Should you let your rental property go to the dogs? Most rental property owners cringe at the thought of dogs making a stinking wreck of their valuable income-producing asset. They dread late night phone calls from neighbors complaining about their tenant’s barking dog or emails from the gardener saying that patches of pretty green grass are dead and have to be replaced. Rather than risking these headaches, most landlords choose not to rent to dog owners.* In some markets this shortage of dog-friendly rentals provides an opportunity for landlords willing to meet the demand. Let’s look at things we can do to make renting to dog owners manageable and profitable.
Whether you’re looking to buy a rental property already suited for dogs or want to improve an existing property to make it dog-resistant, here are few features to consider for the structure and grounds.
Flooring should be scratch and stain resistant. Avoid hardwood, laminates, carpet and soft tile unless you plan to replace it regularly. Hard tile is usually the most resistant to staining and gouges made by skidding claws. In the garage, epoxy coating on the garage floor makes messes easier to clean.
Doors scratched by jumping dogs are common, interior and exterior. Look for metal doors or consider placing kick plates or similar protective attachments where damage is most likely to occur. Where doors are intended to limit dog access to rooms or zones of the interior of the house, install spring-loaded hinges so that doors are self-closing when the tenant forgets to shut them.
Windows installed where dogs can reach them also get their share of scratches. Do what you can to restrict dog access to windows and screens.
Fences should provide go/no-go zones. Consider fencing in a dog run. This area provides a space where the dog has room to run but can be secured when dog-shy visitors and maintenance crews are at the house.
A proper Dog House can be an attractive leasing feature. The dog house should be placed on a small cement deck to reduce the amount of dirt and grass the dog brings inside. It should also be slightly elevated to keep out rain water. Provide cover to shade the dog and food bowls from sun and rain.
Our lease document should also be modified to mitigate pet-related risks.
Pet deposits are a common way to recoup the costs of extraordinary wear-and-tear caused by dogs. These deposits are usually non-refundable, but do not relieve the tenant from charges incurred in excess of the deposit when damage occurs. Check with local restrictions on the amount you can charge for deposits. For example, here in California a landlord cannot require total “move-in payments” greater than three month’s rent. That includes rent and deposits of all types. Note: Many landlords simply increase the security deposit when leasing to tenants with dogs rather than charging a separate pet deposit. This gives them the flexibility to apply the total deposit against all potential damage, not just damage caused by pets.
Pet clauses that identify unacceptable dog behavior and describe in detail what constitutes a lease violation should be included in the lease or a pet addendum. Excessive barking, property damage, using the neighbor’s front yard as a bathroom, etc. should be identified as potential causes for terminating the lease. The lease might include restrictions for pets, including quantity, breed and size limitations.
Move-In/Move-Out checklists should be accompanied by detailed photographs of all areas that are commonly subject to dog damage.
Homes can’t be made totally dog-proof, but by reducing risks and setting the rent at an appropriate amount, dog-friendly rental property can be profitable. If you need help to let your rental property go to the dogs or become generally pet-friendly, drop us a line. Contact Us.
*Although many landlords don’t allow pets, the Americans With Disabilities Act requires that disabled tenants be allowed to keep a service animal that provides support directly related to their disability. For example, a guide dog for a blind person. Landlords should seek legal advice before denying an accommodation to a disabled tenant or applicant.