Can you help us with a dilemma we are facing? We hope your input will help us identify biases and blindspots related to allowing our tenants to have pets. We want to make a smart decision and part of that process involves seeking feedback from others! Here is a little more background on our situation…
About two months ago, we received notice that a long-term tenant had just purchased a house and would be moving out in July. We also knew another tenant would be moving out-of-state at the end of August.
This leaves us with two vacancies in our 8-unit apartment complex for this fall.
We have owned and managed this property for four years and we’ve always had a no pets policy. The problem is that many of the inquiries we receive when we have a vacancy are from potential tenants with pets (mainly dogs) – even with “no pets” clearly indicated in the ads.
Based on the information these people provide, the majority appear to meet or exceed the standards we set to screen potential tenants. But we have always turned them away because of their pets. (This was also the policy in place when we purchased the property.)
Our vacancy rate is low, but there have been times when we have had to leave apartments open for a few months in search of suitable tenants. With two apartments soon to be vacant, we have been discussing whether we should reconsider the “no pets” policy. (A nice couple rented one of our apartments this spring and had been looking for an apartment that accepted dogs. They wanted to get a dog, but agreed to a one-year lease with no pets – and they are excellent tenants).
We have two other single family rental houses and we have allowed a dog in one, but no pets in the other. Both situations have worked out fine – but we feel a single family house is a very different situation than a multi-unit apartment complex.
One bias I know we have is related to a property showing a few years ago where the people indicated “no pets” in the screening process. When we arrived to meet them (after a 90-minute drive), they thought we would want them as tenants so badly that we would accept their four dogs (and the fence they wanted to put up).
Well…no. (I don’t really care if you are a professor at a prestigious college. Buy your own house then and stop lying to people and wasting their time… Yep – built some bias in us for sure!)
We have started our decision-making process for this dilemma. As I said in my post – the Pros and Cons of using Pros and Cons lists for decisions, if it is a big decision that could affect your life or one that could be costly – a pro’s and con’s list may not be the best tool to use.
Here are the things we are considering in terms of making our goals (objectives) for this decision:
Benefits of Allowing Pets in Our Rentals
- A larger pool of potential tenants.
- Increased revenue due to higher rents, monthly pet fees, or non-refundable deposits.
- Current tenants who want pets may stay longer (and we have a great group of tenants right now!)
- No need to “sneak” pets in (and yes, this has happened – as if no one would notice them out in the yard with a dog…)
- This may be a proactive move in addressing tenants with emotional support animals (*a few potential tenants have inquired about this – and we do understand the laws and the differences between these support animals and service animals.)
Drawbacks of Allowing Pets
- Current tenants may not be happy with this type of change (some may appreciate that there are no pets.) Should we talk with them?
- Potential for more noise
- Potential for damage in the apartments, common areas and on the grounds
- Having to clean up after pets if owners don’t (hard to prove who is not cleaning up)
- Extra work in general – monthly or quarterly visits to each apartment to check for smells or other damage, dealing with complaints between tenants, etc.
We are hoping that you might be able to add some benefits or drawbacks.
Or maybe you have a story or situation that could give us more to consider before we finalize our goals and rank them? Please share away!
But maybe we need to totally shift our mindset. The apartment buildings (2 of them) are on a big lot and there is a huge yard – think football field. Some of the research we have read suggests that we are really making a big deal out of this when there are other more important factors to consider in tenant screening.
Are we missing out on great renters by being so stuck in our ways?
But there are a few complexes that are similar to ours in the village too – and we don’t see others accepting pets. Maybe this should be the “wake up call” to stick with our no pets policy? Is there a difference in our screening processes too? Maybe we have a totally different group of renters…
We are seeking a win-win solution but know we have biases already! In addition to the folks springing the four dogs on us, we bought a condo in Florida on a “no pet” property and love it, and as I type this – we are listening to dogs barking in our neighborhood. (At least we recognize some of our biases!)
What about blindspots? Are there things we are not thinking of? When we say “pets” – do we really mean dogs? And how big of dogs should we consider? (*We know our insurance will limit certain breeds…) What about cats, birds, snakes and fish (with leaking tanks?) What if people have allergies? And I just thought of the possibility of a flea infestation! (And if a snake gets loose – I will have a melt down…)
YIKES – this sounds like it could be a lot of work. And maybe it could cost us a lot of money!
But maybe not. Maybe we are leaving a lot of money on the table too by missing out on some excellent tenants who would pay more to have their awesome pets!
So what do you think? Are we crazy to even consider allowing pets? If we do allow them – should it be for everyone or should we be picky about who gets to have a pet? What about the kind of pets? And their size? Give us your opinion or share a story! Any landlord stories that will scare us into not doing this? We’ll let you know what we decide in an upcoming post!
Photo Credits: Michael Zacharzewski@freeimages.com & Wendy Pastorius@freeimages.com