Smart Landlord Policies for Pet-Friendly Property Rentals

1Want a surefire way to increase tenant demand for your rental? Take down the No-Pets Allowed sign.

The decision about whether to allow pets is a tough one for many owners, and there are no right or wrong answers. But some surveys show that nearly 75 percent of renters own pets. That’s a huge pool of potential tenants to turn away.

Tenants who find a welcoming home for Fluffy are also more likely to stay longer, which can reduce vacancy time. For owners renting their property as an investment, being pet-friendly makes good business sense.

But allowing pets isn’t always the right answer for owners renting out a home they plan to return to. For owners who have pets themselves, allowing renters to keep a cat, dog or goldfish will likely make leasing the home faster and easier. For those who haven’t had pets, keeping the rental pet-free is a reasonable choice.

According to a recent survey by Apartments.com, 9 out of 10 renters said deciding where to live hinged on the landlord’s pet policies. Seventy-two percent of renters said they owned pets.

Protecting Your Property When Allowing Pets

How can you avoid the dog that barks day and night and chews the cabinets, or the kitty that favors the closet floor over a litter box? Finding responsible pet owners is key to protecting your property and neighbors’ sanity.

The Humane Society suggests that landlords check references on both the tenant and their animal, including calling prior landlords, the veterinarian and neighbors to ensure the animal behaves and won’t cause serious damage.

The organization suggests owners limit the number of pets allowed in each unit and approve pets on a case-by-case basis, rather that create limits based on size or breed. The Humane Society recommends creating a pet policy that outlines acceptable pet behavior and requires that all pets be licensed, up-to-date on vaccinations and spayed or neutered.

Deposits and Fees

Beyond policies, landlords often charge extra deposits, fees or pet rent to limit risk and cover the cost of additional cleaning or wear and tear animals can cause to the unit, building and grounds. In the Apartments.com survey, nearly 80 percent of renters said they had to pay a fee or deposit for pets, with more than half paying $200 or more per year.

Be aware of what’s customary in your neighborhood plus local laws when deciding how much of a fee or deposit to charge.

D.C. law does not require that you rent to tenants who have pets. Service animals for people with disabilities are an exception. Under Fair Housing laws, landlords must allow service animals, even if a property is pet-free, and may not charge extra fees or deposits.

Whether you decide to allow pets or not, advertising your policy and targeting tenants most likely to appreciate your decision will help you find the perfect tenant faster.

Source: hillnow.com

Property Management of Residents with Pets

1There appears to be more people in the U.S. who live with a pet than ever before. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is carefully looking into this topic as it pertains to renters. In fact, HUD has already published an 8 page guide titled Resident Rights that every property manager should become familiar with. You’ll be hard pressed to find any mention about the right to have pets. On page 7 is a list of resource phone numbers for a number of services and ways to verify information on the rights and responsibilities of residents from a federal government perspective. Check it out too!

The latest challenge between Property Managers and residents regarding pets involve the categories of “service,” “companion” and “therapy” animals. Service, companion or emotional support animals fall within the definition of assistance animals under the Housing and Urban Development’s guidelines. Like it or not these guidelines are also adopted in many states in defining the rights of tenants and residents. The legalities and the responsibility to make “reasonable accommodation” are daunting.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Department of Justice narrowed the definition of a service animal as “… as any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.”

However, a housing provider [landlord] “… may not ask a tenant or applicant to provide documentation showing the disability or disability-related need for an assistance animal if the disability or disability-related need is readily apparent or already known to the provider.”

In some situations a “housing provider” may ask for verification, but any questions should be limited to a relevant connection between the resident’s disability and the disability-related need for the animal. Some residential rental complexes that allow pets have received legal advice to create a separate set of rules for assistance animals, since they will probably have more access to common areas than other pets.

Make sure you clearly communicate to assistance animal owners that if they allow animals to roam off-leash, don’t pick up their animals’ droppings, or allow their pet to be aggressive or a chronic barker that these are consequential violations. It may also be necessary to give a fair warning ahead of time.

Inform the owner if the animal’s behavior doesn’t improve after the warning it will have to be removed, but make sure that your state and local laws allow this type of remedial action. You may need legal advice. My research indicates that even if you have the right to insist that the animal be removed, a replacement animal may need to be allowed. It makes sense to insist that the animal not be allowed outside without a leash or that it be a dog that doesn’t bark continually.

The bottom line is to know the laws, make your resident policies explicit, and know the rights of your owners as well as your own as a property manager.

Source: PropertyManager.com