Landlords who lease to pet owners open up an array of new renters who are ready and willing to pay top dollar for a happy home for their furry friends. However, many property owners look askance at dogs and cats, deeming them dirty and destructive. While it's true that some pet owners are negligent and some pets may be destructive, this isn't always the case. It's usually a good idea to rent to pet owners, as long as you take a few necessary precautions. If you follow the guidelines below, your lease will likely be a success.
1. Know which pets will be living in your home.
If you decide to rent to pet owners, don't just rent to any pet owner. Ask owners for specifics about their pets—what breed are they? How large are they? How old are they? (Puppies tend to be more destructive than older dogs, so age is important.) You'll also want to know the total number of pets that will be living in the house. If the property has a backyard, you might also ask how many pets will be living in the house and how many will be outdoor animals, as outdoor animals tend to be less of a problem for property owners. When you get the specifics, put them in writing and also state that the renter must inform you of any new pets.
2. Ban some pet types if they make you uneasy.
Many owners allow most pets but prohibit certain types or breeds. For example, you might only allow small dogs under a certain weight limit, or you may only be comfortable with cats. There might be certain breeds of dogs that make you uneasy (For example, if chihuahuas make you cringe, don't allow them. After all, you have the final say.) You can place limits on pets and still attract a wealth of renters.
3. Ask to see veterinarian records.
Responsible pet owners keep their pets vaccinated. It's not unreasonable for landlords to request these records. Current immunizations protect the tenant, the pets, the neighbors, and you. Pet owners who are responsible enough to keep their pets up to date on shots are generally responsible enough to prevent their pets from being destructive as well.
4. Verify your insurance coverage.
Before you advertise your rentals as pet-friendly, make sure your insurance policy is pet-friendly, too. Most policies have no problem with pets, but some have their own sets of requirements that you'll need to keep in mind as you rent the unit.
5. Add a clause to your lease agreement that explains pet conditions.
Everything you decide and communicate to your tenants should be explained clearly in a pet clause within the lease, including breeds, requirements, etc. If the tenant breaks any of the rules you discussed, you will have better legal recourse.
6. Charge an extra damage deposit.
In addition to your regular damage deposit fee, you should also charge a pet deposit, preferably one per pet. The average fee varies greatly from one city to the next, so check with other property managers in your area for a good idea of the going rate. This deposit should be reasonable enough that pet owners will be willing to pay it, but high enough to cover any damage their pets may cause to your home. Many cities or states have maximum amounts you can charge by law, so check with your jurisdiction for guidelines.
7. Consider charging higher rent.
Because rentals that allow pets are in high demand, it's possible to charge higher rent for your unit. Consider raising the price a bit and see how many interested applicants you get. You can always lower the price if no one bites (pun intended) at your offer.
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