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Pet Policies: Best Practices

All Property Management Staff
Pets
Many people looking for rental units have dogs, cats or other pets. These animal companions factor in many of their decisions regarding where to lease an apartment.

Millions of Americans own cats, dogs and other household pets. Many of these individuals are renters, and will only look for apartments where they and their animals are allowed, meaning they will avoid leasing at residences where pets are banned.

Property managers and owners have every right to refuse to lease to renters with pets. However, managers and owners may end up missing out on profiting from what is a substantial portion of the renter market by preventing pet owners and their animal pals from renting their units.

Specifying What's Allowed

Landlords would be wise to add in a pet policy in their rental lease agreements that clearly lays out all rules regarding having a pet on their premises.

Specifically, law webiste NoLo says this agreement should entail how many pets are allowed per unit, any weight or size limits and what types of animals are allowed on the property.

For instance, some types of dogs may be considered dangerous, such as pitbulls. Because of this, many landlords nationwide tend to not allow renters who own these pets to bring them into their apartments due to safety concerns.

Prior to making any final rules about pets, though, Bigger Pockets recommends owners and managers check with state laws to ensure they aren't violating any rules or regulations, such as the Fair Housing Act.

Licensing, Identification and Vaccinations

Cats and dogs are the most common pets in U.S. households. These animals are required to have certain vaccinations, and their owners must have proper identification and licenses for them, the Realty Times states.

Before approving of a pet in a renter's unit, the source says you should ensure they have all proper documentation for their furry friends, and that the pets have received the proper vaccinations.

Outline Tenant Responsibilities

Keeping tabs on one's pet is the primarily responsibility of the renter, not the landlord, NoLo says. This rule should be maintained, the source states, so that tenants take a substantial role in ensuring their pet isn't bothersome to other renters at a property or to the property itself.

The Realty Times, meanwhile, says pet owners should be cleaning up after their dogs, cats and other animals that may need to do their "business" on the property's grounds - likely in a designated area that you state should be used for such purposes.

Changing Pet Policy and Mandating Fees

One thing you should be sure to make clear to your renters when they sign to lease your units is that you reserve the right to change your pet policy at your convenience, and that you may require a fee for them to have their pets on the property, Bigger Pockets states.

The ability to change your pet policy allows you the chance to update it should issues arise with animals already on the premises. Additionally, the blog states the fee - generally $100 to $300 on top of a tenant's security deposit - can be held in case a pet causes damage to the property.

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September 21, 2011