What to Keep in Mind When Allowing Pets in Your Santa Rosa Residential Rental Property - Article Banner

Pets can be a pretty emotional topic when we’re talking about Santa Rosa residential rental property. If you’re allowing them, that’s good. It will bring you more tenants and more money. However, there are risks to allowing pets, too, and you need to keep those potential liability issues in mind

We’ve put together a list of what you should keep in mind when you’re allowing pets in your investment property. We’re positive people, so we’re starting with a brief look at why it’s such a good idea to be a pet-friendly property. We’re realists, too, so we’re going to fill you in on some of the problems that pets can cause. 

These are the Benefits of Being a Pet-Friendly Rental Property in Santa Rosa

If you have pets of your own, you understand the emotional attachment people have to their animals. Dogs and cats are basically family members. Allowing them in your rental is a good idea, and here’s why:

  • Lower Vacancy Rates 

Every study we have ever read shows that pet-friendly properties are more popular than rental homes that don’t allow pets. More than half of all the tenants looking for a new Santa Rosa rental home have at least one pet. Not allowing pets would eliminate a significant part of your tenant pool. 

Fewer interested tenants mean longer vacancies. You have to think about how much money you can lose waiting for a tenant who doesn’t have a dog or a cat. Think about what vacancy costs you. When your property is unoccupied, you lose money that can never be earned back. Leaving your rental home vacant just because you don’t want to allow pets will end up costing you more than any pet damage could ever cost. So, the pets you allow are essentially earning you more by reducing vacancy. 

  • Higher Tenant Retention Rates

Keep in mind that when you allow pets, you don’t only limit vacancy; you also limit turnover.

Pet owners are more likely to renew their lease agreements and stay where they are, especially if they’re having a good rental experience. Moving would mean paying another pet fee. The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) and Michelson Found Animals Foundation has the data that backs this up. They completed a report a few years ago on pet-inclusive housing and found that residents in pet-friendly housing stay 21 percent longer than those in non-pet-friendly housing.  

  • Improve Tenant Quality

In our experience as Santa Rosa property managers, tenants with pets are generally easy to work with. They’re good tenants, and they’re likely to care about their property as much as they care about their pets. They tend to be responsible, positive renters. 

We can also tell you from our experience that animals have caused less damage than people. 

These Are the Challenges of Allowing Pets in a Santa Rosa Rental Property 

So, pets are a good idea. 

But, you have to keep in mind that pets are also messy. Sometimes, they bite people. Sometimes, they damage homes

  • Pets and Property Damage

No one likes to see the deep scratches on a wood floor that a dog can leave. Or evidence of a cat sharpening his paws on the crown molding. It’s difficult to prevent damage when you have no control over how a pet acts in your property. After tenants move out, you could find yourself repairing that pet damage, which can be costly and time-consuming. 

  • Pets Can be Stinky

There might be extra cleaning required after a tenant with pets moves out. The smell of cat urine sticks around, no matter how hard you scrub it out of a carpet. Your next tenants could be allergic to animals. Fleas might be hatching baby fleas in your carpet fibers. Eliminating odors and pet waste can require extra effort, and you have to be prepared to make that effort. 

  • Dog Bites and Dangerous Breeds

People with Pit Bulls will claim that their dogs are just the gentlest creatures. That may be true, but what if that big sweetheart attacks a mailman or bites a neighbor’s child? You’re looking at a pretty big lawsuit, we promise. Some insurance companies will not cover dangerous breeds. You’ll want to know what they are and establish restrictions around the types of pets you’re willing to allow.

Keep In Mind You’re Earning More in Rent and Fees

Here’s something good to keep in mind: you’re generally going to earn more money when you allow pets in your Santa Rosa rental property. 

If you’re looking to maximize what you earn, allow pets. Pet-friendly homes earn more money. Your property has the same rental value whether you rent to tenants with pets or without pets. But, when tenants move in with their cats and dogs, you can charge them extra. There are generally three ways to do this:

  • Pet fees
  • Pet deposits 
  • Pet rent

A pet fee is a non-refundable amount of money that tenants pay before they move in. You can collect the pet fee one time only and you collect it per-pet. So, if your pet fee is $250 per pet and your tenant moves in with two cats, that’s $500 you’ve earned just by allowing pets. 

A pet fee is not money you need to give back to the tenant. You can use it to pay for potential damages caused by the animals. However, it’s unlikely the damage from two well-screened pets will total $400. 

Pet deposits are a little bit different, and they are refundable. There are pros and cons to collecting a deposit versus a fee. Your tenant will pay the deposit before moving in, but you’ll only be able to use the money to pay for pet-related damage. You’ll have to return anything that wasn’t used at the end of the lease term. So, you may charge a $500 refundable pet deposit. If your tenant’s dog chews a hole in a wall and you pay $250 to repair it, you’ll need to return the remaining $250 from the pet deposit. 

Many owners find this is a good way to incentivize preventing pet damage. However, do you want to give that money back at the end of the tenancy?

Pet rent is paid every month that the tenant is living in the property with their pet. We’ve seen amounts that range from $25 per pet to $60 per pet. You’ll add this amount to the rental amount every month, giving you more income and a bit of a reserve in case you need to do cleaning or make repairs that are due to the pets. 

Conduct Pet Screening with Tenant Screening

If you’re planning to allow pets, make sure you screen them carefully. You can ask to meet the pet. You can collect pictures of pets. You can also talk to the vet or request vet records. Making sure the pet has been vaccinated and treated for fleas might give you some extra peace of mind. It will also show you that the tenant cares about the animal and will take good care of it. 

You don’t have to accept every pet. You can say in your advertising materials that you’re willing to accept pet, and then screen them to decide which pets you’ll allow and which you’d prefer not to allow. 

Implement a Strong Pet Policy 

Pet PolicyKeep in mind that even though there are risks present with pet-friendly properties, you can mitigate many of those with a great pet policy. 

A solid pet policy will protect your property against the potential for damage and liability. In your pet policy, you can outline how much you’ll collect in pet rent and pet fees. You can also set up requirements and expectations. Dogs should always be leashed, for example, and tenants will be required to clean up after their dogs outside and in common areas. 

Here’s something important to remember: service animals and support animals are not pets. Even if you decide not to allow pets in your rental home, you still cannot say no to a tenant who needs accommodation because of a disability. Service animals and support animals are not subject to pet fees or breed restrictions. 

We understand the owners who might hesitate to allow pets in their Santa Rosa rental homes. It can be difficult to trust that your tenant will prevent pet damage and bad behavior. With a good pet policy, however, and proper pet screening, you can set yourself up for a successful rental experience. As you can see from what we’ve shown you in this blog, the benefits definitely outweigh the risks. 

You don’t have to take on all of this liability on your own. If you’re nervous about pets, work with a Santa Rosa property manager who can conduct frequent inspections to ensure your property is not being destroyed by a tenant’s pet. 

We can help. If you’d like to hear more, please contact us at Prestige Real Estate & Property Management. We manage homes in Sonoma County, including Santa Rosa, Windsor, Sebastopol, Petaluma, and Rohnert Park.