A smart pet policy can save the landlord money and help avoid legal proceedings.

Pet Fees, Pet Rent, and What You Need to Know About Pet Policies

One of the most common topics that landlords discuss is their stance on allowing pets in their rental properties. Whether you‘re a lover of four-legged friends or you‘re not fond of furry creatures, the reality is that many renters own pets. In fact, according to the 2021-2022 APPA National Pet Owners Survey, 90.5 million families in the U.S. own at least one pet. That amounts to 70% of all American households.

As a landlord, it will be up to you to decide what your pet policy will be. You will need to decide if pets are allowed, what pet fees, pet rent, or other deposits you will charge, and how you will handle specific breeds. Check out our landlord guide to all things pets, where we’ll also cover the difference between a pet and a service animal.

Choosing To Ban Pets

Some landlords choose to have a “no pet policy”. The reasons for not allowing pets vary from the additional wear and tear on the property to insurance qualms. Dogs and cats alike can cause extra damage to property, and the leftover dander and odors can make it difficult to turn around the property once a tenancy ends. If you decide on a no pet policy, keep in mind the following:

  • Clear Communication: Make sure you clearly outline that pets are not allowed in your lease. When you go over the lease with new tenants, be sure to emphasize the importance of this. By communicating your policy clearly, tenants are less likely to violate the lease. If you have a lease in process and want to add policies around pets, you could consider a lease agreement addendum.
  • Know Your Market: If you’re a landlord in a market where filling vacancies is difficult, recognize that banning pets may make it more difficult to find good tenants. Work on other features that will help your property stand out, since you’ll be vying for a smaller market share of renters.

Information from Insurance Information Institute (Pet Statistics)

Number of households that own a pet.

Allowing Pets: Fees, Rent, and Deposits

If you decide that you will allow pets, start by determining if you will have any restrictions on the type or number of pets. Some landlords have breed restrictions, while others only allow dogs or only allow cats. It‘s also a good idea to require that pets are up-to-date on vaccinations. If you want an excellent jumping off point for incorporating a pet-friendly policy into your rental property, check out tips from the Humane Society.

The Humane Society lists issues with finding pet-friendly housing as one of the top reasons why pets are surrendered to shelters, which is a great reason for you to create a pet-friendly property with a solid list of expectations.

Start With The Rental Application

Make sure your property listing is clear about what types of pets are allowed at your property, including uncommon pets like hamsters or reptiles. Some landlords will exclude certain breeds with a history of aggression, such as pit bulls, or they’ll put a weight limit in place for any animals to ensure that you don’t end up with a horse in your rental’s living room.

When someone applies to your property, be sure you get information about the prospective tenant‘s pet, what breed it is, and details about its temperament. Use an online rental application that allows you to tailor questions around the pet details.

Resumes and Interviews

As crazy as it may sound, many landlords who are pet friendly ask potential tenants to provide a pet resume when they apply to the rental property. This resume can be as simple as a little more information about their dog and a reference from a previous landlord, vouching for the pet in question. It’s also common for landlords to want to meet the pets before accepting the new tenants.

When considering breed restrictions, keep in mind that some shelter dog breeds are more popular than others, and it’s impossible to outright say that one breed is more aggressive than another. A quick pet interview works particularly well for getting the feel for a dog. What should you look for during a dog interview? Keep in mind that even well-behaved dogs can be nervous in new settings. An interview won’t be able to tell you exactly how a dog will act in a new home, but it will give you an idea of how the owner handles their pet and how well they provide pet care.

Questions a landlord should ask their tenant as part of a dog interview.

Charging Pet Fees, Pet Rent, and Deposits

Most landlords who do allow pets charge an additional fee for each animal. There are a few different approaches you can take for charging pet rent.

  • Pet Deposit: You can ask for a pet deposit in addition to the property’s security deposit. If you choose to charge a deposit, this money should be refundable if the property is not damaged, just like a normal security deposit.
  • Pet Fees: Some landlords opt for charging a non-refundable, one-time pet fee. You can charge one standard pet fee to your tenants or you can charge a pet fee for each pet that will be living in the rental unit.
  • Pet Rent: Another option is to charge pet rent each month. Make sure if you choose to charge a monthly pet rent that the amount is reasonable, or you may lose your competitive advantage. Petfinder found that pet rent premiums were 20-30% above the average monthly rent.

The above fees can be used to help mitigate the costs of cleaning and repairs for any incurring property damage. Make sure when you set your pet deposit or fees that you’re keeping in mind the local market. Do a little bit of research to see what others in the area are charging. If you set your prices too high, you could deter qualified tenants.

Calculate the impact pet rent could have on your annual revenue >>

Service Animals

It is important to note that even if you decide to implement a no pet policy, this will not apply to trained service animals. Service animals are not pets and you must amend your policy to accommodate persons with a disability who make a request for a reasonable accommodation to use and enjoy the premises. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) clearly outlines what constitutes a reasonable accommodation from a legal standpoint, and every property owner must comply with the law.

You additionally cannot charge extra fees or deposits for a service animal. The laws around service animals are complex, as emotional support animals can also fall under this component of the Fair Housing Act. According to the Fair Housing Act, “An assistance animal is not a pet. It is an animal that works, provides assistance, or performs tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability, or provides emotional support that alleviates one or more identified symptoms or effects of a person’s disability.”

The best rule of thumb is to consult with a local lawyer before you ever reject a request for a service dog or companion animal of any kind. Not obeying the regulations of the Fair Housing Act can land you in a legal nightmare. When in doubt, talk to an attorney first.

Landlord Pet Policy FAQs

What are the rules for pets in rentals?

The property owner can define the pet policy for their rental unit however they see fit, as long as their rules don’t infringe on the Americans with Disabilities Act or the Fair Housing Act. This means that landlords are not able to discriminate against service animals, emotional support animals, or any companion animal. When in doubt about a policy or specific instance, the property manager should speak to an attorney.

How do you get around pet restrictions?

If the property owner clearly defines their pet policy in the rental lease agreement and it does not violate any fair housing, ADA, or local laws, then the signed tenant must abide by those policies.

Landlords are not able to discriminate against service dogs, companion animals, or any tenant with a disability that requires a service or emotional support animal.

How do you deal with a tenant who violated pet policies?

If a tenant violates the pet policy outlined in their signed rental lease agreement, it could become grounds for eviction proceedings. It’s up to the landlord to determine how to move forward, whether it results in keys for cash, a notice to vacate, or an addendum to the lease agreement to include a pet deposit or monthly pet fees.

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