What to Include in a Tenant Pet Agreement

How to construct an iron-clad pet agreement

For many landlords, the question of allowing pets in their rentals is a complex one with no clear answer. While some worry about potential property damage or legal liability, other landlords may see the benefits like increased tenant satisfaction and longer stays. Pet owners and animal lovers often find it more difficult to locate suitable places to live, and as such they are far more likely to stay in a pet-friendly property for a long time.

Regardless of your decision, a well-crafted pet agreement is essential for protecting your property and fostering a clear understanding between you and your tenants. This guide explores the key considerations for creating a pet agreement, helping you navigate this decision with confidence. Please keep in mind, this blog is intended for general knowledge and should not be taken as legal advice. Laws concerning pets in rentals can vary by location.

What Are Pet Agreements?

A pet agreement is a vital addition to your lease that clearly outlines your policies on pets in your rentals. This section details your expectations for responsible pet ownership within your properties.

One Agreement or Multiple?

Whether you choose a single agreement for all pets or create separate ones for each animal is up to you. Regardless of your approach, ensure you review the pet agreement thoroughly with your tenant during lease signing.

A Binding Contract:

Remember, just like the lease itself, a pet agreement is a legally binding contract. It protects both you and your tenant by establishing clear expectations for pet ownership on the property.

What to Include in a Pet Agreement

The types of pets tenants are allowed to have

Your pet agreement should clearly outline the types and number of pets permitted on your property. Common choices include cats and dogs, but some landlords may allow other animals like birds, reptiles, or invertebrates.

Breed Restrictions: Weighing Options

If you decide to allow dogs, consider establishing breed restrictions. While these restrictions can be controversial, you have the right to determine which breeds are suitable for your property. It's important to note that some insurance companies might refuse liability coverage if "dangerous" breeds are present, so it's best to discuss the matter with your insurer.

Alternatives to Breed Bans:

An alternative to breed restrictions is setting weight limits. For instance, you could choose to only accept dogs weighing 25 pounds or less. This approach allows for a wider variety of canine companions while still managing potential risks.

Outside pets prohibited

The pet agreement should clearly state that it applies solely to the tenant's pets. This means caring for other people's pets on a regular basis (like pet boarding) is strictly prohibited.

Guests and Their Pets:

The agreement should also establish guidelines for guests who bring pets to visit the tenant's unit. This could involve limitations on the duration of a pet's visit or requiring prior approval for guest pets. Specifying these expectations upfront helps maintain a predictable and controlled environment for all residents.

Approved pets only

The pet agreement should emphasize that only pre-approved animals are allowed on the property. If a tenant wishes to add a new pet they must obtain written approval from you beforehand. Some pets, like goldfish, might be exempt from this approval process (consider including a specific list for clarity).

Assessing Pet Suitability:

Before granting approval for a new pet, consider these questions:

  1. Pet History: How long has the tenant had the pet?
  2. Origin: Where is the pet coming from (breeder, shelter, etc.)?
  3. Behavioral Record: Has the pet caused any issues like property damage, noise complaints, or other problems in the past?
  4. Care Plan: Who will be responsible for the pet when the tenant is away?

Maintaining the Agreement:

It's important to emphasize that your approval hinges on the tenant's continued adherence to the pet agreement's terms and regulations. This includes the potential for revoking pet permission or even lease termination in the case of repeated or severe violations.

Name tags, licensing, and vaccinations

For dog and cat owners, consider requiring collars with name tags and documented proof of licensing and current vaccinations. Before incorporating this section, research the specific vaccination and licensing requirements in your area. To maintain clear records, request documented proof (e.g., vet records, license tags) to keep on file with the tenant's lease agreement.

Make it clear that tenants are responsible for their pets

The pet agreement should emphasize tenants' responsibility for their pets' behavior. This includes cleaning up after their companions indoors, outdoors, and in any shared common areas. Additionally, leaving pets unattended outdoors for extended periods or keeping crated/caged pets in unsuitable locations is strictly prohibited.

To further minimize potential liability risks, consider requiring tenants to obtain renter's liability insurance, if permitted by your state and local laws. This extra layer of coverage can provide peace of mind for both you and your tenants.

Pet fees

While well-behaved pets are ideal, even they can cause some additional wear and tear. To address this, you might consider a pet fee on top of the security deposit. However, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Local Regulations: Always check your local laws concerning pet fees. Some areas may have restrictions or outright bans on them.
  2. Deposit Allocation: Separating a portion of the security deposit specifically for pet damage might not be practical - a well-behaved pet could still have an irresponsible owner. A single, non-specific deposit often works best.
  3. Reasonable Rates: If you do decide to implement a pet fee, keep it reasonable. A yearly fee of around $200 is a common starting point.
  4. Service/Companion Animals: Remember, pet fees don't apply to service or companion animals. These animals are legally recognized as providing assistance and are not considered pets.

Adapting to Change: Maintaining a Dynamic Pet Policy

Life throws curveballs, and your pet policy might need to adapt as well. Consider including a clause allowing for reasonable amendments to the pet agreement with advanced notice. This ensures you can address unforeseen situations effectively.

Grandfathering Existing Tenants (Optional):

If significant policy changes are planned, you might consider a "grandfather clause" for current tenants with pets. This means their existing pets would be exempt from the new rules. However, any new furry additions would need to comply with the updated regulations.

The Power of Pets in Rentals

Pets can foster a sense of comfort and companionship, potentially leading to happier tenants who stay longer. Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to allow pets rests with you. A clear and well-defined pet agreement, outlining your expectations and tenant responsibilities, promotes a harmonious living environment for both pet owners and non-pet owners alike.

Created on: 07/03/24

Author: CreditLink Secure Blog Team

Tags: pet agreement, pets , pet fee , pet license , property damage , insurance , weight restriction , breed restriction,

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