About 65% of American households have pets. Our furry friends have long been an important element of our daily lives. However, along with a pet comes the potential for problems—particularly if you are inviting tenants to rent your property.
Your real estate portfolio, to remain viable, needs to consist of homes in good condition—and certain pets can make that a challenge. The question of whether or not to allow pets goes deeper than just making sure your property investment portfolio remains viable; there are legal issues as well. Here are some things you will want to keep in mind when considering whether to allow pets into your Midlothian investment properties.
Service Animals Are Different Than Normal Pets
In Midlothian—as well as most of the rest of the country—tenants who need service animals have a right to live with them. Further, you aren’t allowed to discriminate against a tenant because they need a service animal. These are more than just close companions: they often use their heightened senses and training to detect and respond to medical emergencies for their owners in advance. This allows the owner to get the first aid or other assistance they need quickly.
Service animals, in many ways, are no different than a wheelchair. They are necessary, and it is the landlord’s responsibility to accommodate them as needed. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) helps enforce the rights of tenants in need of service animals, and you don’t want to get on the wrong side of this powerful government agency. For help getting things just right, you should reach out to a property management company in Midlothian when you need advice on how to protect your investment portfolio.
A Note About "Assistance Animals"
An "assistance animal" is very different from a service animal. Currently, only dogs and miniature horses are recognized by the ADA as service animals: an assistance animal could be any species but requires a doctor's approval.
It's important to note that while assistance animals are protected like their service animal counterparts, the FCC is currently investigating fake certificates and approvals that are easy to obtain online. When in doubt, your Midlothian property manager can be a valuable asset in determining the right move to make with respect to assistance animals.
Add a Pet Addendum to Your Lease
A pet addendum makes it so a renter can have a pet while leasing your property. It’s a legally binding agreement that outlines the responsibilities of the pet’s owner. It also stipulates adjustments to the rental amount due to the fact that a pet will be in the home. Here are just a few points to include in your professional pet addendum:
- The names of the landlords and tenant(s)
- Name of the pet
- Breed of the pet
- Color of the pet
- Other basic information about the pet like gender, age, and weight
- Any one-time fees the tenant has to pay for having a pet
- An extra damage deposit that will be refunded if there is no damage caused by the pet
- Additional rental fees for having a pet on the premises.
Once both parties agree to the addendum, it needs to be signed—just like the rest of the rental agreement. If another pet is brought home, the agreement needs to be signed again.
Because a pet can significantly impact the value of the home and the experience of the landlord, it’s important to have this professionally done by an attorney or an experienced Midlothian property management company.
Not Allowing Pets May Cost You Good Tenants
As with most choices in connection with your real estate investment portfolio, allowing or banning pets involves some give and take. While you eliminate certain risks when you prevent pets, you also miss out on the revenue that comes from opening your doors to those who love—and cannot part with—their pets.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to deciding whether or not to allow furry friends in your rental:
- Your current occupancy rate: If you currently don’t allow pets, and you need more rentals, courting pet owners may be a good move.
- Carefully weigh the costs: If an empty unit is costing you more money than you would lose if a pet were to damage your property, you may want to consider allowing pets.
- Factor in pet fees: You can charge extra—both upfront and monthly—for pets. These fees may offset the risk associated with allowing them in the home.
- You don't have to accept all pets: You can decide which types of pets you allow into the home. You can also choose based on breed, age, and even health condition. Be careful to screen the pets beforehand properly.
Because Richmond pet-owners make up such a large portion of the market, it’s often best to use the pet addendum to your advantage. However, crafting a solid one can be tricky, so you may want to contact a Midlothian property management company to get help.
Pet owners also make good tenants: many of them have developed habits around taking care of something they value—their pet—over a long period. These habits can help them do the same for your property.
Making the right decision involves more than just balancing the numbers: your risk tolerance and peace of mind are factors as well. A professional property manager in Midlothian can help you make smart decisions about pets. Reach out to Mission Realty Property Management for a free tenant screening checklist! Our checklist can help you choose the best tenants, regardless of whether or not they come with a cuddly companion, to keep your investment properties generating long-term wealth.