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Apartment Pet Policy

So you’re a landlord who has decided to allow pets into your apartment. Even so, that doesn’t mean you should simply allow any pet to stay at your property. To ensure the safety of tenants, other pets in the building and your property, you should always run a background check on a pet, just like you would a tenant. So what are the ingredients to a good pet policy?

Breed

The first thing you need to do is determine the limitations of your units. If you have large apartments with a large back yard you can probably handle a larger dog. If you have a matchbox apartment with no yard at all, maybe not. To be safe, it is often best to avoid larger breeds. Breeds like Great Danes and German Shepherds are just too big for most apartments. Another thing to stay away from is allowing dangerous breeds. That means no Pit Bulls or Rottweilers. You might even want to stay away from well behaved, but somewhat intimidating species like Doberman Pinschers.

While many of these dogs are good-natured and would not harm anyone, some people are intimidated by larger dogs, which might run off too many tenants. Plus, larger dogs have the potential to create more noise and property damage due to their size. One way to encompass most of these qualifications is to simply limit the weight of any dog in your building. That limit could be 30lbs, it could be 50lbs, but the important thing is too have a weight policy. With single-family rentals, the noise issues are less of a concern, however, so be sure to consider the specific rental unit. As for cats, unless someone wants to have a pet leopard in your apartment, there isn’t much of a need to worry about the breed.

The Specific Animal

So you’ve nailed down your breed policy considering your personal tastes and the limitations of your units. Now you need to consider the specific animal in question. A common requirement for both dogs and cats is that they be spayed or neutered. This is actually being forced upon pet owners in some urban areas now, but the need for this is really more a matter of opinion and. I don’t think enforcing this rule is a cure all for problems, but it doesn’t hurt. Animals with this procedure are less aggressive, which could mean less problems.

Another wise requirement is that the prospective tenant provide the vet records for the animal. You screen people so why not pets? If a tenant can prove that their pet is up to date on their shots and has regular vet visits, its a safe bet that they will be one of those good tenants I was talking about. In addition to verifying vet records, when talking to a prospective tenants former landlord, make sure to ask about the pet as well.

Financials

The last thing that you need to consider is how much to charge for a pet. Some owners like to charge a monthly pet rent, others prefer a single nonrefundable charge prior to the tenant bringing in the pet (some charge both). Personally, I use the latter as I find that it more of a statement of good faith than simply paying an extra $10 a month. As for the dollar amount, I have always considered $100 for cats and $300 for dogs to be appropriate, but those numbers can be anything you choose.

Once you have decided on your stance of each of the above, put your newly formulated pet policy to paper. When advertising the apartments in questions make sure you let prospective tenants you the details of your policy. After all, if you are going to allow pets, you need to let your target tenant market know it.

 

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4 Responses to Apartment Pet Policy

  1. Kayla August 4, 2011 at 5:53 pm #

    I have a landlord that allows my neighbors to have a dog but refuses to let me have a bunny. I explained the bunny will be caged because I dont feel comfortable letting him out without my supervision anyways. He says the lease says no pets. I asked how did my neighbors get away with having a dog, and he said they paid a pet deposit. I asked how much a pet deposit would be and he said he didnt know on the top of his head. I dont see how this is fair!

    • Matt Kastner August 5, 2011 at 11:43 am #

      Personally, I don’t really see the problem with a rabbit, but I have heard of landlords that only allow cats and dogs. If they have a specific pet policy and follow are following it with you, as unfair as it might be they can certainly do that. However, those kinds of rules are different in every state and even municipality so I couldn’t say for sure. If you want to fight it, I would recommend you contact an attorney. But keep in mind that if you go down that road you can pretty much guarantee that when your lease runs out the landlord to ask you to leave.

  2. StlMama November 9, 2011 at 12:47 pm #

    I think the breed restrictions you mention are rather asinine. I know far more large breed dogs that are less hassle than the smaller yappy dogs. I have a neighbor with a small mix dog who is about 20 lbs, and he is far noisier and irritating than their other dog, a 60 lb pit mix who only barks if she sees someone unfamiliar. And to say that apartments aren’t the place for larger breeds? Really? Have you ever spent time with a greyhound? Or a mastiff? What about a golden retriever? FWIW, I’ve had as many as 3 greyhounds at once in my tiny south city home. They weigh between 60-90 lbs, and are far less trouble than my cats have ever been.

    The temperment of the individual dog is far more important than the size or breed. A landlord saying “Pets allowed” but followed up by breed/weight restrictions that only allow for small yappy dogs that can’t hold their pee for 4 hours is shooting yourself in the foot. And from a property protection standpoint, I would much rather see a tenant with a docile, well-mannered Rott or Pit or Dobie than one with a hyper, spastic ankle biter who has no training and whose owner lets them do whatever they want on a retractable leash that offers zero control.

    • Matt Kastner November 9, 2011 at 12:56 pm #

      I understand what you mean. I have first hand experience with small yappy dogs too, and know how annoying they can be. But everyone is going to view this situation differently. As mentioned in the post, there are a variety of issues to consider. Clearly we don’t see eye to eye on the matter. That is why every landlord needs to decide on a policy of their own.

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