Pets are a part of life for most people, but for landlords, it’s important to understand the risks and responsibilities that come alongside allowing tenants to own dogs. Pets are considered a calculated risk by most property investors, simply because they can cause damage and be a liability. While, for the most part, dogs are a low risk choice, it is crucial that you understand the factors that influence your decision of allowing or disallowing pets on your property.
A dog that isn’t properly cared for or trained could cause substantial damage to your property. Importantly, this doesn’t just apply to big dogs. Even small dogs can chew through cabinets, damage trim, ruin carpet, and destroy furniture. It is crucial that you note any damage caused by pets is the tenants responsibility in your contract.
If a dog attacks another tenant on your property, you could be liable. The State of Washington does protect you in most cases, but if you are aware that a dog is aggressive then you could have some liability. You can protect yourself by ensuring that any aggressive dogs are recommended to professional training or removed from your property. This is generally not an issue; as most pet owners are fully responsible for their own pets.
Pet dander and hair can cause problems in multi-family homes and apartments where the ventilation is linked between homes. If one tenant is allergic to dogs, they cannot live in a home with an interconnected HVAC system if one of the other tenants has dogs. In addition, if your tenant moves out, you will have to take extra precautions to ensure that all hair and pet dander are removed from the unit in case your next tenant is allergic.
Some dogs are noisy, especially when they are not trained. Your other tenants may be annoyed to hear a dog barking, which can lower the overall satisfaction of your residents. You can combat this by taking the time to note which dogs are noisy, and recommending professional dog training to the tenant.
How to Balance Risks
While allowing dogs into your investment property has risks, it is one that is worth taking. More than 50% of home renters own one or more dogs, and that number is set to grow as the Seattle area is embracing pets with dog cafes, pet friendly restaurants, and plenty of walking space. You can also benefit by adding a surcharge for pets onto your rental rate, so you earn more money. However, you can invest that money wisely to ensure that your property is safe.
Pet Registration – The Regional Animal Services of King County registers dogs to ensure that if they get lost, they will be returned home, or have a greater chance of being returned home. This can be beneficial to you by reducing liability that a pet might be lost and can help you to prove if a tenant’s dog damaged property because you can prove they have a dog.
Dog Training – If you intend to allow dogs into your rentals, mandatory training for the dog and the handler can vastly benefit both you and the pet owner to require. Writing this type of clause into your lease contract ensures that the tenant knows how to handle their dog and that the dog is trained to behave in most situations. This isn’t always a solution and tenants may balk if you chose to force them to pay for it, but most dog training in the Seattle area runs between $100 and $200, for puppies and adult dogs, which makes it a worthwhile and cost saving investment on your part. For example, it costs considerably more than $200 to replace chewed cabinets. Ahimsa Dog Training is one of the top rated schools in the area.
Pet Deposit – A pet deposit is an additional damage deposit that you can ask for on top of the normal deposit to ensure that any damage caused by dogs on your property is covered by the tenant. This isn’t always necessary, and the tenant will likely have to cover costs of repairs anyway, but can help to give you peace of mind and ensures that the tenant is willing to cover potential damage costs. This is a refundable deposit.
Allowing pets onto your property is a risk, but a calculated one, because the majority of tenants have pets. Dogs can add value, reduce incidences of burglary, get your tenants exercise, and increase the overall happiness of the people living in your buildings.
If you need help managing your property or making legal property management decisions, contact SJA Property Management for a free quote.