Creating a standard pet policy that you use for all of your properties allows you to create an easily understood set of rules for your tenants to follow. By clearly outlining what you do and do not allow on your property, you can avoid problems later on. Have your pet policy drafted by an expert landlord law attorney and make sure all tenants sign it, even if they don’t currently have a pet. People can acquire pets at any time – so making sure everyone knows your rules protects you from unruly animals and their owners, too.
Will you charge a pet deposit? It is a personal decision, but even the best-behaved pets can cause damage to your home just by living there. From dander and parasites to carpet and even wall damage, dogs, cats, and birds can damage your rental unit or home. Charging an initial deposit can offset the costs you’ll face when you need to restore the home to its original, pet-free condition.
Types and Categories of Pets
Will you allow cats, dogs or both? Will you also allow birds, reptiles, or exotics? Clearly outlining the pets you will and won’t allow on the property can protect you in a variety of ways. Specifying the exact species you’ll allow and excluding everything else protects you. Even reptiles or rodents can be a problem if they escape from their enclosures, so specifying exactly what can and can’t live on your property at the start can prevent problems and the need for a landlord law attorney later.
Weight won’t matter with some pets. Cats, fish, and birds don’t get terribly large. Dogs, on the other hand, can range from a three-pound terrier to a 200+-pound mastiff. While a big dog is not necessarily a dangerous dog, it adds an element of risk for the landlord. Any dog could bite, but if a visitor or repairperson is bitten by a large dog on your property, you could be facing a lawsuit. Protect yourself by setting a weight limit and sticking to it. 30 pounds allows all small and some medium breeds and can automatically exclude most “dangerous” breeds too.
Vaccinations and Registration
Any pet that comes onto your property should be fully vaccinated and legal; requiring this as a part of your pet policy protects you from tenants who are not responsible pet owners.
Rules for Your Property
Clearly outline any rules you have for pets on your property. If you have multiple units, designate an area for dogs to exercise and create a rule that they need to be on a leash when outdoors. Think about what rules you feel are important and will be most likely to safeguard your property, your neighbors, and any other tenants you have in place. Any rules you set for pets need to be in line with local landlord law. Your attorney can help you draft the complete policy.
Pets can be a delightful addition to your tenant’s families, but having a firm pet policy in place can prevent them from damaging your home or exposing you to unnecessary legal risk.