Pets can quickly become an emotional topic, especially when we’re discussing pets in rental properties. Tenants get emotional about their pets because they’re often considered family members. They cannot imagine living anywhere without them.
Owners can get pretty emotional, too. They worry about the integrity of their property and the damage that pets can do. They might also worry about the risk and liability that comes with pets. What if a dog bites a neighbor?
When you rent out a property in Santa Rosa, you have to make a lot of decisions. One of the most important decisions is whether you’ll allow pets. This will have an impact on what you earn and who you attract as a tenant.
We have been leasing, managing, and maintaining Santa Rosa properties for years. In our experience, it’s best to allow pets. Or at least consider them. We’ve found that the benefits of renting out a pet-friendly property almost always outweigh the risks.
Here are what some of those benefits look like.
Forget Vacancy – Pet-Friendly Properties Attract More Tenants
Perhaps the most important benefit is a reduced vacancy rate.
You’ll find your right tenant faster when you’re willing to consider all tenants, including those who have a pet.
When you look at the statistics, allowing pets into your rental property makes the most financial sense. That’s because a majority of renters own at least one pet. Not allowing pets in your rental property will lead to longer vacancies. It may take you extra time to find a tenant who isn’t moving in with a pet.
Why limit your tenant pool?
Over half of the tenants looking for Santa Rosa homes have at least one pet. We remind owners of this all the time because by not allowing pets, you’re actually cutting your tenant pool in half, and with fewer tenants interested in your rental home, you’ll be waiting a bit longer to place just the right resident.
The entire leasing process is likely to move a lot faster when you offer a pet-friendly property. You’ll simply have more potential applicants.
Think about what vacancy costs you. Not only are you without income for those weeks or months, you’re also paying out of pocket for utilities. You’ve got to worry about unreported maintenance and safety issues. What if someone breaks in while the property is vacant?
Not Only More Tenants – Better Tenants, Too
People who own pets are generally good people, and they tend to be responsible, positive renters.
This doesn’t mean they’re all perfect, you’re right to worry about the dog who likes to dig or the cat who refuses to use a litter box. But when you screen pets as carefully as you screen tenants, you can end up with a great pair for your property. We’ve found that tenants who take good care of their animals also take good care of their homes.
It’s easy to worry about the damage that animals can potentially do to a property, but you’ll find that pets actually cause much less damage than people do.
Most pet owners understand the extra costs that come with renting a home. They’ll be prepared to pay a pet fee or pet rent. They’ll agree to extra inspections. You’re likely to find pet owners to be easy to work with.
Higher Retention in Pet-Friendly Rental Homes
There’s not only the benefit of less vacancy. There’s also the benefit of less turnover.
Pet owners don’t move quite as frequently as tenants who don’t have pets. That’s because they know there’s going to be another pet fee or pet deposit in the new place. They don’t want to pay that again. So, if they’re having a good rental experience, they’re likely to stay in place. This reduces your vacancy and turnover costs. It eliminates the stress of having to find a new tenant.
Earn More Money by Permitting Pets
It’s something you probably haven’t considered, but you’re actually losing money when you don’t have pets in your property.
It’s true. You can earn more because your property has a higher rental value when your tenant has a pet. You can charge a pet fee and/or pet rent. Or, you can charge a pet deposit if you’re willing to give that money back at the end of the lease term the same way you refund a security deposit.
Here’s how these options work for you:
- Pet fees are non-refundable amounts 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 $300 per pet and your tenant moves in with two cats, that’s $600 you’ve earned just by allowing pets. You won’t give the money back, and you’ll be able to use it to pay for potential damages caused by the animals. However, it’s unlikely those damages will total $600.
- Pet deposits are a little bit different. 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 $400 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 $150 from the pet deposit. This is a good option for nervous property owners who don’t really care about the extra money and would prefer to incentivize tenants not to let their pets do any damage.
- 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.
Set yourself up for extra income by welcoming pets into your property. Who doesn’t want to earn a few dollars more every month?
Put Together a Pet Policy to Protect Your Santa Rosa Rental Home
Now that you understand the benefits of allowing pets, what can you do to protect your investment and provide yourself with some peace of mind?
You don’t have to allow every pet. In fact, you shouldn’t. It’s perfectly reasonable to put restrictions on what kind of pets you’ll allow, and how many. This gives you the flexibility of saying you’ll consider pets in your marketing materials. Consider pets on a case-by-case basis.
Screen pets as carefully as you screen your tenants, and make sure you have a strong pet policy in place. This is what that policy might look like:
- Gather specific pet information for screening. On your application, ask about pets. You’ll need to know how many pets the tenant has, what breeds they are, how big they are, and how old they are. Ask for names and photos. You can ask for veterinarian information, too. You can require records of vaccinations as well as flea and tick treatments.
- Set limits on the number of pets you’ll allow, and/or the size. For example, you can say that you’ll only allow one pet per property or two pets per property. You can require pets to be less than 30 pounds. You can require them to be at least two years old.
- Conduct tenant reference checks with former landlords. When you’re evaluating a tenant’s rental history, ask current and former landlords about the pets. You’ll want to know if they were well-behaved, if there were any complaints, and if the pet was responsible for any damage.
Check with your insurance company about restrictions on dangerous breeds. Everyone who owns a Pit Bull or a Doberman will assure you that the dog is as sweet as can be. That may be true, but insurance companies tend not to cover dogs that are considered vicious. You should prohibit these breeds or require your tenants to purchase additional insurance that will hold you harmless if something happens.
Increase Maintenance Inspections with Pet-Friendly Properties
When you have a tenant with pets, conduct routine inspections. In California, you cannot enter a tenant’s home without cause. But, if you are walking through the home to check on maintenance issues, you’ll have an opportunity to ensure the pet is not causing any damage to your home.
This protects your Santa Rosa rental property because you can be sure there isn’t any pet damage or mess being tolerated at the home. When you drive by the home, you can check to see that dogs are on leashes, and you’ll know that the lawn has not been torn up by the animals. When you go inside the home to conduct a maintenance inspection, look for signs that the pet may be making messes or causing problems. Address any issues with your tenant.
We always encourage owners to consider pets. If you’d like to talk about what this might mean for you and your property, please contact us at Prestige Real Estate & Property Management. We manage homes in Sonoma County, including Santa Rosa, Windsor, Sebastopol, Petaluma, and Rohnert Park.