How to Implement and Enforce Pet Policies

pet

Allowing pets in your rental units is incredibly lucrative for your rental business.

The majority of Americans own pets, and most would not give them up to rent a pet-free property. This means establishing a pet-positive policy can help you attract a substantial group of renters in your area.

Pet owners also have limited options when it comes to renting. If you allow pets in your units, these renters are more likely to stick around due to the low probability of finding another rental.

Pets are clearly a great way to attract renters to your properties. However, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t establish firm rules for pet ownership in your units. Pets introduce significant risk, so you should clearly define rules in your agreements and enforce them as you would other policies.

Here are a few tips for implementing and enforcing pet policies in your rentals. 

Include a Pet Clause or Addendum

You can’t enforce any pet rules if you don’t include them in your lease agreement. 

If you’ve already signed leases with tenants, you can still write an addendum to cover your new pet policy. This addition is usually easy to enforce if you’re making more allowances to pet owners than you were previously. If you’re changing existing pet rules, you must wait to enforce these terms until the next renewal or have your current tenants sign an addendum agreement. 

Use clear, unambiguous language in your pet policy. Be sure to specify every aspect of pet ownership you want to enforce, including the following:

  • Number of pets permitted
  • Species and breeds allowed or prohibited
  • Age of pets
  • Weight or temperament limits
  • Whether a behavior class certification is required
  • Warnings or penalties for noise disturbances
  • Leash requirements in community spaces
  • Vaccination or vet visit standards
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Also, designate how tenants must approach various situations concerning pets. For example, indicate specific procedures for visiting pets, pet-sitting situations, and pest control problems (fleas).

Hold Tenants Accountable for Their Pets

You should also include a clause in your pet policy holding tenants responsible for pet damages and disturbances

If desired, you can also require pet-owner tenants to purchase renter’s liability insurance. This insurance will protect you and the renter in case of accidents like dog bites or attacks. The last thing you want is to be involved in a messy legal entanglement because of a spooked animal. 

Apply Pet Fees

As long as you comply with the law, you can also apply pet fees as you see fit. Many states have restrictions on pet fees and deposits, so make sure you review state and local legislation.

If you use property management software, pet violation fees can be applied to a tenant’s account just like a late fee. Include the reason and date of the violation, the amount of the fee, and the deadline by which the tenant has to make any necessary changes

Non-Pet Animals

Sometimes, tenants may own animals that are not considered pets. These include service animals, emotional support animals (ESAs), and therapy dogs. Here’s what you should know about each.

Service Animals

Service animals are trained to help a specific person with a disability navigate day-to-day life. For example, a renter who is legally blind may own a guide dog. Service dogs may enter any public establishment under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and can live with their disabled owners even if you have a “no pets” policy.

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Therapy Dogs

Therapy dogs are also trained to tolerate lots of situations and people but differ in that they provide general comfort and support to a variety of people. Their owners typically have fewer legal accommodations. For example, a therapy dog might visit hospitals or nursing homes to comfort their residents.

Emotional Support Animals (ESAs)

ESAs are like service animals in that they help a specific person. However, they receive no training. Any person may acquire a doctor’s note to certify their pet to provide companionship, emotional support, or to ease the symptoms of a mental health disorder. ESAs are essentially pets in practice but can also live in rentals with a ‘no pets’ policy, and it’s often illegal to charge their owners a fee.

Before enforcing your pet policy, review the Federal Fair Housing Act and local laws. It’s your responsibility to learn which pet fees you can/can’t apply and the accommodations you are legally obligated to provide renters with disabilities.

Welcoming Pets in Your Rentals

Pets are a great value and comfort to their owners. By allowing pets in your rentals, you can accommodate your tenants while attracting more applicants. Follow the above guidelines for your pet agreement, and you’ll enjoy having pets around as much as your renters.