Pet Free or Pet Friendly?
Tips for Management, Pets

Pet Free or Pet Friendly?

Apr 26, 2019

Trust between a tenant and landlord is important.

So, what do you do when that seemingly “perfect” candidate to rent your new luxury apartment says, “I have a dog. She’s really small and never barks.” Defining your apartment’s pet policy before this scenario happens will help you be true to your standards.

If you don’t allow pets in your apartments or rental homes, having a clear policy that is communicated to your potential tenant at your very first meeting is important. By being upfront right from the start, you open the conversation so there should be little chance of a “surprise” pet – one that your renter thinks you’ll never find out about, but always do.

Before you make a decision against allowing pets, there are actually some advantages to consider. If you do decide to allow pets, your pool of potential renters increases. And, pet owners are more likely to stay longer than renters without a pet.

You can charge a pet deposit as well as a monthly pet fee. These are allowed so you can have the cash reserves if you do indeed need to make repairs. Be sure to check the statutes in your state. South Dakota and Iowa don’t have a statute for pet deposits or nonrefundable fees. However, North Dakota allows pet deposits, “with a maximum of $2,500 or two month’s rent, whichever is greater, with an exception for service or companion animals for tenants ‘with a disability as a reasonable accommodation under fair housing laws.’”

If you are pet friendly, discussing your policy before you rent out an apartment or house will make it clear what you will and won’t permit. You can specify what types of pets you will allow. Only cats? Only dogs? A weight limit, like under 20 pounds? Don’t stop with cats and dogs. What about reptiles, parrots, ferrets, or hedgehogs? (Of course, you must allow service or companion animals.)

Some other considerations are:

  • How close are other neighbors to this apartment?
  • Do your townhomes have a yard where a dog can do his business? Make it very clear it is the renter’s duty to clean up after their pet.
  • What will it cost you to add pets to your insurance policy’s list of potential risk for damage?

Whether you go pet free or pet friendly, having a written policy that the tenant initials or signs will set the tone for open communication during future pet discussions.

Written by Melanie Olsen