Pets In Rentals: Should Seattle Property Owners Allow Them?

By Real Property Associates

An excited family with a pet in a home, pet policy for rental property concept

As a property owner, deciding whether or not to allow pets in your rental property is one of those decisions that doesn't just affect you; it also influences the quality and type of tenants you attract. 

Offering pet-friendly rentals has advantages and disadvantages, and weighing them carefully is crucial. From attracting responsible tenants to the legalities surrounding service animals and emotional support animals, there's a lot to consider. Today, our Seattle property managers weigh in on this common question about allowing pets in rentals (or not).

The Upside of Allowing Pets in Your Rental Property

The decision to allow pets in your rental property can significantly impact the kind of tenant you attract and the rental income you generate. So, why should property owners entertain the idea of allowing renters to have pets in their rental properties?

There are some upsides! Here are a few. 

More Tenant Options

In 2023, 66% of households have a pet! So, opening your doors to tenants with pets is akin to rolling out a welcome mat for a larger, more diverse group of potential renters. 

The reality is that many people consider their pets as integral members of their families, and they prioritize finding a living arrangement that can accommodate everyone, fur and all. By offering a pet-friendly environment, you make your property attractive to this significant segment of the rental market, which, in many cases, is actively seeking and willing to commit to housing that is welcoming of their pets.

The benefits of this can be immediate and tangible! 

A pet-friendly status can lead to shorter vacancy cycles. When renters know they can bring their pets, they are more likely to sign a lease with you as opposed to another property that's not so welcoming. This faster turnover reduces the period your property sits empty, translating to more consistent rental income for you. 

It also saves you the marketing dollars and effort needed to attract new tenants since a broader audience is naturally drawn to your listing.

Longer Leases and Higher Rents

For tenants with pets, the struggle to find a pet-friendly rental can be a significant stressor. 

Pet owners face limited options regarding suitable housing that will welcome their animal companions. Because of this scarcity, when they do find a place that accepts their pets, they're not only relieved but are also more inclined to lock in long-term leases. 

The motivation here is simple: securing a pet-friendly residence is challenging, and once they've found it, they'd rather not go through the hassle of relocating any time soon.

This tendency for longer lease terms benefits property owners in several ways. 

First, long-term tenants provide a more stable and predictable income stream. The more extended the lease, the fewer times you have to go through the costly and time-consuming process of advertising your property, screening new tenants, and preparing the unit for occupancy. Long-term leases essentially streamline your operations and reduce administrative overhead.

In addition to encouraging longer lease commitments, the rarity of pet-friendly properties also puts you in a favorable position to charge higher rents. Pet owners, aware of the limited availability of such accommodations, are often willing to pay a premium to secure a comfortable living environment for themselves and their pets. 

This willingness provides an opportunity for you to adjust your rental pricing strategy. You can command higher rents not as a penalty for pet ownership but as a justified premium for a scarce and in-demand feature — pet-friendly housing.

Responsible Renters

Owning a pet is a significant commitment that requires time, money, and considerable responsibility. Those willing to take on this commitment tend to possess qualities that are highly desirable in a renter. 

From feeding and exercise to regular veterinary visits, pet care is an ongoing responsibility that demands attention to detail and a stable routine. These traits often spill over into other aspects of a pet owner's life, including their roles as tenants.

Pet owners are generally more organized and capable of juggling multiple responsibilities, which bodes well for their ability to manage their financial obligations like rent. Timely rent payments are, of course, crucial for the smooth operation of any rental property, and having tenants who consistently pay on time can significantly reduce your stress as a property owner.

Additionally, pet owners often demonstrate a higher level of respect for their living environment. They understand that any damage caused by their pets could result in hefty fees or even eviction. This awareness usually leads them to take preventive measures, such as regular cleaning and pet training, to ensure their pets do not damage the property. 

It also makes them more receptive to following property rules and regulations, which can create a more harmonious community within your rental property.

A No Pets Allowed sign, pet policy for rental propertyThe Concerns: From Chewed Cables to Noisy Nights

While pet owners can boost your rental income and reduce vacancy times, let's face it: pets can cause problems — even the most well-behaved animals. Let's look at a few of the concerns property owners have about having pets in rental properties. 

Potential Property Damage

The fear of property damage is often the first obstacle that comes to mind when property owners consider allowing pets in their rental units. Visions of scratched hardwood floors, gnawed furniture legs, and carpets marred by pet accidents can be enough to make any landlord hesitant. 

However, it's essential to put these risks in context and consider ways to mitigate them. One of the most effective measures is the implementation of a well-thought-out pet deposit. By requiring tenants to pay a pet deposit in addition to their regular security deposit, you create a financial cushion that can be used to cover any pet-related damages. 

It's worth noting that the incidence of severe property damage from pets is relatively low compared to other potential sources of wear and tear on a property. Most pet owners are proactive about caring for their pets in a way that minimizes the risk of property damage. They're accustomed to regular grooming, claw trimming, and cleaning up after their pets, actions that inherently reduce the risks of property damage.

Moreover, the pet deposit is an explicit agreement between you and the tenant about the expectations for pet behavior and the financial consequences if those expectations are not met. You can even take it a step further by conducting periodic property inspections to ensure that the pet policy is being followed and that no significant damage has occurred.

Barking and Nuisance Behavior

One of the most common concerns property owners have about allowing pets, particularly dogs, in their rental units is the issue of noise. Barking can be disruptive and lead to complaints from neighbors, posing a challenge in maintaining a peaceful living environment for all residents. However, before you rule out the idea of pets in your rentals due to the fear of noise complaints, it's worth considering that there are proactive steps you can take to manage and mitigate such issues effectively.

The first line of defense is a well-crafted pet policy for rental property that includes clear guidelines about noise and nuisance behavior. By explicitly outlining acceptable and unacceptable pet behaviors in your lease agreement, you set the expectations right from the start.

Another approach is establishing quiet hours, aligning them with local noise ordinances if applicable. By doing so, you provide a framework within which both pet owners and other tenants can coexist peacefully. Should a noise complaint be filed, you'll have the lease agreement to refer to when discussing the issue with the tenant, which provides a basis for any actions that may need to be taken.

Lax Cleanliness

Cleanliness, or the lack thereof, is another concern that frequently deters property owners from allowing pets in their rental units. The fear is understandable: unpleasant odors, pet hair, and waste can create an unsanitary living environment, potentially leading to longer-term issues like pest infestations. 

However, like other concerns surrounding pets in rentals, there are effective strategies to manage and mitigate these issues without resorting to a blanket ban on pets.

For example, you can specify in your pet policy that pet waste must be immediately cleaned up from shared spaces like yards or that litter boxes should be regularly maintained to prevent odors. By including these cleanliness clauses in your lease agreements, you create legally enforceable obligations for your tenants to uphold, thereby giving you the tools needed to maintain a clean and hygienic property.

Regular inspections can further enforce these standards. Scheduled visits to the property not only serve as a way to verify that tenants are complying with the cleanliness clauses in their lease but also act as a deterrent against lax upkeep. 

An excited family with a pet in a home, pet policy for rental property conceptEstablishing the Ground Rules for Your Pet Policy in Rentals

What should you include in a good pet policy? Our property management experts offer insights below! 

  • Drafting a Pet Policy: A well-defined pet policy can serve as your safeguard. Outline acceptable pet types, sizes, and breeds. Clearly state your rules, required pet fees or deposits, and penalties for violations.

  • Pet Lease Addendum: Alongside your pet policy, include a pet addendum in your rental lease. This legally binding document will outline all pet-related rules and fees.

  • Enforce Your Policy: Don't shy away from imposing fines on tenants who bring in pets without prior approval. Consistent enforcement of your pet policy ensures a smooth operation.

  • Consider Premium Pricing: You can also consider charging higher rents to offset the risks of allowing pets. Many pet owners are willing to pay a premium for a home that allows their pets.

To create policies for pet rent and additional deposits, work with a property management company and your legal team to make sure everything complies with local, state, and federal regulations. 

Remember: Service Animals Are Not Pets

Always remember that service animals and emotional support animals are not considered "pets" under the law. You must allow these animals when a reasonable accommodation is appropriate, even if you generally do not permit pets.

Seek Expert Help from the Best Property Management Seattle Offers

If the idea of navigating the intricacies of pet-friendly rentals seems daunting, consider the services of a professional property management team. In Seattle, Real Property Associates can help you create and enforce a comprehensive pet policy, allowing you to reap the benefits without the headaches. We also work with tenants and conduct routine inspections to ensure they follow the rules regarding their pets. 

By weighing the pros and cons carefully and implementing a solid pet policy, you can make an informed decision about allowing pets in your rental properties. In the end, the choice is yours, but with the right approach, it can be a win-win situation for everyone involved.

Reach out to our team to learn more about how we can help you benefit from allowing pets! 

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