when a tenant moves out, you can always change your policy.


Posted on May 20, 2015


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