How pets can be a landlord's best friend
Forget using free rent, wireless or a big-screen TV as incentives. If you really want to attract more renters, reduce unit turnover and make more money, welcome pets. Consider these tips on how to rent to Bowser stress-free.
As landlords vie for tenants in this depressed market, many are wondering whether it might be time to allow dogs and cats. Judging by the number of calls they get from pet owners, surely there'd be plenty of takers.
But when the plan is posed to colleagues, say, at an online property-management forum, it invariably gets quashed by a colorful tale of hurt: the kitty litter improperly disposed of (clogged pipes) or the whining dog inadequately attended to (infuriated neighbors). "After that," a fellow property owner declares, "I stopped allowing pets."
The problem is that what makes for a good story and what constitutes the norm are two very different things. When managers hear only the most outrageous tales – and what else are people going to recount? – they miss the true picture, which is far less interesting and far tamer.
"Those stories get passed around and pets get a bad rap, when on average it doesn't seem to be the case from our data that people with pets cause more damage," says Josh Frank, co-founder of the Foundation for Interdisciplinary Research and Education Promoting Animal Welfare (FIREPAW). "And even in cases when they do cause damage, it's less than any pet deposit, so it's not an amount that affects the profitability."
In what may be the only published research on the subject, a 2003 survey (.PDF file) by FIREPAW found that apartments that accepted pets not only didn't lose money, they actually gained more, to the tune of nearly $3,000 per apartment, per year. Property managers with active pet policies concur. Where do those gains come from? Take a look:
Faster unit turnover
While there don't appear to be any data comparing current vacancy rates between pet-friendly and non-pet-friendly apartments, the 2003 survey found vacancy rates of 10% and 14%, respectively. That 4% difference translates into one of every 25 units sitting empty when pets aren't allowed.
"Somewhere in the neighborhood of 70% of your tenants are going to have some kind of pet, so you can't just say, 'No pets allowed,'" says Fred Thompson, president of the National Association of Residential Property Managers, a trade group. "If you do, you're going to see an extended vacancy period on your investment and that doesn't work out long term.
"Look at it in this sense: If it took an extra two months at $1,000, then … not taking a pet costs $2,000," Thompson says. "Well, $2,000 will pay for a lot of carpet."
Pet-friendly apartments rented in 19 days versus 29 days for non-pet-friendly units in the 2003 study, when 9% of apartments surveyed allowed all pets, 44% limited pets by type or size (most allowed cats) and only 11% allowed large dogs.
Today, due to an oversupply of condo conversions and a depleted supply of employed renters, the vacancy rate has spiked above 10% nationally and topped 20% in some areas, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.
"Lots of people are struggling to rent out homes, and if they can get a dog in there, they can rent it out for sure," says Amanda Carey, a real-estate agent in Florida. "There's a real pent-up demand for rentals with dogs."
A bigger pool of tenants
In good times and bad, allowing pets draws a wider selection of renters.
"When you have higher demand, you can be more selective and you can actually get better tenants if you allow pets," says Frank, an economist and consultant to landlords on effective pet policy.
Reduced turnover rates
In the FIREPAW survey, tenants in pet-friendly rentals stayed an average of 46 months, compared with 18 months for those in rentals prohibiting pets. This did not include tenants who harbored pets illegally, who also stayed only 18 months.
Tenants who cause less damage
The average worst damage from tenants with pets, as reported by landlords in the FIREPAW survey, was $430, an amount typically covered by the security deposit.
The average damage was $362 for tenants with pets, and $323 for tenants without pets, a difference of about $40 and one that Frank says is statistically insignificant, meaning it could be due to random variables.
And even those differences were skewed once children were factored in: Overall, tenants with children caused $150 more damage than those without. After controlling for children, the pet owners actually did less damage than those who didn’t own pets.
Tenants with children and pets caused $4 less damage than tenants with children and no pets; and tenants with no children who had pets caused $25 less damage than those with no children and no pets.
"In terms of damage, I don't think it's any more than what a tenant is going to do without a pet," says Barbara Holland, president of H&L Realty and Management in Nevada.
No one is suggesting that landlords discriminate against children; besides, it's against the law. But consider that if you do automatically turn away the older couple with the golden retriever, you might have to take the family with the two-legged companions that arrive next, along with the possibility of greater damage.
This is Economics 101: Increased demand raises prices. Apartments that allowed for pets were able to charge 20% to 30% more rent than those that didn't allow pets ($222 on average, according to the FIREPAW survey. And those that allowed all pets (typically meaning large dogs) fetched $100 more per month than those that restricted pets by size and type.
"I don't recommend anyone just charge more because they allow pets, but you end up charging more just because you have more demand," Frank says.
Less time and money spent on advertising
In the 2003 survey, owners spent $15 in advertising per unit for pet-friendly housing compared with $32 per unit for non-pet-friendly housing. They also reduced their marketing time by half.
Pet-friendly buildings can reach renters via rental sites tailored for pet owners, and the free listings at shelters, dog-owners groups, pet stores and veterinary offices.
After subtracting for extra costs, such as insurance, the FIREPAW survey found that the apartments that allowed pets were able to generate, on average, $2,300 more per unit, per year.
Mitch Rattner, owner of Home Equity Savers, near Chicago, changed to a pets-OK policy when the market slowed in 2006. It's been easier to rent units, he says, and "most people are conscientious." He could recall only one case of damage costing more than the $400 pet security deposit.
"It's part of the business. If you plan ahead then it's not an unexpected expense and you're not upset," he says, and jokes: "If people are too worked up about it, tell them not to go into the real-estate business. Tell them to go into the carpet-cleaning business."
Like the previous poster, the decision has been made for us by the courts.
As a Kentucky landlord, here's the bottom line: a recent state supreme court ruling.
Have we had good tenants with pets? Absolutely. Horror stories of clawed / chewed up woodwork and feces damage? Yep. But we can't afford to be held legally liable for a renter's dog attacking someone. Link below, but look it up. We don't agree with it, but we can't ignore it.
Companion pets, prescribed by doctors are usually permitted. Vet checked animals to be certified clean of diseases, spayed-nuetured and health certificate, pictures, licensed-tagged and well mannered makes a difference. Tentants purchase liability insurance on their pet as well in case of destruction of apt and harm to other tentants. Also, a warning sign on their door to warn others that this apt has a pet.
There are people who are fearful of pets, allergic to them etc. Having pets, to many of them in an apt building is asking for problems--fights between animals. Care must be taken where placed. Kennels and animal runs made available for use outside to hold them, a couple is all that is needed for short term use. Clean up after your pet immediately
Make sure the landlord meets your dog, should there be any problem where the landlord has to go into your apt in case of emergency.
Having all your papers in order, helps a lot, I traveled and lived throughout the US & abroad and my pet came with me and no problems.
My current landlord is great. His wife on the other hand was a nut job. When we found the listing, it stated no pets. Upon speaking to the realtor handling the property, it was because one of the previous tenants had 10 cats, none of them spayed/neutered. As a result they had to totally gut the place when they left. When we spoke to the realtor she told us that our 12 lb mini schnauzer would be OK as the LL has 2 cats and a boston terrier and the other tenant has a black lab.
We decided that we would give our cat away to get the place because I was pregnant and we wanted a nice place for the kids. When I had trouble finding a home for the cat, we spoke to the LL explaining the situation, told her the cat was spayed, fully house trained, and was declawed. She initially said that the cat would be OK as long as we paid an additional pet deposit (not required for the dog). When my husband called her to let her know that we had the extra money she flew off the handle, saying she never would have signed with us had she known (even though at the time it was a non issue-we thought we had someone to take the cat) and that the realtor blindsided her about the dog (the realtor only pointed out that we would notice that everyone around us had pets).
We eventually found a home for the cat, and I never spoke to her again. My husband conducted all business with her. After she passed, her husband took over and has been wonderful, and briefly revisited the cat issue, however the cat had been sperated from the family for so long and had no patience for the kids, we knew we could not do it.
We had lots of trouble finding a place for 2 dogs a lab/mixed and canine corso. He is a large dog
weight is 145 pnd. We don't have children and to me a child would do worse damage then him. He is 6 yrs old and a total mama's boy.
Thankful, we found a townhouse to take us but we had to pay $1600 pet deposit. We didn't want a TH and I was careful and didn't look for places with hardwood floors but beggers can't be chooser, right!
To me, telling someone they don't accept my dogs is like someone saying they don't accept my children.
I routinely explain to clients that it will take significantly longer to rent their property if they are adamant about not considering pets. As a result, the majority list pets as a "maybe" and they are considered on a case by case situation. Without a doubt there will be an additional pet security deposit.
I have found that the tide has turned more in favor of dogs, versus cats. One to two pets can be accepted, but three plus is really tough sell.
It may help for a tenant to offer / landlord request the tenant providing proof of renters insurance. However, this may not help when it comes to the home owner's insurance policy if the tenant has one of what the insurance co. may consider to be any of the "aggressive" dog breeds.
A reference from your previous landlord is like gold, while a current landlord could say good things to get rid of a less than desirable tenant. Having BOTH is ideal.
Another good reference is a Realtor. If they have shown your house, or a house you rented from the seller they can specifically speak to how the property was maintained.
i have a dog that is half Ausy and Half lab.
i got him when he was a pup normaly an ausy is smaller,he has a straight hair coat and not a ball of fluff, something to think about jsut cause a dog whith a poofy oat looks big they realy arn't now my gf with Ferrits, Now is a differenat story all togeather, even though they are caged there are missconceptions aobut there destructiveness, I believeit comes down to the owner, the iresponsible owners seem to ruin it for the responsibel ones, we as pet owners are ultimately repsonsibel for the care and well being of our animals and for any dammages.
personlay i would rather be homeless then be parted form my animal. he is my family memeber, and I'll be dang if he will go to a shelter.
As a landlord, I have found that people with pets cause less damage than people with kids. As a renter, as I am now, I'm very luck to have found a landlord that accepted my two border collies. Before I brought the dogs to the house, I went to each of my neighbors, introduced myself and explained that I was bringing my dogs to the house in a few days. I gave them each cards with my name, address, phone numbers and the phone number of the property manager. I told them, that if there were any problems (barking mainly) to please let me know and I would take care of. I periodically check with my neighbors and have found that not only do my dogs not cause problems, but that the neighbors who don't work during the day keep an eye on my yard to make sure no one causes problems for the dogs. A little extra work gave me some wonderful neighbors.
So far I've really only heard or read about apartments and the "destructive behaviours of the pets". I agree with the comment about children, don't misunderstand me I love kids and one day I'll have a few but for right now my pubbies are my children. I don't understand why so many like to inflate the pet issue. I can really only think of one issue that most don't like to face; intrusive landlords. You know the kind, the ones that like to go into the rental dwellings and "make sure nothing illegal or illicit" is going on. While I do understand that some pet owners are enamored of the pets at first, which leads to the pets behaviours not all pet owners should be penalized for it.
The majority of this nation have pets, if pets are an issue to persons who are or want to be landlords, maybe you should rethink it.