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Should you let your tenants keep pets in the units they rent from you or not?

Allowing domesticated animals on your property can pose risks, such as possible property damage and tenant injuries. But you can effectively reduce the risks associated with being in charge of pet-friendly housing.

The first thing to do is include a pet agreement in rental unit leases. Make sure that all tenants read over and sign the pet agreement, even if they do not own a pet. That way, if they decide to get an animal pal later on, they will know what to expect if they want to continue renting from you.
PET AGREEMENT FOR RENTERSFollowing are some provisions you may wish to include in your pet agreements:

I. Kinds of Pets Allowed

Be sure to be very specific about which types of pets are OK for the unit(s) you are renting. Some landlords only permit common domesticated animals such as dogs – be careful which ones – cats, guinea pigs, rabbits, hamsters, gerbils and small reptiles. You should also be clear on how many such pets you will allow.

It’s also good to ask your tenants about the pets they plan on keeping. Some possible questions might include:

• how long the tenant has had the pet
• whether the pet has caused any problems in the past
• who will look after the pet when the tenant is away

II. Requirements for identification, licenses and vaccinations
Tenants should know that all dogs and cats should wear ID collars or tags that include proof of current vaccinations. You should find out what your local ordinances require concerning regular pet vaccinations and licenses and insist that tenants give you proof – such as copy of a vet bill – that they are in compliance with those laws.

III. Tenant pet responsibility
Your tenants should agree to keep their animals under control at all times so that those pets don’t become a nuisance to other tenants. Make cleaning up after pets a requirement, especially in any common areas. Have an agreement in place that addresses where and how pets are to be supervised and consider asking pet-owning tenants to carry renters’ liability insurance.

IV. Pet fees
Some landlords find it helpful to levy a pet fee in addition to a security deposit (in Texas, this is legal, though not in other states). Should you do this, keep the amount reasonable, around $300 or so. If you do not and your tenant takes you to court, a judge may not enforce any pet fee provision you may have.

Be aware that you should never charge extra for service animals as they are not pets. They are “companions” that accommodate a disability.

The final thing to remember about your pet agreements is to make them easy for you to change. You can do this by stating that you have a right to amend all rules when you give tenants reasonable notice (this is usually 30 days).

In a dog-eat-dog world, it’s hard to stay on top of everything when you’re a landlord, especially one that’s open to pet-owning tenants. That’s why Herman Boswell exists: to help property owners on the go take care of the little things that can make a difference to a landlord’s success. When you need property management expertise, contact us!