The fact that the US has the biggest cat and dog pet population in the world (85 million families own at least one pet) certainly narrows down the number of potential tenants. However, there are also plenty of horror stories about negligent tenants with pets who caused enormous damage and left their landlords desperate.
The question is, is there a way for a landlord to include tenants with pets and still manage to sieve out those who will behave respectfully?
Landlords who have been in the business of renting properties for a long time will know there is always a possibility they would end up renting to people who will not uphold their part of the deal.
However, as millennials are now renting more living places for longer periods and they are more likely to have pets rather than children, landlords will have to rethink their rules for renting.
But what should the screening process be like if you are considering to rent out to tenants who keep pets? Let us present here a step-by-step guide that could be helpful in providing you with the right questions to ask when you are screening tenants with pets.
Asking the Right Question is the Key
Before you even start with your pet screening process, there are few things to keep in mind that might help you get over those nightmare scenarios about tenants with pets that keep playing out in your mind.
- Pet owners usually have a steady income
- Pet owners are more likely to be long-term tenants
- Pet owners are more likely to be responsible due to a lack of properties allowing pets.
Let the Pet Screening Process Begin
Interview Your Prospective Tenant and Have Them Bring Their Pet Along
The best way to start your screening process is by getting to know both the pet owner and their pet. Pets that have not been trained properly will not behave nicely simply because their owner is talking to a potential landlord.
Also, ask your potential tenant to provide you with a contact of their former landlord(s) and their vet to get more information as these individuals are more likely to provide you with objective information. Make sure you check with both the owner and the vet that the animal(s) have been regularly vaccinated (asking for written records is probably the best in this case).
You can also inquire if the animal has any medical issues. Ask who will take care of it when your tenant goes on vacation/business trip. Also, ask if your prospective tenant has any objections to you checking the apartment once they move in.
People who take care of their pets properly are more likely to do the same with their living space. Generally, the more questions you ask, the easier it will be to make the final decision.
Put in Place a Clear Pet Policy in Your Lease
Ground rules are essential, so make sure your lease is detailed and specifies what is considered as damage and the repercussions that follow. Also, specify conditions that are grounds for eviction such as excessive barking, dog fouling of the neighborhood, or the worst-case scenario – dog attack. If your pet policy is clear, then you have the legal grounds to evict a tenant if things turn sour.
As pets usually mean more mess (no matter how great the owner is), you can specify in your lease that all tenants with pets have to pay for professional air duct and carpet cleaning. You can also implement restrictions concerning breed, size, and the number of animals, ban exotic animals, and ask that a pet must be spayed or neutered.
Add a Pet Deposit
While not all states in the US allow non-refundable fees, landlords might set (higher) deposits because the potential damage to their property is more likely to happen with tenants with pets. Make sure to investigate this segment thoroughly as different US states have different laws regarding deposits. Naturally, do not get carried away with pet fees and deposits as that can turn your prospective tenants away.
Charge Higher Rent
Since there are more tenants with pets than landlords allowing pets, this situation creates possibilities for both sides. And you might be surprised how willing some tenents with pets will be to pay more to have their pet come with them.
Again, as in the case with deposits, be reasonable and set the right rent. In case you are just getting into the business of renting a property, first inspect the situation thoroughly, learn key elements, then adjust the rent according to your circumstances.
Pet Owner Liability is a Must
If you are thinking of allowing pets, pet owner liability is a step you cannot omit. In fact, communicate to your prospective renters with pets that dog liability coverage is a condition. Have your lease contain this segment and make sure the renters sign it.
This ensures your tenant will cover all medical expenses that might arise and will also pay costs if their dog attacks/bites someone.
Landlord Liability Insurance is a Good Idea
To prevent yourself from being vulnerable, taking out coverage against liability for personal injury should your tenant’s dog attack/injure another person is a good idea. Nota bene, study the liability coverage in-depth for any exclusions (for certain breeds) that might be problematic in your case.
There is no way around a simple fact – there is a shortage of rented properties that allow pets which open new (lucrative) possibilities for landlords.
Whether you are a pet owner too or not particularly fond of animals, you have to keep in mind the fact that pet owners are often enamored of their “furry babies” and willing to pay more to keep their pets. This is particularly true when it comes to man’s best friend.
Putting in place the right screening process can work in your favor and increase your revenue. It would also secure you long-term tenants who will be happy to live with their pets. After all, hotels were the first to understand this need and now accommodate pet owners.
Just as you know not to be quick and superficial when you screen tenants without pets, the same goes for those who wish to move into your property, albeit with an adorable pup or a cuddly cat. Yes, there are risks involved, but that is true even if your tenants don’t have pets. As one landlord noted: “It can be more tricky to have tenants with small children rather than those with pets.”