Allowing Pets and Service Animals in Your Rental

Allowing Pets and Service Animals in Your RentalEvery now and again, we come across the question of whether or not it’s advisable to allow pets in your rental units. The reality of this question is that there’s no “right” answer – there are reasons to allow pets, and reasons not to allow them. It’s entirely up to the landlord or property manager as to whether or not allowing pets on the property is the right decision for a specific unit or home.

What are the pros?

Pets remain an integral part of the American family, with millions of renters choosing to own a cat, dog, or other small pet. For many, this animal is considered a member of their family and they won’t even consider an apartment or rental home without a pet allowance policy. Depending on the area you live in, you could be missing out on a wide variety of tenants by refusing to allow animals, giving more business to your competitors instead.

Many pet owners understand the meaning of responsibility because they have to properly care for another living being. That can make them a more well-rounded and mindful tenant.

What are the cons?

Allowing animals on your property means that you may have to deal with property damage or problems with other tenants. That’s just the reality of the situation. While many pet owners are responsible, some are not, and you may enter a rental at the end of a lease to find torn carpet, scratched walls, or soiled flooring. If you allow any and all breeds of dog and cat, you may find that a loud or dangerous animal slips through the cracks and can prove an annoyance to your other tenants at best or a danger to them at worst.

What can you do to maximize the benefits of allowing pets while minimizing the negatives? You’re in control of the pet policy, so construct it in a way that works in your favor. Limit the number, type, and size of the animals you’ll allow in your property, paying special attention to your local laws as far as whether there are breed limitations in your area. For example, some local regulations will not allow pit bulls or exotic pets. You’ll likely also want to include a pet deposit to discourage irresponsible pet owners and cover your bases against property damage, and require animals be licensed and up to date on vaccinations with proof from a veterinarian in the application.

What about service animals?

Service animals can complicate matters if you have a blanket “no pet” policy. We’ve written about what constitutes a service dog before, and as you can read there, service dogs are not pets – they are working companion animals. It’s also important to know that both the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Fair Housing Act require most rental properties to allow service dogs, with some exceptions.

Emotional support animals are different from service dogs and are also typically required by the Fair Housing Act (but not the ADA). An emotional support animal does not have to be as highly trained as a service dog because they’re kept for emotional support rather than assisting a person with a disability. These animals do not have to be a specific breed of dog – they may be small dogs, cats, birds, reptiles, rodents, or even pigs. It’s highly recommended that you check with your legal counsel as to your local rules, laws, and regulations as far as service and support animals.

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