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Should Investors in Hampton Roads Allow Pets in Their Rental Properties?

Should Investors in Hampton Roads Allow Pets in Their Rental Properties?

If you're not a "pet person," you might not see the value in allowing pets in your Hampton Roads rental properties. How you handle pets across your portfolio can either help you retain tenants or limit the availability of quality tenants when searching for your next crop of renters.

Being an investor in Rent Estate™ often means you have to put your personal preferences aside—and make decisions for your rental properties based on what attracts quality tenants.

Investors are usually aware that the right rental price—and providing excellent maintenance—is essential to retaining tenants. However, when it comes to a hot-button issue like pets, it can be difficult to put your personal opinion aside.

As anyone with multiple properties knows: better tenants boost your profits. Are tenants with pets right for your property? Here's what to consider!

Dog and Cat, Hampton property management

Pets Often Come With Great Owners Attached

It might be time to embrace this idea for your Hampton Roads rental properties: many excellent tenants come with pets as part of a "packaged deal." More than 70% of renters have pets! If you choose not to allow pets in your investment property, you exclude a vast percentage of the renting population from your pool of potentially-excellent tenants. 

  • A typical pet-owning renter is looking for a safe and welcoming place to live with their beloved dog, cat, or fish.
  • Quality rental properties with space and allowances for pets are hard to find in Hampton Roads.
  • Having a dog or cat can often mean housing insecurity for these renters.
  • Your property will be in high demand from a responsible tenant who could turn into a long-term renter!

Tenants with pets understand that to stay in your rental, they need to take excellent care of your property. Pet owners also hate to uproot once they find a safe place to roost—so you'll enjoy having lease renewal after lease renewal. Don't miss out on great tenants! Landlord-imposed pet restrictions can force you to place a less-than-ideal tenant in your rental—not to mention that it can also put you on the wrong side of the ADA and FHA! We'll cover that a bit later.

Pet Policies Help Protect Your Property

Allowing pets doesn't mean you have to let every pet live in your Hampton Roads rental properties! If you don't love the idea of snakes, potbelly pigs, or chickens inhabiting your property, your pet policy can exclude those types of pets. Depending on the rules of your locality, such pets may already be excluded.

You run every tenant applicant through your thorough screening process—pets are no exception to this. A pet screening policy helps you choose owners with pets that you feel comfortable allowing in your rental homes.

While it's critical not to use pet screening as a form of discrimination against potential tenants, your pet screening process helps protect your property from dangerous or destructive animals.

  • Set your pet criteria: What pets will you allow? Be specific about breeds or sizes that are okay to live in your property. If small pugs are okay but a large St. Bernard isn't, be sure that's clear for the pet size limits in your criteria.
  • Require verification information: A potential tenant should provide vet records and other supporting documents to show that their pet falls within your pet criteria. 
  • Create a pet addendum: In addition to the tenant's lease, create a pet addendum. This outlines the criteria for a pet in your property and the rules the owner must follow. Provide information about pet deposits and fees for pet damage to the property—or the penalties for failing to follow the rules in the addendum. 
  • Publicize the criteria with your property listing: Pet owners should know if you allow pets and your requirements for tenants with pets during the application process. When your criteria and conditions are clear up front, you reduce the risk of discrimination claims if you reject a potential tenant with a pet that doesn't meet your criteria. 

You're in control of the pets you allow in your investment properties: set clear rules from the start! 

Blind young man with guide dog at home, Hampton Hampton property management

One Exception...Your Rules Don't Apply to Service Animals

Service animals are a different "animal" when it comes to allowing pets in your property. Even if you have a no-pet policy, the Fair Housing Act requires landlords to provide “reasonable accommodation” for tenants with service animals. Currently, only miniature horses and dogs are recognized as service animal candidates. On the upside, service animals are highly trained, quiet, and make fantastic "tenants."

If your potential tenant claims that their pet snake happens to be a service animal, they might actually be referring to what's known as "emotional support animals." The FHA also applies to emotional support animals, which are distinguished by a doctor's note.

  • Investor-landlords cannot request a pet deposit for either class.
  • Investor-landlords cannot seek pet rent from tenants who have either class.

To avoid a lawsuit, make sure you follow the law when an applicant or current tenant requests an accommodation for a service animal or emotional support animal. If you're in doubt, bring in competent legal counsel or work with a trusted Hampton Roads property manager who knows the law.

Don't Pass on Pets! Trust Your Hampton Roads Property Manager

Understanding how to handle pets across multiple rental properties can be tricky. You don't have to navigate these decisions on your own! Your Hampton Roads property manager knows the law—and the best way to set up a pet policy for your investment property. 

The Professional Landlords of Renters Warehouse Hampton Roads work with investors and pet policies across the scope of Hampton Roads. We know that screening for pets is just as important as screening for your human tenants—however, the criteria for one are completely different from the other. Just as pet screening protects your property, having a solid screening procedure in place for people is just as crucial.

If you have a strong pet-screening process in place, back that up with an equally robust tenant-screening process! Download our Tenant Screening Checklist today! As the property management pros in Hampton Roads, we developed this screening checklist for investors to help them protect their properties. We believe in the financial freedom that can only come through Rent Estate™, so we offer it absolutely free.