The Pros and Cons of Leasing to Animal Owners-- And Also an Animal Screening List

At some point, every property owner or landlord will consider the question: “Should I rent to pet owners?”

There are both advantages and disadvantages to allowing pets in a rental unit. Many landlords who allow pets find that the pet owners are generally responsible and are willing to pay more to rent a pet-friendly property. However, letting your tenant’s furry, four-legged friend in the apartment can result in foul odors, excessive noise, and property damage—so it’s wise to know what you’re getting into beforehand. 

There are several reasons you may want to consider renting your apartment or property to pet owners. For example, there are millions of renters who own a pet. According to statistics, 63.4% of families in the US own a dog and 42.7% own a cat. As such, pet owners clearly make up a large proportion of your prospective tenants. 

The Fair Housing Act also makes it illegal to discriminate against renting to people who require a service animal. If your apartment is already “pet-friendly,” you will have no trouble accommodating someone with an emotional support animal.

But what are the pros and cons of renting to pet owners? What questions should a pet application include? And, if you decide to have a pet clause in the rental agreement, how can you ensure that the pet is a good fit for your pet-friendly rental unit? Read on to find the answers to these questions—and more. 

Pros of renting to pet owners

1. You can charge pet owners higher monthly rent.

Most pet owners realize they must pay more for rent compared to tenants without pets. That’s because owning a pet means there are extra expenses to contend with—including things like food, vet bills, and other accessories. And paying a higher rent is one added expense. Plus, there are fewer rental units that allow pets, meaning pet-friendly landlords can charge more and boost their rental income. 

You can also offset pet damage and inconvenience by charging pet rent, a pet deposit, or higher monthly rent. That said, it’s important to check your local state laws about rent control and security deposit limits before doing so.

2. You can secure longer tenancies by allowing pets.

Pet owners tend to rent their units longer because there aren’t as many landlords who allow pets. Therefore, tenants with pets tend to move less often because they have fewer options to consider when looking for a new place to live. that means less turnover in your units—which is almost always a good thing.

3. You can fill vacancies faster.

When you offer pet-friendly units, you will typically find that you get more rental applications because you have a larger pool of potential renters. This means that pet-friendly landlords typically enjoy better cash flow because they have lower vacancy rates. You will also typically have less rental competition in your area because not all property owners will allow pets.

4. Pet owners tend to be responsible tenants.

Pet owners have taken on a big responsibility when looking after an animal. You will generally find that a tenant who takes good care of a pet will also look after your apartment. For example, Michigan State University recently published an article that touches on how owning a pet teaches responsibility, trust, and compassion, and also improves social skills.

There are always exceptions, of course—but, in general, pet owners are excellent tenants and can be trusted to respect your place. Plus, renters with pets tend to be happier because pets are viewed as family members.

5. You may have fewer lease violations when renting to pet owners.

Having a pet clause in the rental agreement removes the temptation for your tenant to break the lease agreement and sneak in a pet. Some landlords won’t even realize that a tenant had an unauthorized pet until the tenant has moved out.

And, if you discover your tenant is keeping a pet despite having a “no-pet” policy, you’ll still have to go through a time-consuming and costly eviction process if they don’t want to move out of the unit.

Related: Why many landlords allow pets in rental properties.

Cons of renting to pet owners

On the other hand, the disadvantages of allowing pets in a rental property are pretty obvious to most landlords. Here are three reasons why many landlords don’t want pet-owning tenants. 

1. Pets may cause damage to the property. 

One of the most common reasons cited for having a no-pet policy is the potential for property damage. Dogs and cats can scratch furniture and wooden floors, tear soft furnishings, and rip up carpets. Of course, you can get well-behaved pets just like you can get responsible tenants. However, the wear and tear in an apartment tends to be more significant when a pet lives there.

2. You may get complaints from neighbors about noise.

According to the American Kennel Club, “barking is the most common complaint about dogs.” And, issues with a noisy dog or excessive barking can become severe nuisances to other residents. In some cases, neighbors could even cite a breach in their right to quiet enjoyment.

3. Pet odor, fleas, and allergy issues

Animal-related odors are another reason some landlords do not allow tenants to bring their furry friends with them. It can be challenging to get rid of offensive pet odors after a tenant has vacated the property.

And, other issues, like fleas, can stay behind in soft furnishing and carpets. Plus, allergens get trapped in air ducts, making clean-up more costly and time-consuming. 

Related: Pet horror stories

Why pet screening is vital before renting to pet owners

If you’re offering a pet-friendly unit, a thorough pet screening will be just as necessary during the application process as a tenant screening. Screening a pet is the best way to prevent leasing to an owner with a noisy, aggressive, or disruptive pet that will damage your property. Plus, the screening process will also check for any issues with the animal’s past and confirm the owner’s information on their pets.

You can use a professional service to carry out a thorough pet screening procedure. Doing so will also help you validate assistance animals and check if an ESA letter is genuine. It’s also helpful to carry out the interview with the tenant and have the pet dog present. 

Related: Your guide to pet screening

A pet screening checklist for landlords

Similar to checking a potential tenant’s credentials, it’s vital to ensure you thoroughly screen a pet before renting to the tenant. Pet screening usually applies to dog breeds and some cat breeds.

You also have the right as a landlord to refuse to rent to tenants with certain types or breeds of animals—even if your apartment or unit is a pet-friendly rental property. The Fair Housing Act even prohibits certain animals from being classed as service animals. 

To help get you started, here is a checklist to use when screening tenants with pets:

  • What type of pet do you have?
  • How long have you owned your pet?
  • Can a veterinarian confirm in writing the animal’s health and vaccination record?
  • Can you provide a reference from your current landlord? 
  • Does your pet have underlying medical issues or behavioral problems?
  • Is your pet housetrained?
  • Does your pet (cat or dog) wear an identification tag? 
  • Who cares for the pet in an emergency or if you are on vacation?
  • Are you able to pay the pet deposit or pet rent? (Only if applicable in your state)
  • Will you take out renters insurance to cover any damage the pet may cause?

Asking these questions in the interview or on the pet application can help ensure the pet is the right fit for your rental unit. Having a detailed pet policy as part of the lease agreement can also help prevent any problems with pets.

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Final thoughts on renting to pet owners

Each property owner or landlord must make an informed decision on renting to pet owners. After all, there are pros and cons to allowing pets in your rental unit. 

If you decide to rent to tenants who have pet dogs, cats, or other animals, you should always ensure that you collect the appropriate pet deposit and charge more for rent—if that’s allowed in your state. However, it’s vital to remember that you cannot charge more rent or take a security deposit for a service animal, as these animals are covered under the Fair Housing Act.