When you decide to become a property manager, you have to make hard decisions regarding the daily operations of your building. After all, even relatively small choices can be ‘make or break’ decisions for some potential tenants. One of the most important decisions that a manager should make early on is whether or not they’ll allow animals on their property. While service animals are always allowed at a rental property,1 it will be up to your own discretion as to whether any other animals are allowed.
Some property managers are strictly opposed to pets, seeing them as too much of a potential nuisance for other tenants to justify trying to appeal to animal lovers. Yet while animals remain a sticking point for many, some property managers are changing their tune. If you’re a future property manager or an existing manager with a zero tolerance rule for animals, now might be a good time to reconsider your stance.
Why The Resistance?
For most property managers, their reasons for not allowing animals are fairly simple: one tenant’s beloved pet could be another tenant’s source of frustration. Whether it’s allergies spurred by dander and pet odors or loud noises late at night, animals can be an annoyance for many tenants, even if they’re fond of animals in general. For those who don’t like animals (or people with especially strong allergies), having animals on the property might be enough to have them reconsider renting from you.
There’s also the more direct costs of keeping pets on your property: cats, dogs, and other animals can cause serious damage by chewing on furniture, scratching up floors, and having “accidents” on carpets. A tenant is generally expected to pay for any damages their pets cause, but there are still occasions where you might be liable for their damages. Even if there’s
Then there’s the concern of whether or not an animal is safe around other people: according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it’s estimated that dogs bite 4.7 million people a year, with 800,000 of those needing medical attention.2 Property managers are typically only liable if they were aware of the potential danger the animal presented, but if there’s evidence to show that they ignored obvious signs of danger, they could face serious legal trouble, not to mention a major loss of goodwill on the part of their tenants.3
Why You Might Want to Reconsider?
With all of this in mind, why should a traditionally anti-pet property manager consider giving animals another chance?
Perhaps the most obvious is that allowing animals will likely open up your tenant funnel significantly. Although the data surrounding just how many Americans have pets is a bit fuzzy (forgive the pun), even the lower estimates are impressive, with organizations like American Pet Products Association and the American Veterinary Medical Association putting the number of pet-owning U.S. households anywhere between 57% to 68%.4 Obviously, you will potentially lose tenants for allowing animals on your property, but the same is true for not allowing them.
Also, there’s a growing amount of data suggesting that pet owners tend to have traits that are desirable to many property managers. For one, pet-owners tend to have longer tenancies than non-pet-owners, both because of the general lack of pet-friendly facilities and because animals tend to get used to their surroundings, not liking it when owners move often. Furthermore, Edward N Kelly’s claims that 65% of pet owners earn over $50,000 a year,5 making them more reliable in terms of keeping up with rent payments, something that’s especially important in our current economic climate.
Taking Proper Precautions
If you decide to allow pets in your property, it is important to take certain steps to make the situation worthwhile. For one, it’s a good idea to “pet-proof” your apartments and the complex as a whole. This includes steps such as putting in child-proof locks, securing garbage cans or recycling bins, and removing any potentially poisonous plants from the vicinity. You might also want to add an additional layer of polyurethane to your floors if you’re concerned about them scratched up.
Also, with the exception of service animals, you have the right to charge additional fees for keeping pets, potentially opening up further revenue. Some property managers will charge a nonrefundable pet deposit, along with an added fee to each month’s rent. How much you decide to charge will ultimately come down to what you can think tenants will pay. Considering scouting nearby properties and seeing how many of them allow pets. If there aren’t many pet-friendly properties in the area, you could reasonably charge a higher price for a much valued service.
Above all else, it’s important to be open to new possibilities. Not every property manager is a good fit for handling a pre-friendly facility, but if you dismiss the idea outright, you close yourself from a potentially valuable tenant base and a new source of income.
1. The Humane Society of the United States. (n.d.). The Fair Housing Act and Assistance Animals. The Humane Society of the United States. https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/fair-housing-act-and-assistance-animals.
2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (1997). Dog-Bite-Related Fatalities — United States, 1995-1996. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/00047723.htm.
3. Randolph, M. (2014, June 23). Landlord Liability for Tenants’ Dogs. NOLO. www.nolo.com. https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/free-books/dog-book/chapter4-7.html.
4. Clement, S., &; Brulliard, K. (2019, January 31). How many Americans have pets? An investigation of fuzzy statistics. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/science/2019/01/31/how-many-americans-have-pets-an-investigation-into-fuzzy-statistics/.
5. Kelley, E. (2009). Practical apartment management. Institute of Real Estate Management.