Should you allow tenants to own pets?

Should you allow tenants to own pets?

Should you allow tenants to own pets? Here is a list of things to do before approving new pet friendly residents or letting them move in.

Get a list of pet species and breeds NOT permitted by your insurance company. Get it in writing and get it on their letterhead.

Insurance Considerations

Make sure the species and breed of pet owned by your applicant are permitted by your insurance carrier before signing the lease or letting them move in. 

Require your pet owning applicants to obtain renters insurance with a minimum of $500,000 of liability coverage. Do this before you give them the keys. You want to be listed on their policy as an additional interest in order to be notified if their policy lapses for non payment or gets cancelled altogether. You do not want to be an additional insured.

Pet Policy

Should you allow tenants to own pets?

Establish a “WRITTEN PET POLICY”. Run it by your attorney before letting anyone sign it. Should you allow tenants to own pets?

The very first item in that policy is meeting and greeting the pet. Take photos and see if it tries to lick you or rip off an appendage. That first meeting will tell you a lot.

What is a Pet?

Not all pets are dogs and cats. There are fish, rats, snakes, tarantulas and more. Each and everyone of which is available in a pet shop. Have you ever smelled a ferret infested home?

To quote Dorothy, “Lions and Tigers and Bears oh my”, have been owned as pets at one time or another. One of my residents snuck in a pygmy goat. We considered roasting him on a spit when they left it behind after their eviction. 

Just because someone has a pet cat does not mean a bobcat is an acceptable house guest in your rentals. One tenant I read about kept a pet alligator under the sink, until it ate its way out. Let the applicant know which animals your insurance company prohibits by handing them a copy of the letter from your insurance company. Make sure you specify that the insurance company refused to allow those breeds and not you.

Occupancy Limits

As a landlord you need to think like the local code enforcement officer when it comes to maximum occupancy.

Your pet policy needs to place a cap or restriction the number of pets permitted in your property. Our limit is a maximum of two and no more than 60 pounds of combined weight.

Failure to set a pet limit can have dire consequences. Imagine not receiving the rent and entering the unit due to the smell. Once inside you find the body of a crazy old cat lady with 50 cats in one of your units.


Your goal is ZPG – Zero Pet Growth. All pets need to be spayed or neutered. This helps prevent a house full of puppys/kittens that they finds to cute to give away. 


Request applicants provide a letter from their Veterinarian. Get it on letterhead that includes the following items at a minimum:  proof of spay/neuter, sex, breed, shots, vaccinations, county of registration, age, height, weight and color

Dog Tags

Proof of annual pet license. Many counties require registration and tagging of pets. If it is required in your county get the annual records sent to you as well. Ask the vet to include you on their reminder to get shots list but keep track of it yourself as well.

Consider asking for the pets to be implanted with an RFID chip. This must be done on all US Military bases. The reason is that it is easier for the authorities to return the pet if they find it running at large.


Establish inspection schedules. No more than 60 days apart for the entire period of occupancy. Primarily to look at maintenance and housekeeping. The other thing here is look for and collect all pet damage assessments.

Service Animals

Do not confuse “Service Animals” with pets. They are a whole “nother passel” of headaches. Go to some fair housing classes before you allow pets so you don’t get sued for a violation of someone’s rights.

HUD has issued a 19 page guideline on service animals. In the middle of the document it warns you NOT to depend or refer to this document. Find that less than useful document at:

Allergies – Should you allow tenants to own pets?

Check with all existing tenants to determine if they have allergies to dogs, cats, anacondas or whatever. If your multi-family is an allergen free sanctuary, that opens up another whole market of residents for you. Smoke free / Pet Free is a great advertising sign. So I ask again, Should you allow pets?

Pet fees

Your “Pet Move in Fee” is a non refundable payment. You notice I said fee and did not use the word deposit. Deposits are inherently refundable. This is an up front cleaning fee. It can be $150 or more at your discretion.

Charge a pet rental fee. $25.00 minimum plus $1.00 per month per pound of adult weight over 20 pounds. This is not unheard of. You do not want horses and 300 pound pot bellied pigs in your units do you?

Code Words

“My dog is a Lab Mix”. This can mean Pitt Bull, Rottweiler or Doberman depending on who you talk to. Find out the code words in your area.

Should you allow tenants to own pets?

Should you allow tenants to own pets? That depends. Pets in some units and not others could be a good idea. Just make sure you protect the rights of every tenant and not just the one you need to fill the unit.

Good Luck and Good Investing!

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