Pets in Rental Properties?

I’m a big-time pet lover. I grew up with dogs and cats, and my kids grew up with dogs, cats, a snake or two, turtles, fish, bunnies and lizards. But even so, when I began investing in rentals in Indianapolis 25 years ago, I decided I wouldn’t allow pets of any kind in my properties. Why?

— They can cause damage, to floors, window coverings, etc.

— They cause additional wear and tear.

— They can be a potential liability, if they threaten neighbors or other tenants.

Through the years, I realized I was missing out on a lot of really good tenants by not allowing their pets to live with them in my rental. After some checking around, I learned (through Zillow) that over 30% of renters in their database are pet owners. reports that around 70% are pet owners. Conversely, most apartments are advertised as “no pets” homes. So …. the shortage of units available for those who have furry friends creates a fantastic opportunity for me.

It’s always my goal to get my units rented asap, on a turn around. I’ve come to realize that I can charge higher rent (usually $25-40 more/month) for the privilege of having a pet on the premises. Also, it’s typical to charge a non-refundable pet fee, usually around $300-400. Because this amount is non-refundable, don’t ever call it a “pet deposit!” And by the way, tenants are more than happy to pay this amount.

I think the solution is to ask a lot of questions about the pet in your first conversation, and arrange to stop by the applicant’s current residence to do a “meet and greet” with the pet. You’ll learn a LOT about the pet’s (and the owner’s) behavior and cleanliness. After that visit, you’ll have a valid opinion on whether to go forward in the rental process.

Of course, the above comments don’t apply to service dogs. If I’m told the person has a service dog, I’ll ask to see the certification. (One of my daughters has a service dog, and the training is quite extensive. People can buy a $12 “service dog” vest and put it on any animal. Not cool.)

I’m also hearing quite a bit about “emotional support animals” — dogs, cats, hamsters, ferrets, lizards, pigs — and evidently, the owner has to provide a written letter from a physician regarding the support animal.¬†Although I’m a pet lover, I don’t really want a pig in one of my rentals! Hopefully, I won’t be faced with that issue any time soon …

Onward and upward!