Many people in in 2014 have family pets. The family pet, especially in the case of dogs has become a well-established part of the family. However, for a landlord, accepting a tenant with a pet can be a potential liability.
Here in Austin, Texas, we are one considered one of the most dog friendly cities in the United States. Our city features numerous off-leash dog parks, off-leash hiking trails, and even restaurants that will allow dogs. There are people here who's dogs eat the same organic, grass-fed beef their human companions do! To put it simply, most people in Austin, TX have dogs. There are a few cat lovers in Austin, but we are primarily a dog city.
This poses some unique challenges for a landlord that is not used to renting in a city with so many dog owners. On the one hand by accepting any kind of pets, the likelihood of the pet causing damage to the house increases. On the other hand, by not allowing pets a landlord has effectively diminished their potential pool of renters.
How should a landlord reduce the risks associated with pets?
The best way to reduce your risk with tenants with pets, is to plan accordingly when the house is purchased. Remove any carpet immediately and put down either tile or wood laminate floors. The additional money spent on the flooring will more than pay back itself over the lifetime of the investment. Tile is a nearly indestructible material. If the family pet uses the bathroom in the house, it is possible to quickly clean tile and never have any residual odors. It is also highly beneficial for the tenant because it will be easier for the tenant to maintain and keep clean.
Carpet on the other hand, is an absorbent material, which allows urine or feces from pets to permeate through the carpet and into the pad. Once this happens, permanent staining of the carpet can occur. Unfortunately, even the best-trained pets will have accidents in the house. I have seen it happen in countless occasions where the carpet is so badly stained from pet waste that it is almost impossible to shampoo. Additionally, cat urine tends to have more potent chemicals in it, and the shampoo can actually make the smell worse.
If the landlord doesn't wish to remove the carpet, it is possible to protect yourself by requiring that the tenants shampoo and deodorize the carpets, and have the house treated for fleas after they move.
After removing the carpet, a landlord that accepts pets should charge a non-refundable security deposit, in addition to the regular security deposit. This additional deposit can protect the landlord should things need to be repaired from pet damage. Some landlords like to charge an additional rent per month when tenants have pets, however, I personally believe that this is unnecessary.
Finally, the last thing that a landlord can do to protect themselves is to thoroughly screen a tenant and their pets for any history that may be indicative of a pet that caused extensive damage. Do not accept a tenant with a pet that has a known aggressive or destructive history. Not only will your insurance policy not cover you, you the landlord could potentially be liable for damages caused by the tenant's pets. Unless a dog is a known service animal, do not under any circumstances accept a tenant with any of the following breeds of dogs: Pit Bulls, Rottweilers Doberman Pinschers, German Shepherds, Akita's and American Bulldogs.
Ask for a tenant to submit a photo of the dog with their application. In Texas, our TAR Form 2003 - Residential Lease Application asks the prospective tenant to describe their pets. The photos submitted should match the general type of pet and breed specified on the application. If you are unsure about what that type of breed is supposed to look like, please go to Wikipedia and research it there.
Should the tenants pet description of their application not match the photo, simply deny the application move onto the next one. Additionally, when you call their past landlords, verify whether or not the pet did any damage to the house.
These are some strategies of how to accept tenants with pets and minimize your risk at the same time. If you have any questions about buying investment properties in Austin please contact me at 512-693-9297.
1) Walking Dog Clipart. http://www.clipartguide.com/_pages/0511-1008-0622-5914.html
2) Bad Dog Clipart: http://pixabay.com/en/dog-pee-animal-angry-spiteful-157014/