Pets are a part of life for many Americans. In fact, The Humane Society of the United States reports that more than 164 million Americans own pets. When you're seeking tenants, you don't want to rule out this large subset of the population by banning pets from your unit. At the same time, you don't want a dog or cat to damage your rental. The key, then, is offering a pet-friendly unit with an ironclad lease that protects your rental from potential damage. Several methods allow you to protect your investment and attract pet owners at the same time.
Pet Security Deposit
You probably already collect a security deposit from your tenant to help fund any potential repairs. If your tenant has a dog or cat, consider adding a pet security deposit to the lease as well. This deposit might not be as high as a full month's rent, but you might charge several hundred dollars so that your tenant can have a furry friend. You can make this deposit refundable (pending a thorough inspection of the unit when the tenant vacates) or nonrefundable. This security deposit can go toward any cleaning expenses or structural repairs, such as erasing scratches on the door or walls.
Consider the pet another tenant and charge pet rent. Specify precisely how much rent you intend to charge per month for the pet. This pet rent is typically established in lieu of a pet deposit. Tenants might prefer a modest monthly pet rent fee rather than paying a lump sum security deposit upon move-in. Thus, in a competitive rental market, pet rent can be an appealing option and may help you attract tenants. Consider setting the rent based on the pet's size. For example, a larger and potentially more destructive dog might carry a higher monthly rent than a small cat.
Add language to your lease that specifies the condition in which the tenant must leave the unit. For example, you might request that tenants with pets have the carpets professionally cleaned before vacating the property. On the other hand, you may prefer to have the carpets cleaned yourself, in which case you will want to note that the cost of carpet cleaning will be deducted from the security or pet deposit. Also, the lease should list specific pet-related damages like chewed windowsills, scratched doors, or holes in the walls and explain that the tenant is responsible for the cost of such repairs.
Penalties for Unreported Pets
In your lease, you should also make the effort to deter tenants from not reporting their pets and paying the specified deposits and rents. Consider adding language to your lease that stipulates that the tenant will be assessed an unreported pet fee or have to pay for past months of pet rent should you find an animal living in the unit. This clause will encourage tenants to be upfront with you, which will allow you to collect the necessary fees to protect your unit from potential damage.
Welcoming pet owners into your rental unit broadens your options for tenants. Creating a lease that specifically addresses the problems that pets may cause allows you to confidently hand over the keys to a pet owner, knowing that your investment is well protected in case of pet damage.
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