Pet-Proofing Your Property Policy: Best Practices For Landlords

By Julia Dunn on June 22, 2017

Want to increase your reputation and demonstrate a commitment to the happiness (and safety) of your tenants? Outfit your property policies to allow pets and service animals!

Why bother with pets?

More and more students these days are needing pets not solely for pleasure, but for emotional support. In fact, these are actually not considered pets, but disability accommodations (this emphasizes the necessity for these animals, as “pet” suggests a luxury).

According to Michigan State University College of Law:

“An emotional support animal is a companion animal that provides therapeutic benefit to an individual with a mental or psychiatric disability. The person seeking the emotional support animal must have a verifiable disability (the reason cannot just be a need for companionship). The animal is viewed as a ‘reasonable accommodation’ under the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 (FHA or FHAct) to those housing communities that have a ‘no pets’ rule. In other words, just as a wheelchair provides a person with a physical limitation the equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling, an emotional support animal provides a person with a mental or psychiatric disability the same opportunity to live independently.”

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Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) are allowed in students’ on-campus dorm rooms through an agreement with their university’s Disability Resource Center, which assists students in articulating why they need a support animal and what functions it will perform.

ESAs are not service animals: “unlike a service animal, an emotional support animal is not granted access to places of public accommodation. Under the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA), an emotional support animal is viewed as a ‘reasonable accommodation’ in a housing unit that has a ‘no pets’ rule for its residents.”

Nevertheless, both types of support animals are important to students whose mental or emotional health might improve as a result of owning such a pet. As property managers, you can open yourself up to a larger pool of potential tenants by allowing your property (if not all units, some units) to accommodate for pets.

You might decide only to allow pets on your property if a tenant has a disability-related reason for having them, and that’s okay. However, you’ll increase your applicant pool even more if you allow pets for any reason (as long as prospective tenants follow all the protocol you have established in order to have them).

Here are three of the best practices for allowing students to bring their pets to your property:

1. Establish a pet deposit (in addition to your normal deposit)

We all know that animals can be unruly, and you never really know what they’re going to do upon setting foot on your property! Even domestic pets can wreak havoc by scratching up floors, staining nice carpets, and rubbing their noses on the corners in your place (which, surprisingly, can result in a stain on the walls).

Furthermore, pet fur gets everywhere. Establishing a pet deposit can bring you peace of mind, as you’ll have money to allot to pet-related repairs. Don’t make your pet deposit request too large, as you’ll make your property more inaccessible to applicants, but make sure the requested payment would still cover the main costs to reverse any damage pets might do.

 2. Ask students for references who can speak to their responsibility

 You’ll probably be most concerned with whether your prospective student tenants are capable of keeping their animal out of trouble around your apartment or house. To find out more about them, try to contact their former landlords to see if they can provide any remarks about the students’ management of their animal.

3. Spell out the duties you’ll ask of pet owners

Originally articulated in Appfolio’s piece, “How Smart Property Managers are Partnering with your Pets,” it’s imperative that you explain to pet-owning tenants what you need from them in order to keep your property looking and performing its best. For instance, outline the rules regarding dog-walking and waste disposal, and clarify whether there are certain areas on the property in which animals will not be allowed (such as communal spaces or other places that might be problematic, such as gardens).

Aside from these three tips, some property managers enforce a kind of weight limit on tenants’ animals to prevent damages (from large dogs, for instance). The premise here is that a smaller animal will be tamer or less rowdy than a larger one. However, this issue is tricky, as it assumes that an animal’s “wildness” is proportional to its size. A greater discussion of this matter is available here from Landlordology.

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According to the Humane Society of the United States, “renters with pets stay in their units well over twice as long as non-pet-owning renters, and renters with pets do no more damage to units than non-pet-owners.”

If this sounds appealing, click here to find out more about the benefits of having a pet-friendly property!

By Julia Dunn

Uloop Writer
UC Santa Cruz
I am a graduate student in the Creative Writing MFA program at San Jose State University. I specialize in creative nonfiction writing and poetry, as well as composition studies.

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