Application Process: Pets
As a landlord, you have no doubt by now heard some serious horror stories. At the heart of every issue is a problem tenant – something you’re hoping to avoid by creating a thorough and fair screening process. A question you should ask every tenant is “Do you have any pets?”
A question you should ask yourself is: Do you accept pets?
Accepting pets in your rental property can be advantageous in an increasingly pet-friendly market. Understandably, though, you might be hesitant to. Those afore-mentioned horror stories? Many of them include issues revolving around animals being kept in the property.
Whether or not you want or should accept pets in your property is completely a matter of choice and preference. As with everything else in property management, it’s a risk/reward situation.
Let’s briefly examine those:
Why You May Not Want to Allow Pets:
- Risk of Physical Damage to Property
- Liability of Pet-Related Injury
- Cost of Cleaning / Pest Treatment
- Disturbance to Neighbors
Why You May Want to Allow Pets:
- Increases Applicant Pool
- Reduces Pets Being Snuck Onto Property (for free)
- Charge More in Rent
- Longer Tenancy (due to unavailability of other pet-friendly residences)
In a time when pets are increasingly considered part of the family rather than property, you will face the question of “Do you accept pets?” more and more. Here are steps you can take to address the concerns of pets in your property, and how to consider handling pets in the application process.
What You Can Do:
1. Be Clear in the Listing & Lease
If pets are not allowed, ensure that this is stated clearly in the listing. If the property is listed on multiple platforms, make sure that every posting states that the property is NOT pet-friendly. This will be an automatic deal-breaker for anyone who has pets, and will save you and the prospective tenant both time and frustration over the application process.
The lease should also clearly state that pets are not allowed on the property at any time, and specific penalties should be noted. This will help support your claims in court, should it come down to collecting money for charges related to animals being present in the home.
And yes, even though you have made it clear that the property is NOT pet-friendly, still put the question on the application. This makes certain that the tenant clearly states in writing that they do NOT have a pet.
2. Know Your Target Demographic
Millennials will make up 75% of the workforce by 2025. Having been hit hard by recessions, millennials are unable and unwilling to take on more debt in the form of a mortgage, and so is a demographic of majority renters. Nearly three out of every four millennials have a pet – and they will look elsewhere if their pets aren’t welcome. That’s quite a big swath of future business!
Your target demographic may not lean millennial – for now. Make the best decision that fits the needs of your market and the tendencies that cater to those renters. They are your livelihood, and what the market demands will determine how profitable your business will be.
3. Establish a Restricted Breeds List
Bad dogs come from bad dog owners, but an unfortunate human tendency of bad ownership has resulted in some breeds being restricted in residential properties – even neighborhoods and counties! If you decide to have a pet-friendly property, you will want to check your insurance policy to find out what type of coverage you have. Make sure you know the amount of liability coverage your policy includes. Your insurance company may have limitations or exclusions to this coverage – such as a list of dog breeds they consider to be “dangerous breeds,” which will not be covered under the policy.
4. Charge Pet Rent
Pets can (and arguably, should) be considered occupants of a home. A nominal monthly fee can be charged as “pet rent”. This reflects the higher demand of pet-friendly rental properties without penalizing someone who doesn’t have a pet. In this way, you cater to both types of tenants without having to exclude pet owners altogether.
5. Charge a Pet Deposit
This one-time charge differs from pet rent in the same way that a security deposit is not monthly rent. This charge goes directly to covering the cost of inevitable cleaning and flea treatment of the property. Extra care (with extra associated costs) must go into deeply cleaning a pet-friendly residence at move-out, which responsible and reasonable pet owners will understand. While a pet-owner may be nose-blind to their animals, a sensitive nose or someone with allergies can detect even the faintest presence of odor or dander.
6. Establish a Pet Application
A pet application, like any other tenant application, can be used to screen & assess the liability of an individual pet according to age, breed and size and will guide the determination of pet rent costs. There are third-party companies that can provide this assessment (for their own separate application fee) which keeps the pet assessment a step removed from any internal bias.
7. Conduct Yearly Inspections
As property owner and manager, you must conduct annual inspections. With tenants who have pets, it is especially important that you be on the lookout for signs of undue wear and tear on your property as a result of the tenant’s neglect on their pet’s behalf. Destructive behavior can quickly devalue a home and increase the cost of repair exponentially. If you have a residence that is NOT pet-friendly, be aware of signs that your tenants have been keeping a pet a secret, or have acquired a pet without thinking to add them to the lease. For liability’s sake, you need to have paperwork that properly reflects all occupants of the home at all times. Your inspection is a great time to address any concerns regarding the care of your property and the suspected presence of any unauthorized animals.
8. Understand the Difference Between a Pet and a Service Animal
Not every animal is a pet. Fair Housing covers the use of certified companion and service animals and it’s important that you understand the difference. A no-pet policy does not apply to service animals, as they are considered to be tenants and not pets. The pet application must still be conducted to determine the animal’s credentials as being certified as a service animal – and not just claimed as one. An “unofficial” service animal is still considered a pet. A true service animal will have the veterinary paperwork to support any claims made.
Property Managers have a history of dealing with a wide spectrum of pets and pet owners, their neighbors, and the fences in between. The legalities surrounding pets as family members and service animals are shifting, and at Frontline Property Management, Inc. we are determined to keep in step with the times and remain informed.
Contact us today to learn more about how Frontline Property Management can help you manage your property with ease and find your next tenants – four-legged or not!