4 Pros (and Just a Few Cons) of Pet-Friendly Property Management
Are you considering opening your rental properties to pet-owners?
Many Property Managers are changing restrictions on their units and buildings from pet-free to pet-friendly. If you’re wondering why, here are the benefits.
For many years, our four-legged friends were foes of landlords due to the anticipated extra cost of cleaning up rentals when pets and owners moved out. Changing markets, however, are causing property owners to rethink their policy on pets. Renting to pet owners is a great way to expand your revenue stream. Despite a few pitfalls, you may find renting to pet owners is less hassle than you imagine.
6 Reasons to Rent to Pet Owners
A LOT of people own pets. Quick, check your social media. We’ll wait…
Just look at those adorable pictures and videos of pets of all shapes and sizes! Now consider each of those pet owners as a potential tenant, automatically disqualified because they love their animals. Renting only to the pet-free, significantly decreases the pool of renters. Although renting to pet owners isn’t without issues, often the benefits outweigh the costs.
If you’re on the fence about renting to pet owners, here are a few reasons it will boost your business.
1. Pet Owners are a Large Pool of Tenants
As a landlord, you want the widest and deepest pool of possible renters. To understand the scope of pet owners, look at the math. According to The American Pet Products Association, 68% of U.S. households are pet owners. The breakdown by type of animal is as follows: 60.2 million dogs, 47.1 million cats, 13.6 million fish, 7.9 million birds, 6.7 million small mammals and 4.7 million reptiles. That’s a lot of pets!
Additionally, people from all age brackets own pets. According to the same study by the APPA, 37% of Gen Xers, 32% of Baby Boomers and 35% of millennials own pets. 72% of pet owners rent their homes. If you’re cutting out pet-owners, you’ve lost a huge chunk of the rental market.
2. Pet Owners Are Often Well-Equipped to Pay the Rent
Pet owners often earn higher average incomes than non-pet owners. Owning a pet is a sign your renter earns enough income to pay for pet food and supplies, plus regular veterinarian checkups. They’re more likely to be financially stable.
Additionally, times have changed the standards for pet ownership. Many owners are ready and willing to lavish their pets with the good life! Pets are more often seen as companions rather than just an animal. In fact, 1.75 million dog owners take their dogs to pet-friendly hotels. 41% of dog owners and 39% of cat owners purchase premium food for their animals (not to mention, clothes, doggie daycare and treats).
3. Pet Owners are Responsible
Pet owners prove they’re capable of caring for a living creature. All pets require their owners feed them, change their water and clean up their messes. Larger pets, such as dogs and cats require even more care, attention and affection.
If someone has managed to keep a pet alive and thriving under their care, chances are high they’ll also display the same levels of responsibility when caring for their apartment or condo. They’ve proven they’re attentive, conscientious and willing to put in extra effort beyond themselves.
4. Pet Owners are in it for the Long Term
The perceived difficulty of finding a new pet-friendly apartment means renters with pets are likely to stick with their current landlord. They won’t want to face the prospect of searching for another pet-friendly spot, and they’re even willing to pay a higher security deposit. Some property owners charge a flat fee for all pets, while others charge on a per-pet basis. (Keep in mind charging a “pet fee” in addition to a security deposit isn’t legal in every state.)
Pet owners are also more willing to accept higher rents because of their pets. Renters know they’re likely to pay a premium on their rent and they’re prepared. Depending on the availability of pet-friendly rentals in your area, you may charge 20 – 30% more in rent in pet-friendly buildings. Vacancies for rentals that don’t allow pets hovers at a nationwide average of 14%. But for pet-friendly rentals, the number decreases to 10%. Allowing pets means fewer vacancies and more stable tenants.
5. Pet Owners Won’t Break Rules
As most landlords know, you can only control tenants’ behavior so far. Creating clear rules and guidelines are important, but oftentimes once a renter is in the space there’s no telling what may go on behind closed doors. Simply saying “no pets” doesn’t mean a determined pet owner won’t sneak an animal in the door. After all, who could resist a found kitten needing a place to stay?
Regardless of your rules, unless you are frequently willing to go sniffing around your properties, there’s no concrete way to prevent people from bringing in a pet without your knowledge. Creating clear guidelines on pets encourages tenants to follow the rules rather than bucking the system.
6. Pet Owners Attract Pet Owners
When you offer pet-friendly renting, showcase it as a property feature! Pet owners often know and want to meet other pet owners—so they’ll fill your unit vacancies for you.
Take advantage of these property management marketing trends and designate one of your buildings as a pet-friendly, pet-encouraged building. Pet owners will love introducing Fido or Fifi to new neighbors. If you own property near a dog park or a great place for dog walking, advertise it as an amenity!
Bonus: Pet owners have lower stress levels due to the affection and connection their pet provides. Calm, drama-free renters pass less stress onto their landlords. Pass it on.
The Cons: Why Renting to Pet Owners MIGHT be a Bad Idea
Now, it’s true, renting to pet owners still has potential for undesirable results. A few issues to consider before jumping on the pet-friendly bandwagon:
- Odors: Pets have strong odors. This is a great reason for renting to well-trained animals with responsible owners. This is also a concern if properties are carpeted.
- Allergies: Some renters have pet allergies. Pets dander and hair gets stuck in air ducts and carpets. Consider implementing a policy that owners of pets with fur pay for cleaning of ductwork and carpets when they vacate a property.
- Noise: Pets may disturb neighbors. Inform your existing tenants if you’re considering becoming a pet-friendly landlord. Check noise regulations in the neighborhood and notify renters of quiet hours or restrict the type of pets you allow.
- Liability: Pets are a liability – particularly dogs who may bite. It’s important to review your liability insurance coverage when renting to pets. You may need to adjust limits and require pet owners to carry insurance as well.
- Damage: Pets are capable of significant property damage if they claw, chew or use the bathroom in the wrong spot. Puppies and kittens are surprisingly destructive, so ensure the security deposit will sufficiently cover damage or add a clause about pet damage to your contract.
Fortunately, in almost all cases of pet damage landlords fully recover any costs to repair through security deposits. Pet owners averaged only $40 in additional damage per year, over renters without pets. Fewer vacancies, consistent, responsible renter and increased rental revenue far exceeds the $40 cost.
Protect Yourself and Still Offer Pet-Friendly Rentals
If you’re ready to increase your rent potential by opening to pet-owners, there are many ways to protect yourself from damages and issues. Keep in mind the rights of tenants and pet owners (ensure you’re in compliance with state laws on all policies), but set clear, strong guidelines in place to keep everyone happy. Remember an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Screen Renters and Check Backgrounds
Be prepared to undergo a more intense screening process when you open to pet owners. Take the time to get to know your renter’s pets and ask questions about their training and temperament. As with any renter, request references from previous landlords.
Set Clear Rules
You may want to impose a size or pet restriction (for example cats and dogs under 20 lbs only). Set a clear limit on the number of pets allowed in a unit. Your city may already provide guidelines on the number of household pets permitted in a space (typically it’s 2-3). Create a clear “pet policy” including a policy on eviction if a pet does something extremely problematic, like destroying part of a building or biting another tenant.
Consider a Fee
If it’s legal in your state, you may also wish to charge a refundable fee in addition to the security deposit. The refundable nature of the money may give the tenant more incentive to clean up after their pet and monitor their pets’ behavior more closely. Also check your state’s guidelines on impose fines on tenants who bring in additional animals without permission.
Remember the Fair Housing Law
Tenants who require service animals must be allowed to have them. Service dogs don’t only assist the blind and hearing impaired, there are also service dogs who assist veterans, diabetics, children with autism and even allergy sufferers. Service animals include ferrets, boa constrictors, parrots, potbelly pigs, Capuchin monkeys and miniature horses as well. The ADA requires service animals are allowed and prohibits restrictions (or additional charges) for owners.
Prevent Problems Before They Start
Prevention is key. If you’ve already got a schedule for preventative maintenance, add spot checks to the rotation. Ensure your pet deposit requirement covers costs you may accrue to deal with issues and repairs to the property.
Appealing to pet owners increases your pool of renters, but weigh your options and change policies thoughtfully. Pet owners are often quality, stable renters who want to settle into a building for a while. They understand owning a pet is an expense and that landlords may charge a premium for pet-friendly rentals. If you’re ready to open your doors to Fifi and Fido, it’s a great way to decrease vacancy and earn a higher return on your property!
If a pet owner is responsible enough to seek a property that will allow their pet, it also shows they’re a person who will follow the rules and comply with any tenant guidelines you put in place. Pet owners who can afford to spoil their fur-babies and give their pets the best life has to offer are a tenant pool worth considering!
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