Deciding on a Pet Policy for Your Seattle Rental Property

The question of whether to allow pets in rental properties is a topic that often divides landlords and real estate investors. On one hand, allowing pets can attract a broader pool of tenants and potentially increase rental income. On the other hand, it comes with potential risks such as property damage and disruptions.  We will explore the pros and cons of having a pet policy as a landlord or real estate investor and provide guidance on making an informed decision.

Understanding the Importance of a Pet Policy

Before delving into the debate of whether to allow pets or not, it’s crucial to recognize the significance of having a well-defined pet policy in place. A pet policy is a set of rules and guidelines that dictate the terms under which tenants can keep pets in your rental property. This policy should cover key aspects such as the types and breeds of pets allowed, pet deposits or fees, and rules for pet-related responsibilities and behavior. Keep in mind, Seattle does have specific laws pertaining to your pet policy should you choose to have one!

Dog wearing glasses

The Pros of Allowing Pets

  1. Wider Tenant Pool: Allowing pets can significantly expand your potential tenant pool. 66% of U.S. households have a pet. Many tenants who aren’t pet owners often say “I would adopt if my landlord allowed it!” or “I plan on moving somewhere else so I can adopt a dog/cat” when they live somewhere with a no-pet policy. By accommodating pets, you open your property to a larger group of potential renters.
  2. Higher Rent Potential: Landlords often charge a non-refundable monthly pet rent. This additional income can boost your overall rental revenue and offset any potential costs associated with allowing pets.
  3. Longer Tenancies: Pet owners tend to stay longer in rental properties because it can be challenging to find pet-friendly housing and older pets can find difficulty adapting to new environments. Longer tenancies mean fewer vacancies and a more stable income stream. According to a 2005 study by Firepaw, pet owners are likely to rent for 46 months while tenants without pets stay on average for only 18 months.
  4. Responsible Pet Owners: Many pet owners are responsible and well-trained in pet care. They understand the importance of maintaining a clean and damage-free rental property and will take steps to ensure their pets do not cause problems.
  5. Pet Deposits and Fees: You can collect refundable pet deposits that can be used to cover any damages caused by pets.

The Cons of Allowing Pets

  1. Property Damage: Pets can cause damage to a rental property. This may include scratches on floors, chewed-up furniture, or stains on carpets. Repairing such damage can be costly and time-consuming.
  2. Allergies and Health Concerns: Some prospective tenants and neighbors may have allergies or health concerns related to pets. Allowing pets could potentially lead to disputes or discomfort among tenants.
  3. Noise Complaints: Pets, especially dogs, can create noise disturbances, leading to complaints from other tenants. Barking dogs can be particularly disruptive.
  4. Liability Issues: In rare cases, pets can be aggressive and pose a liability risk. If a tenant’s pet causes harm to another tenant or their property, you may be held responsible.
  5. Cleaning Costs: Even responsible pet owners may not be able to prevent all messes. Extra cleaning costs may be required when a tenant with pets moves out, potentially reducing your profitability.

Woman with her dog & cat in a pet-friendly rental home

Making an Informed Decision

Deciding whether to allow pets in your rental property requires careful consideration. Here are steps to help you make an informed decision:

  1. Assess Your Property: Evaluate the condition of your property and its suitability for pets. Consider factors like flooring, yard space, and proximity to pet-friendly amenities like parks.
  2. Local Laws and Regulation: Research local laws and regulations related to pet policies. Some areas may have restrictions or requirements regarding pets in rental properties.
  3. Insurance: Contact your insurance provider to discuss how allowing pets may impact your coverage and premiums. You may need additional liability coverage.
  4. Screen Tenants Carefully: Implement a thorough tenant screening process to assess a tenant’s suitability for having pets. Check references and ask about their history as pet owners.
  5. Define Your Pet Policy: Create a clear and comprehensive pet policy that outlines rules, expectations, and any associated fees or deposits. Ensure that tenants understand and agree to these terms before signing a lease.
  6. Regular Inspections: Conduct regular property inspections to monitor the condition of the rental unit. This can help identify and address any pet-related issues promptly.
  7. Communication: Encourage open communication with your tenants. Maintain a channel for reporting any issues or concerns related to pets and be responsive to their needs.
  8. Enforce the Policy: Enforce your pet policy consistently and fairly. This helps ensure that all tenants are held to the same standards and reduces the risk of disputes.
  9. Document Everything: Keep detailed records of any pet-related incidents, damages, or repairs. Documentation can be crucial if disputes or legal issues arise.

Will your rental property be pet-friendly or will you have a no-pet policy?

Deciding whether to allow pets in your rental property is a complex decision that requires careful consideration of the potential benefits and risks. While pets can expand your tenant pool and increase rental income, they also come with the possibility of property damage, noise complaints, and other challenges.

Ultimately, the key to a successful pet policy is clear communication, careful tenant screening, and the establishment of well-defined rules and expectations. By taking a thoughtful approach and addressing potential issues proactively, you can create a pet policy that benefits both you as a landlord or real estate investor and your pet-owning tenants. Remember that there is no one-size-fits-all answer, and the decision to allow pets (or not allow them) should be based on your specific property, market conditions, and personal preferences as a property owner.