This article was posted on Wednesday, May 01, 2013

In the past, it was pretty clear where I stood on the subject of allowing pets in rental units.  I didn’t allow it if it could be prevented.  Typically, the income would be eroded by damage and economic loss.

As an owner, I now find myself beginning to change my opinion.  It certainly has become a more common practice and seems to be a trend that will eventually prevail.

As in many management issues, we are dealing with a two-sided coin.  One side is to maintain a no pet policy.  That’s the easy side.  The other side is more complex and complicated. 

An increasing number of renters are from generation “Y”.  At an estimated seventy-two million, this is the largest generation ever.  They are young and are used to living a lifestyle that includes having pets – often at work.   Consider how many companies have now gone pet-friendly, including our own.

Another quickly growing group that often requires having their pets is people who have decided to give up home ownership and lease.  Recently, we have received more and more pushback from prospective tenants unwilling to lease in a building that would not accept pets. While some properties can still maintain a no-pet policy, their number continues to dwindle.

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Newer buildings, almost all pet friendly, typically provide specific areas to exercise dogs.  Although it would be impossible to retrofit older properties, some do have outside areas that may be converted.  There are a number of bag dispensers and signs to assist landlords with this matter.

Something else most of us have dealt with (if you haven’t, you will) is a tenant moving into a building with a no-pet policy, then showing up with claiming it is required for their mental well-being.  In case you are wondering, they are a protected class.  I often joke that I am waiting for a tenant to show up with a giraffe.

Once a tenant has a pet, it is quite difficult to convince other tenants they are not allowed to do so.  As it does seem that eventually most of us will face the above issues, here are some items to consider: 

  • Limit the size of dogs to 35 lbs. or under.  Larger breeds that require room to run and exercise do not do as well in confined rental units.  (Include barking in the rules and regulations – see below).
  • Make sure the cats are spayed and neutered.  This SHOULD reduce the marking of your carpeting, however, it is not a guarantee.
  • Make sure you use a lease addendum that contains specific language about pets. 
  • Adjust your security deposits.  We typically ask for an additional month’s rent in addition to the usual security deposit, [making sure the total deposit does not exceed two times the monthly rent for unfurnished apartments and three times the monthly rent for furnished apartments].
  • Lastly and probably most important, create a pet rules and regulations document.  It must be strictly adhered to and enforced.  Make sure that you include fines that will be levied if any of the rules are not followed.

 As a pet lover and owner, I wish you luck!

 Bruce Kahn, CCIM, CPM is a Managing Direction of the Foundation Group Real Estate Services.  Reprinted with permission of UPDATE.

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