Whether to allow tenants to keep pets is an important decision for every landlord. The decision requires a balancing act, choosing between happier tenants versus the potential for more property damage at the end of the tenancy.
The benefits of pet-friendly properties include a larger renter pool, higher tenant retention, and a tendency to attract more responsible tenants. If you choose this path for your property, the downsides can be averted by following some pet policy basics:
Pet Policies That Work
To screen tenants with pets, focus on the tenant, not the animal. Is the person responsible? The more the applicant knows about the pet’s daily routine and needs, the more likely the pet is in good hands.
Meet the pet and check whether the animal is well-socialized. Barking and snarling at strangers is not going to work when repairs need to be made in the unit or when the pet is interacting with other tenants.
Spell out common-sense restrictions in the tenancy agreement. Tie the consequences to the tenant being evicted. For instance, chronic barking is not tolerated, and a tenant in that situation must choose between vacating the unit or finding an alternative plan for the pet.
A common restriction is to limit the pets to only those that have met the landlord. The tenant should not be pet-sitting for friends or running a pet daycare in the rental property.
Don’t assume that the tenant knows all the local laws regarding pets. Use the tenancy agreement to highlight any restrictions such as the number of pets allowed by law or any prohibitions on exotic pets. Also, reference health code requirements such as the sanitary disposal of pet waste. Make clear that the tenant is responsible for cleaning up after an animal.
Animals should be vaccinated if applicable.
In provinces that allow additional pet deposits, charge the tenant the allowable amount. Clearly identify those funds in the tenancy agreement. Check local rental regulations to determine if the landlord owes interest on that money. Do not agree to return the pet deposit if the pet dies or if the tenant no longer has the pet without first conducting a property inspection.
Explain to the tenant the danger of an unauthorized pet not listed in the tenancy agreement. Landlords need an accurate count of occupants and pets in the event of an emergency. A secret pet may not be rescued.
Recommend the tenant carry renters insurance to cover negligence in the event of an injury related to the pet.
For landlords committed to allowing pets, consider finishes in the unit that are durable and easy to clean. Provide dedicated outdoor space for animals.
What Doesn’t Work
Sweeping restrictions such as breed, size and weight limitations are not an effective means to screen pets. Little dogs are just as prone to bark and bite, and many large dogs are perfectly obedient. It depends on the individual animal, so don’t waste time trying to predict a pet’s behaviour based on stereotypes.
When asking about pets, don’t take the applicant’s word for it. Ask previous landlords whether the individual kept a pet and if there were problems.
Don’t include provisions in the tenancy agreement that are not enforceable. For instance, a service animal generally cannot be relegated to the unit only and banned from common areas.
Take responsibility for resolving complaints from other tenants. Do not instruct tenants to work it out themselves.
Service or emotional support animals should not be treated as pets. A person may be entitled to keep an animal despite a no-pets policy.
Avoid labeling a portion of the general deposit as a pet deposit. Charge a pet deposit only if the tenancy laws allow a pet deposit in addition to the general deposit. Funds designated as pet deposits can only be applied to pet damage.
Don’t depend on the pet deposit to cover damage. Screen the tenant to ensure that the person is a responsible pet owner. That’s the best way to reduce the risk of income loss from pets.
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Disclaimer: The information provided in this post is not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.