PETS CAN BE A HEADACHE, A CONSTANT POINT OF CONFLICT, OR AN ADDITIONAL REVENUE STREAM
As of 2023, 66% of American homes have a pet and 78% acquired a new pet during the pandemic. With over 65 million households owning a dog, and millennials being the largest pet owning age group, it’s inevitable that successful landlords are going to need a plan and may need to be more flexible than they have been in the past if they want to maximize rental property returns. So that naturally begs the question, is it worth allowing pets in your rental property and if so, what is the best approach?
A QUICK WORD ON CHANGING DEMOGRAPHICS
The average age of first-time home ownership has never been higher (about 36 years old ), which means more and more young professionals and young families are renting where just a couple years ago they’d have had a mortgage of their own. In 1960, 68 out of 100 Americans could afford a home. Today, that figure is down to 43 out of 100. This is a positive for rental property owners as it means more demand, and therefore higher rent prices, but it also means more wear and tear on your properties. It means more young children. It means more pets. And it all comes at a time when more and more people are working from home, decreasing the life of your major appliances and putting more stress on the property as a whole.
Like so much that has changed in the last half-decade, it is not likely that things will return to pre-pandemic conditions. Most of those variables are beyond your control and it’s unlawful to try to dodge families with kids… but you do have a say in how you want to handle pets. Here are some options:
NO PETS ALLOWED
Overall demand for rental units are up, so maybe the easiest play is to just keep it simple and disallow any pets. That way you don’t have to worry about pet damage/odors and having to deal with added maintenance at the end of the tenancy. This might play just fine if you’ve got a 1 or 2 bedroom unit, but it will likely be very limiting with anything larger because of how common it is for families with kids to also have pets.
NO DOGS ALLOWED
It’s worth teasing out dogs from other pets as many leases and advertising sources do so. Dogs are obviously the most common culprits when it comes to interior and exterior destruction. They typically need more space to be active and can do a number on floors and backyards. They’re potentially loud and don’t always play well with others. Disallowing dogs altogether could save you some headaches and repairs down the road…but, they’re also America’s favorite pet and again you’d be limiting your candidate pool.
SMALL DOGS (a.k.a. Cats) ONLY
Some clients have preferred to specify “small dogs only” which in itself can become contentious. At what size does “small” begin? What is a medium size dog? What if it’s a puppy?...for now. In our experience, if you’re going to allow dogs, it’s best to allow dogs. If you’re worried about certain breeds or aggression, make it simple and say no across the board. Grey area leads to uncertainty and uncertainty leads to perceived prejudice. You don’t want your tenant thinking you don’t like his/her dog…that’s not a way to build a healthy and cooperative relationship.
If you’re worried about pets destroying your property, you do have the option of charging a pet deposit. It’s more or less like insurance should something go wrong. You’d simply collect a set amount, based on the type and size of the pet, that the tenant agrees to prior to move-in (much like a security deposit). Typically these deposits are between $200-$500. If the dog or cat or ferret ruin the carpet or chew on the bannister or claw up your doors, you’ve got it covered. If the pet is an angel for the tenancy and there are no maintenance needs, the tenant gets their money back.
It’s worth pointing out, this is a very good deal for the tenant. As an owner, you can do better…
The best option for a landlord who opts to allow pets/dogs is to collect pet rent. The concept is pretty simple. If a family wants to move-in and they want to bring Rex or Sandy with them, it’ll cost an extra $35/month per pet. At the end of the year you’ve got $420 to help cover any additional maintenance issues and if you don’t have to spend it, you keep it.
LEARN MORE: MORE ON PET RENT
Pet rent, or pet fees, are the most common approach when it comes to pets in rental properties. If you’re a property owner who has historically refused to accept pets, it’s worth noting that pets are more popular than ever and more and more young families are unable to afford a mortgage of their own and are relying on rentals. This means greater demand for your property, and an opportunity to maximize revenues, if you’re comfortable allowing pets along with a financial parachute to protect your investment.
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Mick Lefort is the Owner / General Manager of Nexus' New Haven County Franchise Office and the Vice President of Operations for Nexus Property Management®. A National Property Management Franchise that manages all types of rental property from single family homes or condos to large apartment buildings and complexes.
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