Tenant Pet Agreement Basics

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Most landlords feel strongly one way or the other about pets in their rental properties. Many don’t want pets around no matter what, because of damage potential or liability issues. Other landlords are willing to negotiate a tenant pet agreement for various reasons, from being animal lovers themselves to recognizing that allowing pets means an abundance of qualified applicants who are desperately seeking to rent a place that allows their furry pals.

Many landlords, especially pet-owning landlords, understand that the right pet and the right owner can be a great arrangement when it comes to a long-term tenancy because so many places flat-out refuse to allow pets. Pet owners who rent are more likely to stay in a place for longer so they can have their animals.

If you are a landlord who allows pets or is thinking about it, it’s important to have a strong pet agreement as part of your leasing language.

What is a Tenant Pet Agreement?

A pet agreement is the written expectations that a landlord and tenant have for each other when it comes to the tenant’s pet. More than one pet may require different and separate agreements. No matter what you decide, it’s important to go over the pet agreement as part of the lease review and make sure both parties sign it. The pet agreement is a legal contract between you and your tenant, and the rules and regulations within it can be enforced.

Here are 4 things that the pet agreement should include:

1. Pet Types

A good pet agreement must outline the type, size, breed, and number of allowable pets in the rental property. Whether you establish a pet policy before you even accept applications, or create a unique pet agreement for the applicant you’ve selected, just make sure that your pet agreement covers all your bases.

Many landlords limit their tenants to just one pet, while others only allow dogs, or just cats, or just small caged animals. Some landlords establish a weight or size limit, such as no pets above 20 lbs. Still, others restrict certain breeds of pet, usually dogs, especially if their insurance also includes certain breed restrictions. You can even restrict dogs to those who have proof of obedience training.

Remember to include pets that go beyond the dogs and the cats—snakes, fish, birds, and caged rodents are all popular yet bring their own unique issues. Specifying things like tanks size and so forth are always a good idea. There are some pets that are generally worse than others, so do your homework.

It’s really up to you to determine how many and what kind of pets you’ll allow your tenant to have, but it’s important to be consistent, especially if you have a multi-family property.

2. Pet Deposits

The pet agreement should also specify the amount of pet deposit, and what amount (if any) will be refunded at the end of the tenancy. Before you set up your pet agreement and include deposit language, check with your state’s laws regarding pet deposits. Many states have declared that landlords cannot charge non-refundable pet deposits, such as in California. Other states, like Washington, do allow non-refundable pet deposits.

Some states set limits on the amount a pet deposit can be, while others, like Illinois and Texas, have no limits, leaving it up to the landlord. Still other states have set up a maximum deposit amount for both people and pets, and landlords cannot exceed that amount no matter what. In other words, you need to become familiar with the specifics regarding pet deposits that your state has established.

3. Tenant Responsibilities

Owning a pet is a lot of responsibility, and a good pet agreement ensures that tenants know what their responsibilities are when it comes to their pet. Keeping the pet quiet and happy is the goal, to minimize damage caused by boredom and also to prevent the pet from bothering other tenants and neighbors. Request copies of the pet’s vaccination records, license, and any training certification if the pet is a dog. Be specific about where the pet can be, who is responsible for cleanup and so forth. Make sure the tenants understand they are liable for any damage or injury caused by the pet.

4. Consequences of Breaking a Pet Agreement

The pet agreement should also outline the consequences of any violations of the agreement with regard to pet behavior, damage or going outside the agreed-upon conditions of pet ownership as a tenant. For example, you could include language that says the first noise violation (like barking at night) results in a warning and the second will result in a notice.

Another example is that you may specify that a dog must be in the fenced backyard but cannot roam around the property unless on a leash. Yet another example is that you both agreed to a single dog, yet you soon discover that a cat and a bird are also present in the rental property. The consequences for the tenant who breaks the pet agreement must be clear and fair to ensure the best behavior from both people and pets.

Special Considerations

Remember that service animals and companion animals fall under a different category than pets do, so make sure you are up to speed with the requirements and laws with regard to these special circumstances. Service animals and companion animal situations are protected by federal law, so don’t make the mistake of treating this kind of arrangement as just another pet.

It’s the landlord’s right to determine what kind of pets reside in a rental property. If you are one of those landlords who think pets are great, just make certain your tenant understands the pet agreement and accepts all the conditions. With the right rules in place, both the tenant and the landlord can benefit.

Do you allow pets in your rentals? Why or why not? Please share this article and let us know your thoughts in the comments below.