Contrary to popular belief, renting out your single-family homes, condos, or apartments to renters with pets can be beneficial. It gives you access to a wider pool of potential renters, and as a Seattle property management company will tell you, pets do far less damage to property than even small children do!
Although you’re well within your rights to prohibit pets in your investment properties (apart from service animals), allowing them can be a profitable move for property owners to make in the Seattle area. Here are some tips on how to not get ‘burnt’ when you make a move to allow pets within your home rentals, Seattle investors!
Please note: This article is not legal advice. For up-to-date information and guidance, reach out to your attorney or Real Property Associates.
Set Some Ground Rules With Your Lease
While renting to residents with pets is worth considering, you’ll want to lay out some ground rules for yourself and your renters so that you know what you’re okay with and what you’re not okay with happening in your investment property.
For instance, a renter might be so taken with a new puppy that they might be tempted to bring them inside. And then, as they grow larger, the dog doesn’t understand why they’re suddenly banished to the backyard. This is why it’s always an excellent idea for property owners to thoroughly ‘vet’ any pet that intends to call your Seattle-area rental property home.
Defining which types of pets you’d allow in your rental properties is also a plus that you should run by your Seattle property management company. If you’re working with full-service property management, they can help you work these details out in your lease so that you and your property are protected in worst-case scenarios.
For example, cats can ruin carpets so badly that the smell will haunt you for many summers to come. Even with responsible care and training, if owners go away and the home becomes a litter box after it’s too late to recover, the damage has been done. So it’s important to set clear boundaries and rules right from the beginning—including any fees or deposits that may be required to mitigate such damage.
Ask for an Extra Security Deposit Rather Than Requiring Fees
‘People just resent it,’ says Janet Portman, a housing lawyer and co-author of Every Landlord's Legal Guide. ‘They see these fees as a profit center. It's a way to pull out more money upfront, and renters see that, and they resent it.’
Besides annoying pet owners, nonrefundable pet fees and ‘pet rent’ policies don’t motivate an owner to take care of the home. Yes, you can absolutely charge pet rent for your investment properties—at this point, it’s the standard, if not the norm. However, you may be able to win over a potential renter in a competitive rental market like Seattle by either lowering your pet rent fees compared to competitor properties in the area or waiving the concept completely.
An alternative idea is to take an extra pet-based security deposit. If they take care of your home, they get their money back. This motivates pet owners to care for your rental homes—something that every owner and Seattle property management company is striving for. In most cases, pet damage isn’t generally accepted as’ fair wear and tear,’ so it’s not unreasonable to make these additional requirements of your renter.
Bearing all of this in mind, you should never charge over and above what is reasonable for allowing a pet into your property. As a side note, if you decide to work with fees that aren’t refundable, don't call it a deposit. Even our own Jay Young will tell you, ‘There's no such thing as a nonrefundable deposit.’
Don't Ban by Type if You Don’t Have to—Screen Instead
In most cases, it’s not the pet so much as the irresponsible owner of a particular pet that causes the most headaches. If you screen the renter (and their pet) properly, you solve most of your issues. However, breeds do matter when it comes to the extent of local law. While outright breed bans are now banned in the Seattle area, we still tend to judge the breed instead of the deed when it comes to pets.
The breed of an animal will still heavily impact their behavior without some form of socialization. Some breeds such as the beagle, for example, are prone to escaping and will chew on anything that has the owner’s scent on it. They’re also very active dogs with a lot of energy.
With this in mind, even without outright, city-wide bans, property owners are still allowed to decide which weights, breeds, and species of animals are allowed within their rental homes (especially those on the aggressive pet list). However, the exception to this is always going to be service animals. If you’re not sure how to appropriately navigate service animals and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), it’s a great time to get in touch with a Seattle property management company like Real Property Associates.
Understanding Service Animals and Companion Animals
As a property owner, it’s important to know the difference between a service animal and a companion animal. A service animal is an animal that’s trained to perform a specific task on behalf of a person who has a disability. A good example is seeing-eye dogs, who’re trained to do particular tasks for their owner.
Companion animals are generally associated with providing mental or emotional assistance to people with conditions like anxiety and PTSD. It could be a dog, a cat, or even a flying squirrel. However, when it comes to service animals, there are only two recognized types currently covered by the ADA: dogs and miniature horses.
Service animals are not a pet, so you can’t charge a security deposit for them. They’re considered more as an aid (such as a wheelchair or a walking cane), so your pet policy doesn’t apply to them. Companion animals get a bit more tricky, and they typically require a doctor’s note. It’s best to run these situations by your Seattle property manager, so you don’t run afoul of the Fair Housing Act.
Pet Owners Can Be a Rental Property Win!
Your future renters with pets struggle to find great places to live in the Seattle rental market. Their dogs, cats, or scaly friends are as close as family—and there’s no way they would move anywhere without them. They will happily pay a little bit more to find a place that would allow them to live with their pets.
Renters who own pets also tend to stay longer because they don’t have as many options, so renting to them is very beneficial. Just make sure to set clear ground rules and have a proper pet policy in place.
However, it’s worth remembering that once you thoroughly ‘vet’ a pet, you still need to investigate their owner, too! Don’t neglect a thorough screening process for your future renters to ensure you’re providing the best property protection.
Get started with your free copy of our professional Screening Checklist!