Should You Allow Pets When you Rent a Home?

I own 16 rental properties and I prefer not to rent to tenants with pets, but that does’t mean I never do. There are situations where I will rent to tenants with certain pets. I am in the process of renting two of my rental homes; rental property number 8 and rental property number 9. When it comes time to rent one of my properties, choosing the right tenant can mean the difference in thousands of dollars. There are many steps you can take to find a great tenant and many tenants will want to rent with a pet. I have a dog that I love and there is no way I would give up that dog so I understand why tenants want to have pets. It is tricky allowing pets because they can destroy a house, but they can also add revenue to a rental property.

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The dangers of allowing pets in rental properties

If a pet is trained well or the pet lives outside, there is a great chance that pet will never harm a home. If a pet is not trained well or is an older pet, they can do a lot of damage to a house. The biggest risk with pets doing damage to a home is urination inside the house. If you have had the pleasure of being in a home that has pet damage, it is not pretty and smells horrible. The smell can be overwhelming especially from cats, for families that rent with cats I have a special recommendation, I think that getting an electronic cat feeder is probably one of the best investments you can do, because this way there will be no problem with the mess a cat might be able to do in a regular way.

Pets can destroy carpet, hardwood floors, sub floors and even drywall. In some cases pets will try to chew through doors, trim or destroy grass in the backyard. If you are going to allow pets, you have to do your due diligence on the pet and weigh the risk of damage versus the reward of more money.

Why would any landlord allow pets in their rental property?

People with pets still need a place to live and many times they will pay more to rent a house than non-pet owners. Pet owners may pay more in monthly rent or pay a higher security deposit. I have rented my homes to tenants with pets, but I have always charged a higher deposit or monthly pet fee. That higher rent or deposit can make the risk of allowing pets worth it, if you check out the pet first.

What types of pets should you allow as a landlord?

I have never allowed a cat in my rental properties, because cat smell is so much worse than dog smell and much harder to get out. I have smelled houses with cats from 50 feet away with the doors closed. If you have the pleasure of entering a house like that, the smell sticks with you once you leave the home, it’s not fun.

In my experience the larger the pet, the better the chance is they will do damage. A large dog is stronger and can do more damage than a smaller dog. A large dog also urinates more and leaves bigger messes. If I do allow a dog in a home, I will allow a small dog and definitely charge more.

Should you allow aggressive breeds in a rental property?

Many cities have ordinances against aggressive dogs including pit bulls. If a city says it is illegal to own a pit bull that should tell a landlord something about how wise it is to allow pit bulls in their rentals. If an aggressive breed hurts someone and a landlord rented a home knowingly allowing an aggressive breed dog, then that landlord could be held liable for allowing the tenants to rent the home with that dog. This is another great reason to stick with smaller, less aggressive breeds.

How many pets should you allow when you rent a home?

The more dogs and cats, the better the chance damage will be done to a house. The more pets there are, the better chance the owners aren’t cleaning up and paying attention to the pets. The pets will be more likely to play aggressively with each other and cause damage as well. The less pets, if any a tenant has, the better when you rent a home.

How do you know of a pet will do damage to a rental property?

Just like you ask tenants for references, you can also ask for pet references. The best way to see how well a pet will behave is to check with previous landlords to see if the tenants had pets and if the pets did any damage. If the tenants cannot provide a pet reference then it can be very hard to see how the pets behave unless the tenants will show you their current home. It is not a bad idea to see the tenants take care of their current residence if they will let you see it.

How much more should you charge for pets in a rental home?

I usually adjust rent or the deposit increase based on the individual situation. The more pets, the better chance for damage and the more I will charge a tenant. For a small dog that I think has very little chance of doing damage, I may charge $250 more in deposit and $25 or $50 more in rent a month. For multiple dogs I may charge a $500 deposit and $50 a month more in rent. If I am trying to get a premium amount of rent for a property, I may not charge more for monthly rent for pets. I may only charge a higher deposit, because I know by charging a premium amount for rent, I should expect to attract people with pets who can’t find any other houses to rent and as a result are willing to pay more to have a dog. All things being equal, I would rather have a tenant without a pet at all.

How do you protect against tenants having pets without a landlord’s knowledge?

In my lease, I have many clauses the tenants must adhere to or they can be fined. In the lease it says if any pet is found on the property without permission from the landlord, the tenant can be charged $750 per occurrence. That is a hefty fine and hopefully makes my tenants think twice about having pets that are not allowed. This does not protect against every tenant, and I think it is also wise to set up routine inspections on your rental properties to change furnace filters or light bulbs and see if there are any signs of pets. I have a sixth sense for pets, because I am allergic to them, especially cats.

Conclusion

I try to avoid tenants with pets, but I still rent to tenants with pets on occasion. The biggest factor I look at when renting a home is how qualified are the tenants. If I have a choice between two equally qualified tenants and one does not have pets, I would obviously prefer the tenants without the pets. If I have one tenant I think is much more qualified than a tenant who does not have pets, I may go with the more qualified tenant even though they have a pet. Often times a pet will behave good or bad depending on how well they are trained and how well their owner takes care of them.

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31 thoughts on “Should You Allow Pets When you Rent a Home?”

  1. If you look through actual research, it makes no difference as to size of dog with respect to about of damage. 5 of the 10 most destructive dogs are small breeds and chihuahuas are the worst. Small dogs are also more likely to urinate inside because they have smaller bladders. Fear of a large dog is just irrational and uneducated. Unfortunately, I can’t talk sense to most landlords so they end up loosing probably the best tenant they would’ve ever had.

  2. I have a friend in PHX who has 10 illegal feral cats in her section 8 500sq ft apartment. She hides them in her vehicle when they do their yearly inspection. Her apt is ruined and disgusting. She snuck them all in. No deposit on file from her, but that apt is absolutely ruined so when she moves out I feel sorry for the landlord.

  3. Hi, One of my property is for rental and I got a proposal from a renter who owns Collie (described it as like lassie). Does any of you have any experience with these breeds in a rental? If you can share your experience, that would be great.

    Thanks
    Kumar

    • Hi Kumar,

      I have no landlord experience, but can tell you as someone who works with dogs that Collies and other shepherds are a highly intelligent breed: in other words, they need to be active and preoccupied. If the owner has an active lifestyle and care-taking role with said dog, the dog will be a delight, but otherwise, exercise caution. When a smart dog is bored, it shows. A good (though not absolute) way to test this, if you can, is how many commands the owner has taught the dog and how well it performs said commands. Can it still focus on the task while you, a stranger, are watching? If the dog knows a wide range of tricks and responds to them, it’s clear the owner has spent time on their care. Bonus points to both if the dog responds to others giving the same commands. Any formal certificate of training or obedience school is also a good step.

      Good luck!

  4. Hi Mark,
    Would you share one of your tenancy agreements with pets policy on this website (or via email)?
    My partner and I are thinking of renting our new house to a couple with a dog and need a template to work on for the lease contract.
    One of my main worries is that the house is new and it’s so lovely, I would be devastated if I found it damaged. Can you fix all of the damages from any pets (dogs and cats)? (i.e. skirting boards, hardwood floor, etc.)
    Kind regards,
    Laura

    • We add a clause that says they cannot have any pets. If we do allow pets in additional provisions we add how many pets, what kind of pets, and how much the security deposit will be, if any of it will be non refundable and if they rent increases due to pets. You could even add that you are allowed to have inspections to make sure the pets are being taken care of an not destroying the home.

  5. Hello Mark
    I am a landlord and I also have pets. I recently leased a beautiful home to a couple who declared having one dog. One week into their occupancy, we found out they had two. We don’t do the fine thing, as this is a distant rental. Surprise inspections are not only childish, but also make us a sort of property police. In our case, the tenant (when found out) declared he would shoot to kill anyone who came on the property without prior notice, and we believe his response indicates his desire to conceal violations or illegal activities. I agree with you that if renters want to have total control, they should consider a mortgage and not a lease! Lastly, with lovely comments from their last landlord ringing in me ears, we found out later that upon moving out, destroyed the home resulting in repair costs exceeding $5000. This is what certain people do that makes it difficult for others to rent homes, and they need to be stopped.

    • True, that is why you must check them out very well besides their last landlord. We don’t do surprise inspections but have it built in we can inspect with notice

  6. You people are hateful. Just because you have a bit of property, you think you can dictate exactly how people live within it. Pets are like people’s children – what the hell is the matter with you all, to bleed these pet owners dry for cash so they can pay your mortgage? You won’t rent to cat owners because cats smell? You are insane. Vile – and insane.

    • You think that anyone should have any pet they want in any rental? It is my house that I worked really hard for and I have seen many homes destroyed by pets. I did not say cats smell, I said when they pee in a house it smells awful. Even good cats start peeing in homes when they get old or stressed and you not only have to replace carpet, but sometimes sub floor to get it out. If you want complete freedom to have as many pets as you want, work on buying your own house.

    • So you think that it is the landlord’s responsibility to eat the cost from pet damage? He is saying that it compensates for the risks. I think Mark said it in a kind way, because I have seen an apartment completely destroyed by a German Sheppard puppy. I would not be so kind if I was the one who created this web page. I am not saying it is guaranteed to have damage to the house, but the risk is a lot higher. This seems completely justified to me.

  7. Would you rent to a family with 2 adult 7 yr old boxers they said they are fixed but I am concerned because I have hard wood flooring in half of the 3500 square foot home and carpeting in the rest of it and the home is only 2.5 years old . My rental mortgage co. is pushing for me to do so and I am concerned, also they lowered the rent down for them for a 3 yr lease but they are military like me soi know the lease can be broken at any time.please give me some advice… thanks

  8. Hello , I have a month to month lease that states ” outside pets only” my rentors moved and we are finding evidence of pets. The carpet was brand new when they moved in.. Do I have any recourse at this time? We are in California.

  9. Hey mark I had a bit of curiosity regarding the fine you implement in the rental agreement. Do you know if this is legal in Canada? I have heard things like security deposits are technically illegal but have never heard anything about fines being implemented for misuse of property, but I love the idea!

  10. I currently have 3 rental properties (2 SF and 1 duplex). When I guy a property I always put in a doggie door to the back yard. I’m hoping the dog will go outside to do his business and not do it on the hardwood floors.

  11. In my area, Santa Cruz County, you can typically get about $200 more each month for a person with pets. Check Craigs List and see how few homes out there will allow pets. Also, in my experience you will have the tenants for a longer time if you allow pets.

    • What you are doing should be illegal…and sounds almost discriminatory. You have a bond that should take care of any rental damage, there is no need to charge extra to a responsible family or individual who goes through all your pre rent checks and has an animal.. or two. I would bet that children cause more damage in rental properties than pets do anyways. Nothing like permanent marker, play dough, and diaper poo on your carpet… perhaps you could also squeeze a bit more out of people who have children?

      • Pets can do much more damage than children. I have seen it over and over where cats destroy a house. What if they have 20 animals? Where do you draw the line? Pets can do a lot of damage and landlords have the right to not rent to people with pets. There are deposits, but a cat peeing on the floor everywhere will cost way more than the deposit to fix. It is not so much poo that causes the serious damage, but pee. It will soak through hard wood floors and even the sub floor on carpets and you can never get the smell out.

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