Pets are a tricky and sometimes controversial subject. We all know that there are those people who could never live without a warm, furry animal to nuzzle. But there are also those people who are no fan of fur, warmth, nuzzles or any of the other things that come along with having a live animal in your home. For landlords and property owners, there are a whole host of other issues that come along with pets. You may love animals personally, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you want someone else’s pets causing damage to your rental units, making a racket that bothers your current tenants or otherwise doing the things that animals do.  So what options do you have for renting to tenants with pets?

Ban Pets Outright

Whether it’s due to previous bad experiences or negative expectations, many landlords do not allow pets, end of story. While it’s your right to do that (pet owners are not a protected class of citizens against who you may not discriminate) there are some drawbacks to this solution.

First, it eliminates a big swath of the renting population, meaning you could have a harder time filling vacancies. But furthermore, studies have actually shown that  landlords who allow pets make more money and tenants with pets stay in their rental units longer. Finally, landlords who allow pets are actually able to charge more than those who do not, as well as save money on advertising all because units are simply easier to rent when they allow pets. Basically, current property owners who are having trouble filling vacancies may want to consider changing their pet policies

Filter by Type, Size and Even Breed…

But allowing pets to rent units doesn’t have to mean that you let every renter’s menagerie move in without question. Instead, decide what type of pets would be suitable for your unit and for your building and outline these restrictions as soon as you post an ad for your vacancy. Maybe you’re renting small and quiet places that would be well suited to a cat or two, but wouldn’t really fit a Rottweiler, you can decide to allow cats and not dogs. But maybe you’re renting out a condo with a yard in a family neighborhood and a dog would fit right in, then consider allowing dogs. Many landlords also choose to institute weight limits for apartments so certainly dogs may be eligible while others are not.

…or Just Screen For Yourself

An even more effective strategy for filtering out pets is judging the pet for yourself rather than making strict requirement right off the bat. Meet your potential tenant first and then ask to meet their pet before making your final decision. Two dogs may look exactly the same but one is well-mannered and clearly trained while the other is rambunctious and out of control, but you won’t know which is which unless you meet them.

Be Specific in Your Lease

Make sure your pet policy is clear in your lease. Some tenants may move in without a pet and decide to get one while they are staying with you. If there is no clause in your lease, you may have no recourse for dealing with this new pet, so be sure to be clear.

Collect a Pet Deposit

Even if you love animals and your tenants have only the best behaved tenants, it is true that pets can cause damage. This is exactly why the vast majority of pet-friendly rental units require a pet deposit that is separate from the security deposit. How much you want to charge should depend on the overall cost of the apartment and the fixtures, carpet, etc. that may become damaged. This deposit will protect you in the event you need to do pet-related repairs and most pet owners are more than happy to pay it.

Overall, the issue at hand isn’t really whether or not you like animals, it’s a matter of responsibility and that’s the most important quality in any desirable tenant, whether they have a dog or a cockatoo or a cactus. When you screen your tenants and their pets appropriately, you can quickly being to reap the benefits of being pet-friendly.