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This is one of the most common questions we get from new landlords: “should we allow tenants to have pets in our house?” Some owners have very strong opinions about not allowing pets, which does have its downsides as well as upsides, but most owners are just looking for some guidance on what is best for them and their investment.

Approximately half of the prospective tenants we talk to have a dog or a cat. And those that do are almost universally unwilling to give up their furry friend just to rent a specific house. That means that if you’re taking a hardline position about prohibiting pets, then you’re essentially removing half of the prospective tenant pool. If your house is in a market where there is an oversupply of tenants, then this may not be a problem. But for most properties, this means that you could be dramatically extending the amount of time that your house will be on the market. And that means it's costing you money. Possibly thousands of dollars.

For that reason, we generally don’t recommend a policy prohibiting pets. It’s simply not in the owner’s best interests. The amount of money that you will lose by extending the amount of time that the house is likely to be on the market will usually far exceed any minimal damage that a pet may cause.

So what is a reasonable pet policy that protects the owner while not excluding a large portion of the tenant pool? For starters, owners need to be aware of what their insurance policy allows. Most insurance policies will prohibit purebred Pit Bulls, and possibly Rottweilers. Some very restrictive policies may even prohibit Chows or other breeds that most people wouldn’t suspect. So check your insurance policy for any specific prohibitions on breeds.

After determining that the prospective tenant doesn’t have a breed prohibited by the insurance policy, the next thing is to determine what fee you want to charge to protect yourself from any damage that may be caused by the pet. Typically, pets don’t cause much damage. Scratches on doors and moldings are probably the most common issues. More significant problems, such as a dog that urinates on the hardwood floors and a tenant who doesn’t clean it up, are pretty rare. A combination of a security deposit plus a non-refundable pet fee should take care of these concerns. We always recommend a security deposit equal to one month’s rent, so that’s a given. We recommend a non-refundable pet deposit of $250 for most situations, but that may be increased to $500 for a special circumstance, such as a larger dog that the tenant wants to keep inside, or a house with lots of hardwood floors that you’re concerned about.

Ultimately, the decision is up to the property owner. Some just don’t want to deal with any chance of pet damage, and would rather risk the lost rent from reducing the tenant pool. Others are pet lovers themselves and don’t want to do anything to shun tenants with pets. Whatever the case, we’re happy to help you out with it and make any recommendations for your specific house and your risk tolerance.