In the early 20th century, one of the first single-name cultural icons, Colette, once penned the truism, “Our perfect companions never have fewer than four feet.” The power of this statement is backed by more than just Colette’s Nobel Prize, but by the proliferation of pets among the modern American family as a whole.
Given that pets often come with complications, some landlords choose to steer clear. While this may help avoid some headaches, it also precludes some serious income. However, working with NOVA property management is a great way to offer your Rent Estate™ to pet owners without incurring the same risks that DIY landlords face on their own with having furry friends in and around your property.
If you're thinking about allowing pets into your rental home, here are a few things you will want to keep in mind before opening your doors to animal companions.
Note: This blog does not constitute legal advice. When in doubt, meet with a trusted attorney or your Renters Warehouse DC/NOVA Professional Landlord for assistance!
1. Know the Difference Between Assistance Animals and Pets
If someone has a pet, regardless of how much they love it, the law doesn’t regard them as essential. However, all of that changes when your "pet" is not really a pet but is officially recognized as an assistance animal.
In the NOVA area and across the world, assistance animals play a variety of key roles in maintaining the health and safety of their owners. Some can sense when a person’s vital signs are showing symptoms of a pending condition or attack. Others help your neighbors in NOVA who are hard of hearing or with partial or complete blindness.
Given that these animals are an integral part of the owner’s well-being, the law—specifically the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)—protects their ownership in conjunction with the Fair Housing Act (FHA). Barring someone from your rental home who relies on an assistance animal could get you in trouble. Navigating the delicate nature of these laws can be a challenge for DIY landlords.
When in doubt, it’s best to consult with a Professional Landlord in NOVA property management! They know the ins and outs of the legal statutes that apply to assistance animals—and rental regulations in general.
2. Include a Pet Addendum in Your Lease Agreement
While some landlords are very hesitant to rent to pet-owners, others fall on the opposite end of the spectrum: They may hand over the lease agreement prematurely. The lease agreement you use for a renter without pets shouldn’t be the same one you use for people with pets. It’s important to protect your investment, and even one poorly managed weekend away or an unfortunate accident can result in significant damage to your property.
Here are some things you may want to consider including in your pet addendum:
- An agreement to properly clean up after the pet: This may include taking care of shed hair, excrement, or urine.
- A disclosure on any history of aggression: Once you read that a pet struggles with issues that may cause it to disturb others in the neighborhood, you may decide to move on to the next applicant.
- A limit on the number of pets: if you'd rather not host a barnyard of "pets" on your property, limiting the number of animals allowed on your NOVA rental property is a smart move.
- Restrictions on the types of pets renters can have: A renter with good intentions may assume that because a small dog is okay, a ferret is too. Consider which kinds of pets you want in your rental home and put this in the agreement.
Fees You Can Charge for Pets
While it would be unwise to overcharge pet owners, there is an enhanced element of risk associated with renting to them—and most understand this. Therefore, it’s common for landlords to charge certain fees. Here are some of them:
- An upfront pet rental fee: You can charge a one-time fee for renting to a pet owner. While you don’t have to outline what the fee is designed to cover, you may choose to apply it to preparing the property for a pet or a more complex clean-up after the renters leave.
- A clean-up fee: In addition to a security deposit, you can charge an extra fee specifically meant to address the extra costs associated with cleaning up after a pet. It’s up to you, the landlord, to decide whether you want to adjust this fee according to the type of pet. If the next renter has a pet allergy, you will have to spend considerable time cleaning the apartment and scouring it for leftover dander before it’s ready to rent. This could keep the property off the market for a few extra days and may require significant extra work.
- A monthly pet rent: You can add a pre-designated amount to the rent for a pet. You can also choose to add another amount if additional pets are born or acquired.
Keep in mind that you cannot apply these fees to service animals. In this case, it would be wise to work closely with NOVA property management to determine how you want to approach such fees in your lease addendum. They have the experience you need to tackle these sensitive documents carefully.
Don’t Miss out on Your Next Excellent Renter!
Pet-owners are often responsible, thoughtful people who have long-established habits of taking care of “the little things.” This includes cleaning up after and caring for something they value. These are often the right kinds of people for your rental; plus, your largest pool of potential residents adore their pets and consider them extended family. Crafting the right set of pet policies and fees make it easier to rent to pet owners.
That said, just because pet renters are responsible doesn't mean you should skip a thorough screening process for your prospective residents. The screening process is really your first line of defense as a landlord against the dangers of risky Professional Tenants. As your NOVA property management partner, we're here for you: download your copy of our Tenant Screening Checklist!
DIY landlords can't afford to put their properties at risk by placing a resident on trust alone. Plus, screening each applicant limits your potential for bias. Take advantage of our free resources to find the best renter for your NOVA property!