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What pet policy should I have for my rental units?

You want to be flexible about pets while still protecting your property and investment. Here's what to consider.

Nearly 30% of all renters applying through Ikos search for properties that are pet-friendly because they already own a furry friend. That number is growing steadily as even those without pets search for pet-friendly homes in anticipation of getting a four-legged companion at a later date. Pet ownership has also driven home sales as people search for more space to accommodate them. While there may be risks involved with making a rental pet friendly - the potential for damage, disturbing the neighbors, or HOAs and insurers might also have restrictions - the appeal it has to renters is undeniable. After checking with your insurance agent and/or HOA, let's say allowing pets is still under consideration. What should the pet policy be? The primary items to consider in a pet policy are fees/deposits and any restrictions.

When considering fees and deposits, it should be noted there may be different state/local laws that apply. In PA, for example, a deposit or non-refundable fee should not be enforced if you intend to charge pet rent. If the tenant stays longer than a year, the pet deposit will have to be returned and the fee would be considered double-charging. 

For restrictions, you'll want to consider aforementioned insurer or HOA restrictions, if any, and think about what the rental property can handle in terms of number of pets. For example, many owners say two pets maximum. Similarly, it's best to maintain a consistent pet policy across all of your rentals when possible to avoid potential discrimination claims. At a minimum, the variations should be clear and measurable. While Ikos does allow the option of advertising a pet policy as "case by case", we recommend having a set standard for what "case by case" means. Is it dependent upon a positive landlord reference or credit? Is it one large dog but up to two small dogs under 30 lbs.? It's important to have these guides in place from the beginning and, once they're set, apply the standards to all applicants. Case by case scenarios aren't recommended as they tend to cause confusion and invite constant back-and-forth negotiation.

Considering the above, Ikos typically suggests the following as a general baseline for a pet policy, which you can adjust (or ignore) based on your property, risk tolerance, and local regulations:

Option 1) $250 - $500 refundable pet deposit. Aside from not charging anything at all for pets, this is one of the most accommodating policies. It incentivizes renters to look after their pets in order to get the money returned at the end of the lease term. 

Option 2) $250 - $500 non-refundable pet fee. This creates a higher barrier for most renters, but can guarantee some extra money for the owner to cover any cleaning and repairs after the lease ends.

Option 3) $25 - $50 in pet rent, per pet. This policy avoids complications with any laws regarding security deposit amounts over one month and can also garner some return for the risk of allowing pets. Too high of a pet rent, though, and you may negate the potential for a larger pool of renters as they search elsewhere for a rental that better fits their budget.

 

Of course, these options are only suggestions and Ikos recommends consulting with your Client Advisor if there's still any uncertainty about what pet policy and fees to enforce.