What is Your Policy on Pets in Your Rentals?
July 10, 2020
By April Huynh
Recently I read that, due to the COVID-19 pandemic in which we were pretty much all in lock down, that dogs in the local animal shelters in Las Vegas and Henderson, Nevada, have all been adopted. As a dog lover myself, I thought that this was fabulous news -- all dogs need a loving home! That thought has led me to the content of this blog: Pros And Cons of Allowing Pets in My Rentals. .
There’s no question that the majority of people living in the US love their pets. According to the 2019-2020 National Pet Owners Survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association (APPA) , “Sixty-seven percent of U.S. households, or about 85 million families, own a pet,” states the Insurance Information Institute (III) website.
This reflects an upward trend over the last couple of decades because since 1988, the first year the survey was conducted, there is an increase of 11 million households in the amount of pets owners in the country. This is supported by figures provided by the APPA, as they show that “for 2020, it is estimated that $99.0 billion will be spent on our pets in the U.S.,” an increase from $90.5 million in 2018, a growth of almost 10 percent. There’s no doubt that Americans value their pets!
As far as what kind of pets people are having, III offers the following breakdown:
63.4 million households own dogs
42.7 million households own cats
11.5 million households own fresh water fish
Another 17 million combined households own a variety of other types of pets such as reptiles, salt water fish, birds, horses, and other assorted small animals.
Let’s talk Cons first because I think it’s important that if you are leaning towards NOT allowing pets in your rentals that have the following solid reasons.
First -- The risk of damage. This is the one reason most homeowners cite when deciding against allowing pets. Homes can suffer greater wear and tear when there are claw marks on the doors, walls, pillars, and floors of the house. But perhaps even a greater concern than the visible physical damage is the odors caused by the pets, particularly their urine. Unless cleaned immediately, pet urine will seep in and remain in furniture, baseboards, carpeting and other areas. Aside from the nasty odor, pet urine can negatively affect the health of those living in your house.
Second -- The potential noise and disturbance of others. Usually, this is an issue unique to dogs and is more of a problem with multi-family or apartment settings. The barking and running around of dogs may deter others from renting your other units as they may prefer a pet-free environment due to allergies or peacefulness of their surroundings.
Third -- The liability exposure. Last but not least on my list is the exposure to bite or attack from dogs or cats. This can range from a simple drawing of a bit of blood to significant harm or even death to others. When insurance claims arise out of these events, it may extend over to your liability coverage as well. For renters who like to have fish as pets, then there is the potential for water stains or latent damage in and around the fish tanks, outright spills from filling or removing water, and accidents from tanks being knocked over or breaking.
Bonus consideration: If you decided on a no pet policy, please be aware that there are Federal Housing laws that can supersede your decision. The website https://www.thebalancesmb.com/ says regarding this: “Even if you have a no pets policy, you cannot violate the housing rights for the disabled who require an animal for their well-being. You can ask for a note from their physician verifying their need for an assistance animal. The definition of “disabled” is broadening every day. Service dogs for the blind or paralyzed used to be the norm. This law has now expanded to allow animals for groups such as the clinically depressed and those with post-traumatic stress because the animals can provide emotional support.”
As indicated in the beginning of this blog, pets are a growing part of families these days. They are more than just animals to many people today. They are relied on as companions, emotional support friends, and viewed as children by some or as a form of protection and security, in the case of dogs, for others. So let’s get to the Pros.
First -- Increase of applications. In other words, if you exclude pets, you dramatically excluded a large pool of potential renters. That may translate into longer time that the home remains on the market. In fact, often one of the first criteria for a property for renters is that pets are allowed. Being excluded from this important criteria may make it more difficult to rent out your investment property.
Second -- Pet deposits. This deposit is usually charged per pet and is designed to be a hedge against any potential damage caused by pets. Yes, it is a deposit and, therefore, can be refundable if there was no damage caused by the pet(s). Additionally, some homeowners are even able to collect an additional monthly charge called as ‘Pet Rent’ which is an additional source of income and could be viewed as extra money collected to help offset the costs of repairs, if they were needed. (By the way, you have the freedom to decide, if you decide to allow pets, to exclude certain animals (ie dogs but no cats), their breed, limit their size (pets under 30 pounds) or how many are allowed.
Third -- Keeping the tenant in longer terms. In an area like Las Vegas, where the rental market is very strong and good homes are able to get rented quickly with multiple applications on it, allowing pets may encourage tenants to renew their lease. It was hard enough to find the home they are in and they are probably grateful that your policy is favorable to their pet, so if they continue renting, it is much simpler to just renew the lease.
Fourth -- Deter the sneaking in of pets. It’s been a shock to more than a few owners who had a no pet policy that upon moving out, the owner finds that a renter snuck their pet(s) in and that the home has been damaged! Better to know about the furry friends in advance and be able to charge appropriately for them than to get an unwanted surprise later.
Fifth -- Potentially higher rents and happy tenants. If there is a shortage of rental homes in your area, you can most likely charge higher rents and find that renters will be glad to pay to accommodate these loved members of their family. And, once in a home that their pets are happy in, these renters tend to be happier too. Happy tenants typically equal regular and on time paying tenants!
Bonus consideration: Have a sit down with your insurance agent on your liability exposure to having pets to see if there are specific breeds excluded, how high your liability coverage should be, and what limitations may be to this coverage. As is so typical of insurance needs, claim time is NOT the time you want to make sure you have the proper coverage.
Like all policies, the policy regarding pets has risks and rewards and should be weighed carefully. I hope this list is of help to you so that you can make the right decision for your situation.