Allow Pets in a Rental Property?

December 2, 2008 | by Kim (email) |

I recently spent a whole day at our rental property (with the boys in tow, lucky me) for the installation of a new front door and storm door. While the boys watched cartoons on my laptop, I was left with little else to do but read a book and look around to make a mental checklist of future projects that would need to be done.

Up till this point, Fred and I have installed one or two new items in the rental each year, a strategy we use to keep our renters leasing year after year (see our article on retaining renters for more).  It’s worked; they’re in their fifth year now.  But as I sat there that day, it became clear that we probably should scale back on the annual upgrades and save our money for their eventual departure.  I realized just how many things are going to need to be fixed or replaced at whatever point these two move out.

And by two, I really mean seven free-roaming beings…  Or two dozen residents, if you want to count all their aquatic creatures individually.  At last check, they had 5 or 6 aquariums of various sizes, two cats and three dogs, all in a little two-bedroom townhome.  I feel like “pet friendly” doesn’t quite encompass what our rental has become.

I give the detail above because not every rental property has this many critters, so not every rental will have all the damage ours does at quite the rate ours has.  But still, if you decide to open up your rental to pets, be prepared for some of the following replacement and repair costs:

Pet Damage in a Rental Property (w/ Pictures)

1. WINDOW TREATMENTS – Our rental is graced with two little jack russels who believe they are entitled to a window seat on each level of the house.  Pictured is the peep hole they chewed for themselves at the bottom of the former front door. (The new one doesn’t have a full window, so I can only imagine how their tiny furry heads are spinning now – hahaha!!!  Ahem.)  There are similar holes in the master bedroom window blinds.  Not pictured (because they’re not there anymore) are the vertical blind slats they snapped off in their games by the back door.

The addition this year of the newest dog (I think it’s a German Pointer puppy) has only served to add a third little face that “needs” a view of the outside.  We’re very glad we went with inexpensive vinyl blinds and not anything we care about.

2. CARPET – At least one of the dogs and one of the cats are male.  ‘Nuf said.

We were actually considering replacing the carpet in the living room area, since I’m pretty sure it’s original to the house.  It was there when I moved in in 2002, and the prior owner hadn’t ever replaced it.  She had, however, replaced the whole upstairs, and I went on to carpet the basement during my year living there.  BUT… as it turns out, all the “newer” carpet looks almost as bad as this room.  And not for lack of trying.  Our renters are actually very clean people, themselves, and they spot-treat and run their rug-shampooer around regularly.  It’s just hard to keep up with 5 pets.  And so we decided we’re not going to spend the money here.  As much as we’d love to give our renters newer carpet in this room, we know we’d just be replacing it again – along with the rest in the house – when they move out.  So we’ll just save ourselves that $770 (Home Depot quote) expense, now.

3. MOLDING– This is newer damage, so I’m blaming the aforementioned puppy.  Apparently he/she is cutting teeth on the frame to the downstairs doorway.

‘Course in fairness, it could be the cats, scratching out their anxiety about said puppy.

At any rate, this is going to have to be replaced.  Not expensive if we do it ourselves, but something to consider on the “cost” list.

4.  SCREENS – Required for children (especially if you’re applying to adopt or foster them – we know.)  A total loss with pets.

Why wait for your owner to let you out, when you can just charge right through the slider?

Come to think of it, we had a (human) houseguest who attempted something similar at our house, and so we no longer even HAVE a sliding screen door here.  So perhaps I shouldn’t be so hard on the animals.

5. LANDSCAPING – Moving on THROUGH the screen door (sorry), I got a good look at the back yard that used to be my tiny pride and joy.  Hostas, roses, poppies, and other flora used to line the back of the patio and fill the back corners of the yard.  Clearly, those guys weren’t “the fittest” – none appear to have survived.  Heck, neither has the grass that I also used to have, I promise.

So re-sodding and minor gardening round out the list.  For this particular day’s inventory, anyway.

Allowing Pets is Still Worth It to Us

Now don’t get me wrong, we love our renters.  They’ve paid on time for more than 4-1/2 years, usually driving their rent check over to our door.  They clean the place.  They’ve added a few upgrades (ceiling fan, chandelier, shelving) themselves, and they’re also just enjoyable to know.  So, we don’t really resent the pets they bring with them.

And we had already planned to repaint the whole place in between residents, so the animal scuff marks on the walls don’t really add work there.

But in case anyone else out there was wondering why so many landlords opt for the Pet Free Rental, now you know the reason!  I feel blessed “only” to have two little boys here at our house.  Pets cost a good bit in rental repairs.  So if you do allow your renters to have pets, just figure that into the budget.

What do you think? Do you have experience with pet renting from the renter or landlord side?

20 Responses
  1. Todd says:

    Those fish tanks are certainly not helping your unit either. With that volume of water being stored in the unit the moisture levels have got to be very high. Over long periods of time that could lead the way for a mold problem. It would be interesting to see what the humidity level is in that house. Ideally you want it to be less than 40%.

  2. thefencepost says:

    By looking at the pictures, it appears you will be needing to budget for a new fence soon as well. The one in the photo looks like it is ready to be replaced soon!

  3. Kim says:

    Hi Todd – thanks for the tip! The house doesn’t FEEL tremendously humid. I’ve been in homes that did, due to aquariums, though, so that’s a good point. We’ll keep an eye on it.

    And yes, the fence will need to be replaced at some point soon, but that’s in line after the roof (20 years old next year, but still holding up under this summer’s rental property inspection).

    The house has reached that point where everything needs to get replaced or updated, as we can afford it. Fortunately, I bought it before the housing boom, though, so I didn’t pay much, and all the upgrades are still value-added in the equity department!

  4. Claude says:

    I don’t know whether the house is located in the City or elsewhere, but you should bear in mind that any City household that has three or more animals is required to have a kennel license. If the renters aren’t maintaining that license and someone calls it in, you’re the one who’s liable.

    How do you determine whether damage done by the animals is part of “wear and tear” or something that comes out of the deposit? Or do you account for it with a slightly higher base rent?

  5. kara says:

    what do I think:

    – are you required to provide blinds?
    – carpeting is evil and poisonous under all circumstances
    – the moulding is your most legitimate concern as a landlord. hopefully you get a security deposit for that and the screen (which if they were smart/honest, they would have fixed themselves)
    – having a yard that is a “pride and joy” in a rental property is also counter-productive, pets or no pets.
    – that fencepost guy is ridiculous. that fence looks fine unless you’re a fence salesman with images to uphold.
    – anyone who is a renter and has 5 pets is a pretty irresponsible person in the first place

  6. nicole says:

    Unfortunately, you have to expect this sort of damage with kids too.
    Kids chew on molding or windowsills when teething, spill staining liquids on carpets, put balls or toys through windows and screens, tear up grass with games and kiddie pools, and put holes through walls when they fight with each other. And their propensity for keeping trashed rooms invites vermin.
    And you can’t go with kid free rental. My 2 dogs, 3 cats and various fosters do not do even a fraction of the damage to my house that my sister’s kids do to her house.
    I definitely think it is worth while to allow animals.

  7. Joanne says:

    We do allow our renters to have pets as it greatly increases the pool of good potential renters. But the rules are different for each property.

    For our condo property, which is on the top floor of a six-unit building, we only allow cats or dogs up to a certain weight. Large aquariums are specifically not allowed. This is keeping in alignment with condo association regulations over which we have little control.

    For our suburban house, allowing pets is essential, because all the potential renters are young families with children and pets.

    And for the upstairs rental unit of our two-flat (we live in the downstairs unit) we only allow cats, because we have a dog ourselves and don’t want to get into territory issues with another dog in the yard.

    We do have a pretty tough lease when it comes to pets; all animals must be pre-approved by us in writing, so we have a record of what type of animal is living there. There is a lengthy addendum on proper pet care as well, which includes how the yard is to be used (for the standalone house) and whether or not animals are allowed in common areas (for the condo and the two-flat). It also indicates such things as pets cannot be left unattended for lengthy periods, cannot be left in cages for long periods, etc. (We love animals and want responsible pet owners.)

    Our state allows us to charge a separate pet deposit, and it’s a pretty hefty one, as we have hardwood floors in two units and new carpet in another. No one has ever balked at paying it. Our addendum also includes proper floor care for each material, i.e., what can and cannot be used to clean the floors, what rooms litterboxes can be put in, and even recommends carpet runners or scatter rugs for the carpeted rooms. We also take photographs of the unit at the beginning and end of occupancy, so it’s clear what’s real damage and what’s not.

    Because we’re in the Chicago area, where rents are higher, the security deposit we collect is enough to cover a lot of damage above and beyond the pet deposit.

    Our lease is up to 15 pages now, and covers a lot of ground. The renters we have seem to appreciate it, as it outlines responsibilities pretty clearly, and those who think it’s excessive don’t rent from us anyway.

  8. Fred says:

    @Claude – The house is in the county, so no kennel license requirement. If they had more than 3 dogs, there would be. I did discover that EVERY dog or cat in the county is supposed to be licensed (no joke, I called the licernsing dept. to confirm). I’ll do a post sometime on that – and the fact that NO ONE I know has a pet license.

    @Kara – I don’t think we’re required to provide window treatments, and I agree with you on the carpet (mostly). I disagree that the number of pets indicates they’re irresponsible. I wouldn’t have that many pets, but other than the damage Kim recorded here, these renters have been perfect for 5 years, paying over $70,000 in rent. If there were more damage/other issues, I might agree.

    @Nicole – I agree. We’ve got twin 4 year old boys. We constantly clean the house, but it seems to just deteriorate over time.

    @Joanne – Thanks for the professional perspective on this. Sounds like you guys have really gotten this thing down to a science. Do you share your lease agreement with others?

  9. Joanne says:

    Fred–I’ll dig it up this week and e-mail you our latest version.

  10. George says:

    I’ll be honest, there’s probably more damage shown than my 4 dogs (currently) have done to rentals in their lifetime. However I have replaced the room carpet in one apartment due to a cat with a repeating bladder problem. And in my own house I did have a large dog who developed health problems doing in my own carpet. I have found that professional cleaning can remove a lot that you may think is permanent. I found that an annual cleaning makes a big difference. But you point out that you have a good relationship with your renters and that counts for a lot. I am currently renting and have had no problems due to the animals, but a couple of problems with bad landlords and getting stiffed by them. To Kara, there are plenty of responsible people with more than 5 pets out there.

    Joanne, I applaud you for renting to people who have pets.

  11. kara says:

    I didn’t say that there aren’t responsible people without 5 pets I said that renters with more than 5 pets are irresponsible.. having that many animals when your residences are impermanent means you are not always sure you will be able to keep them/take care of them.
    There are exceptions but the rental situation described in the post seems typical and the owners seem irresponsible

  12. Lisa (Fred's Sister) says:

    I like the peep hole the dogs made. My daughter has mini blinds in her room and she always has to peep through to see what’s going. I also like the way you worded the blog. I couldn’t wait to get home to see the pictures since my work e-mail has pretty strict secruities. You could always hire James to clean the carpets. 🙂 He does a great job. Did ours right before Thanksgiving.

  13. Wendy says:

    As a renter with pets I appreciate realistic pet friendly landlords. Where we live we pay pet “rent” as well as an extra security deposit. A cousin of mine who has rental properties had figured out that it’s better to allow pets and ask for extra security because people are more likely to be honest about having pets and he is more likely to have the money to repair the generally minor damage. I think the extra monthly rent is ridiculous, but I think requiring extra security deposits makes a lot of sense, I am less worried about reporting potential damage done by my pets.

    I understand what Kara means about renters with that many pets.. the possibility of having to give up pets is much higher for renters. When you decide to be home to more than 2 or 3 non human family members it’s time to consider your own home. In fact the primary reason for purchasing the big old house I’m about to close on now is that I have 4 cats, I want the freedom to take in more rescues of the canine and feline kind and have ferrets (which are not allowed here and not be restricted to a 20 gallon aquarium, which is what we are restricted to here.. ) So silly me.. I’m buying a hundred year old house with 6 bedrooms, plus 3 finished rooms in the basement… of course it’s also for the pocket doors and fantastic built in wall to wall china closet in the dining room ….

  14. Kim says:

    Thanks for adding your perspective, Wendy! I hope you’ll be back in touch once you get moved into your new place. Pocket doors – I’m jealous already! And it sounds like each of your cats is getting his or her own bedroom!

    🙂 Kim

  15. Treka says:

    Joanne, would you please share your rental agreement with me. I have one house in NC and have just rented it to some folks that said they have one dog. I allowed the dog and charged a $200 pet fee in addition to the $650 sec. dep. They let me know today that they actually have 2 cats that they were giving to someone, but that fell through. Now they want to know if I will allow the 2 cats as well. I just replaced the carpet in the house from the previous tenant’s having dogs. If I allow the cats too, what should I charge them? Will I be able to cover the damage they might do? Any advice would be greatly appreciated! If anyone else has lease agreement with a pet addendum, would you please share it with me? My email address is: Thanks!

  16. Paul&Aundrea says:

    We’re looking at moving to VA soon, and this is the first time we’ll be renting with pets. Since we are in TX now we can only look online for places. It seems that all the really nice places we see have a “no pet” policy…which has been so frustrating, but after seeing this I understand. We are really lucky and our two cats haven’t damaged our house here at all. Neither have ever NOT used the litter box, so seeing that was horrifying. I’m a little neurotic and not only bathe both cats once a week (and to answer your question…yes they hate it), I vacuum almost every day, and I sweep at least twice a day to keep the litter off the floor. A friend of ours has several rental properties here and he calls carpet “rental toilet paper.” After these pictures I see why.

    • Kim says:

      With our second set of renters, we scored a pair of gals more like you guys are. They had a pit bull and a young cat, and when we went to take keys and walk through on their last day, they had shampooed the carpet, cleaned, and even touched up the paint! The only hard-to-fix “pet damage” I had to ftackle was the (lack of) grass in the back yard. But the 2nd time we were smarter and just charged a pet fee every month ($25 on top of their rent). With that in mind, we returned their whole security deposit, no question. They had already covered the little things here and there with their pet fee. We’d rent to them again in a heart-beat!

  17. Lisa says:

    I have a question about replacing carpet due to urine smell. I installed brand new carpet in July of 2010 and my renters moved out 10-31-12 and after all is said and done we have had the carpets cleaned 2 times and it still smells of urine. Can I legally charge their security deposit to replace the carpet in the 1 room? Any advise would be great.

    • Kim says:

      Oh absolutely – and I would add that before you have the new carpet put down you should treat the sub-floor with one of the enzyme cleaners you can get at pet stores and also coat the floor with a latex sealer so that future cleanups are easier. THEN PUT the new padding and carpet down.

  18. Cheryl says:

    I just saw this post today, even though it was posted 5 years ago. I had to laugh at the comment by Nicole. I raised three children and now take care of my granddaughter while my daughter works. None of them ever chewed on any molding or window sills. Dogs chew on the molding when you’re not around. I don’t see anybody leaving an infant home alone.

    We are renting to a pet owner. I pray that the condo doesn’t end up torn up like you are showing!

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