I was watching my brother playing with Ted, his new puppy and I got thinking how important pets are in our lives. Watching Ted in action, however, reminded me how careful we need to be as property owners when it comes to pets.
Most of the conversation about pets and rental property centers around dogs because they are the most common and most beloved pets. Dogs are often members of the family, yet a lot of property owners are against allowing a dog on the property.
This means that pet owners often have a harder time finding a rental property. The law of supply and demand tells us that if you consider allowing pets in your property, there is a possibility that you can charge a higher rent (pet owners are willing to pay extra since they know how hard it is to find a property). The increased rental application traffic means that you will have a chance to look at more and higher quality tenants. Whether or not to allow pets to live on the property comes down to three factors, the pet, the property, and most importantly, the tenants themselves.
Is Your Property Good For Pets?
To be honest, there are properties where I would not want tenants with kids, let alone pets. This may be because of the size of the home or the neighborhood it was in. Even though you are not living in the house, you are still responsible to the neighbours. If a pet starts barking or gets overly friendly, how will the rest of the neighborhood take it?
There are certain features of some houses that are exceptionally susceptible to pet damage. Timber floorboards are a beautiful and often desirable feature, but a dog's claws can do a great deal of damage to them in a relatively short time. The same goes for timber window frames and decking. I have even seen exterior cladding damaged to the point of requiring replacement costing $5,000 or more.
Some pet owners will try to insist that their furry friend is strictly an “outside dog”. Be wary, sooner or later, every outside dog manages to get inside. If you are truly concerned about the beautifully polished floors you just had installed, you may sleep better with a strict no pets policy.
Is the Pet Good for Your Property?
Most people think that puppies cause the most damage. While a certain amount of property damage is part of the experience of raising puppies (just like babies) the extent of the damage a puppy can do is not that great and easily repaired. At the other extreme, older dogs are a lot less damaging than older kids. An older dog usually just wants to sleep and have his ears scratched once in a while.
Dogs in the middle years are a different story, especially the larger breeds. Large breed dogs in their prime have a lot of energy to burn, and can inflict a lot of damage in a short time if they are not properly house trained.
Some property owners will allow cats before they would consider a dog. In general, cats have less “environmental impact” on your house than a large dog in its prime, but when they go bad, they go bad in a big and unfortunately permanent way.
Cats need to scratch, it is just part of their nature. The cat owner may provide a scratching post, but in some instances the timber trim of your house becomes very attractive.
The Pet is Not the One Signing the Lease
Just like kids are a reflection of their parents, you can often judge a pet by its owner. I don’t put “Pets Considered” in a property ad because it gives the impression that the property is run down. If asked, I’ll mention that pets will be considered upon application. I rarely turn an application aside just because it comes from a pet owner. When I am screening applications I want to see as many as possible. Who knows, the best one might come from a dog owner.
If my property is a brand new house I would probably never allow a large breed dog in, the risk of damage is just too great. I might consider a smaller animal, but only if I find the application to be really impressive. In any case, I always keep in mind that I am approving or disapproving the tenant, not the pet.
When a pet owner submits an application, I ask them to attach a picture of the animal. People who genuinely love their pets demonstrate it by being responsible for them and people who love their pets are usually happy to show pictures of them.
At the end of the day, you and your property are protected by your lease. In most cases, there is nothing wrong with adding special condition in the lease to require a professional flea treatment at the end of the tenancy (and professional carpet cleaning), but it is more important to screen tenants and their pets. Pet damage is always repairable and the responsible pet owner will ensure it is taken care of. However If the damage bill gets too large, even the best pet owner may argue a little, so be sure to do your regular routine inspections.
Whether a pet is involved in the lease or not, I cannot overemphasise the importance of screening your tenants before offering a lease. Owning a pet is not always a strike against an applicant. When you screen, you are trying to develop a picture of the entire person as a tenant. If they assume the responsibility to take good care of their pet, it shows that they will do the same for your property. In any case, I believe it is the tenants that you need to pay the most attention to, rather than the pet.