Is Your Pet Policy Putting You in the Dog House?
I know this is not going to be a popular statement, but I am not a pet person. While I grew up loving the numerous dogs and cats we had as pets, it was not until I became a homeowner that my self-diagnosed OCD kicked in, and the mess that came with domestic animals outweighed my love of them.
When it came time to rent out our first home, I told our property manager that we did not want to allow pets in the home. As it neared the end of the PCS season, I was concerned that we had not yet rented our home. Our property manager indicated that it was likely due to our pet policy. While we eventually found a family to rent our home, it was not the last time that we would face this same dilemma. We now advertise our homes as having an “upon approval” pet policy and to date; every family we have rented to has had a pet.
This past weekend, we received an email from one of our customers who was concerned about the fact that they had yet to rent their home despite the high number of page views they had received. While they have a beautiful home in a great location, they were advertising their home with a “no pet policy”. Is it possible that this was the reason their home had not rented yet?
Whether or not you choose to allow tenants with pets is a very personal decision and one that may be made for health reasons, such as serious allergic reactions. However, according to Marine Property Management in Stafford Virginia, having a “no pet policy” on your rental home could limit your potential market by as much as 75%. A staggering statistic considering how many homeowners, having been forced into the rental market due to decreased sale prices, cannot afford to cover the mortgage on a vacant home.
Landlords that prefer to rent to tenants without pets, but choose an “upon approval” approach instead, may opt to require an additional deposit or “pet rent”. Many refer to deposits of this nature as “non-refundable”, however because a deposit refers to refundable monies held for the length of the lease, unless used for damage to the property, then referring to a deposit as “non-refundable” is not necessarily an accurate description. Rather, requiring a “pet fee” that is intended to cover damage done to the property by a pet may be more appropriate. Conventional wisdom would argue that making a pet fee refundable might entice the tenant to be more fastidious in the care of the home rather than tenants figuring they have already paid for damage whether it occurs or not.
Defining how the pet deposit will be applied to any damage done to the home within the lease agreement affords clarity for both landlord and tenant, which may help to eliminate disputes when the lease agreement expires.
Many landlords view charging a non-refundable pet deposit as an easy way to pocket a few hundred dollars, but maybe it should be viewed as another way to create a positive relationship between you and your tenant. It has been my experience as a landlord, that the more respect you show your tenants, the more respect they will show your home.
If you intend on including a pet policy within your lease agreement, be sure to review the laws of your state, city, and county regarding the legality of additional fees and deposits beforehand. Ensure you are using the correct forms for your state by downloading state specific legal forms from our partner, USLegalForms.com.
We have prepared 10 pet tips for landlords, take a look.