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Renting To Pet Owners: A Smart Investment Strategy?

Published on Tuesday - July 29, 2014

Desperation will often lead to poor decisions. If your back is against the wall and an otherwise great tenant has a pet, you may be tempted to bend your rules and offer them residency. However, before you make this decision, you have to know just what you are getting into and how to deal with the situation. You may not think that allowing a pet for one lease is a big deal, but it could open the floodgates to other rash decisions if you are not careful. It is not so much the pet that is the problem, but the bending of the rules that you need to be aware of.  Remember, you established renting rules for a reason. Make sure your decision benefits your bottom line.

There is nothing wrong with renting to pet owners. They can make great companions and possibly even protect your assets. As wonderful as they may be, they still pose short and long term risks to your property. Depending on the type of pet, there could be a chance of lasting, physical damage, not to mention long term odor issues. Cats, for instance, can affect future tenants with sensitive allergies. Once you agree to accept a pet, you have to realize that you may be diminishing your pool of renters. Moving forward you may only be able to cater to pet owners.

Cats, dogs and other pets have to be maintained and cared for by the owner. This means that you need to feel secure in knowing it will pose no physical threat to any visitors or neighbors. If you are dealing with a dog, you also have to be confident that they will not bark at all hours of the night or attack someone unprovoked. Because it is not your pet, you are taking the owner at their word. This can be tricky since common sense would tell you that most owners think their pets are the best in the world and would never cause a problem to anyone. As the owner of the property, if something goes wrong, you are responsible. Before you agree to any pet, you may want to screen the pet itself.

Assuming that you have made the decision to allow the tenant to bring in a pet, it is a good idea to see what type of animal they are talking about. There are many different types of dogs and cats. A somewhat exotic pet – like a bird, lizard or a rabbit – can be the easiest to take care of. If you are dealing with a cat or dog, you should ask to see it first. If the dog is mammoth and the owner has little control over them, it should raise a red flag. On the other hand, if they have a little house dog or cat, it can be a completely different situation. Ultimately, even the best pets can cause accidents and damage to your property. If you acknowledge this, you can add a provision to the lease referencing the physical condition of any furniture that you may leave in the property as well as the floors and the walls. It is also a good idea to take pictures of the entire property, including the exterior. At the end of the lease, your tenant may not even realize the damage done by their pets to the yard, floors or closets.

Before you grant residency to any pet owner, you should give any neighbors a courtesy “heads up.” You are certainly entitled to rent to whoever you want, but it is also a good idea to let your neighbors know in advance. In addition to creating good will, you may also get a better perspective if your tenant and pet is doing anything that they may not have told you about. For neighbors, the biggest complaints regarding dogs are owners not cleaning up after their dogs and excessive barking. If one or two neighbors call you to complain, you may have a problem on your hands. This is why it is so important to go over your pet guidelines before they move in. You create the lease, so you can put a fee for not cleaning up after the dog or any other measure you think is fair that keeps their pets in check.

Depending on the type of pet and the condition they left the property, you may be forced to continue to rent to pet owners, or at least allow them in your rental. That is the problem with bending your rules to meet your current situation. By solving a short term problem, you may have created a bigger one in the years to come. Sure, there are ways to clean up after a pet and fumigate the place to mask or eliminate any odor, but that may only go so far. The bigger issue is that you have bent your rules. Once that happens, there is no telling where you could stop. Many property owners panic far too early if they are facing a vacancy and do not think about the big picture. No landlord ever wants a vacancy, but if you are truly against renting to tenants with pets, it should be your stance regardless of the current circumstance.

Pet owners can make some of the best tenants you ever have. Before you face a desperate time, you should review your rules and ask yourself if they are really important to you. If you have no problems with pets, rent away.

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