Atlanta Property Managers Share Why You Should Rethink Your Pet Policy

Do you allow pets at your rental property? In the past, rental property owners were told pets bring problems. However, things are changing, more renters own pets, and most property owners are rethinking their pet policies. In addition, you may be required to allow certain animals under the Fair Housing Act. As your Atlanta property managers, we want to encourage you to revisit your pet policy to determine whether you need to make a change.

Pet-Friendly Homes Appeal to More Renters

The American Veterinary Medical Association reports that over 50% of American households own a pet of some kind (source). Dogs, cats, birds, and other pets are often considered family members. More renters are looking for pet-friendly homes, and having a pet policy that does not allow for their animal is a dealbreaker. Allowing pets in your rental home will mean your rental appeals to a wider variety of tenants, and may help reduce vacancy days. 

At Specialized Property Management Atlanta, we specialize in single-family home rentals, which are more likely to have space for a pet. A small apartment is not always ideal for pet owners, a single-family home with a backyard is a better fit. If your home appeals to families with pets, you should consider a pet policy that allows for some or all types of pets. 

How Much Will Pets Add to Maintenance Costs?

When you rent out your home, there are certain maintenance costs on which you should count. For example, turnover costs usually include professional carpet cleaning, paint touch-ups, re-keying, and advertising. Regular, cost-effective maintenance such as cleaning out dryer vents and checking fire extinguishers are needed even in the middle of a tenant’s lease. And, although you never know when an emergency maintenance issue will strike, setting money aside for emergencies will help you be prepared when one comes along. A good rule of thumb, according to this post, is to set aside 1-2 months of rent to cover yearly maintenance needs. For a home that rents out for $1,500 per month, set aside $1,500-$3,000 specifically to address maintenance costs. Your property manager can help you determine exactly how much to set aside for yearly maintenance.

How do maintenance costs change when you allow pets in your rental home? You may have heard rental home horror stories of pets who caused thousands of dollars worth of damage. Dogs tear up the landscaping, cats scratch walls or brand new carpet to shreds. While these scenarios are certainly possible, our experience as Atlanta property managers has shown stories like this happen rarely. The fact is that maintenance costs will increase, but not by much. Most wear and tear caused by pets is already addressed when you make the unit ready for a new tenant. 

One of the most common concerns when allowing pets in your rental home is how often you will need to replace the carpet. The National Association of Home Builders provides this general guide to the life expectancy of your home’s components. With regular maintenance, carpets in a personal residence should last 8-10 years. In general, rental homes need new carpets more often, typically every 6-8 years, even if there are no pets. When you allow pets you may need to replace them slightly sooner, around the 6-7 year mark. 

Pet Deposits, Pet Rent, and Pet Fees

Extra wear and tear on your rental home is easily offset by pet deposits, pet rent, or pet fees. What is the difference between these types of charges? Here is a brief overview of how each type works.

  • Pet Deposit: You may choose to charge a pet deposit when you rent out your home to a pet owner. This deposit is similar to a security deposit, covering damage caused by your tenant’s pet, and refundable after they move out. Typical pet deposits are around $200, though you can choose an amount you think is fair.
  • Pet Rent: Instead of, or in addition to, a pet deposit you can charge your tenant pet rent. Pet rent is a monthly charge for having a pet in the home, usually around $20-$60 per month.
  • Pet Fees: A pet fee can be charged to your tenant when they move in. It is more like an application fee than a deposit because it is non-refundable. A pet fee does not need to be used for damages caused by pets. Pet fees vary, but average around $300.

It is up to each individual property owner to decide if they will charge a pet deposit, pet rent, pet fee, or some combination of the three. Not sure which option you should choose for your Atlanta rental property? The property managers at Specialized Property Management Atlanta will explain each scenario and help you decide which one will work best for your property.

What Atlanta Property Managers Need to Know About Fair Housing Laws

The Fair Housing Act was passed by President Lyndon Baines Johnson in 1968. This act protects those seeking housing from discrimination based on race, color, sex, national origin, religion, family status, and disability. Everyone should have equal access to housing, and the Fair Housing Act ensures this. It is important to be aware of the law and how it pertains to service animals. Ignorance of the law is not an excuse for violating it. 

Individuals with mental or physical disabilities may require a service animal. Service animals help with everyday tasks, such as guide dogs for the blind, or an animal to help retrieve items for someone in a wheelchair. They also provide emotional support to alleviate the emotional effects of a disability. Service animals are not pets, thus a no pet policy would not apply to them. In fact, allowing a service animal in your rental home is considered a reasonable accommodation for those with disabilities. Reasonable accommodations in housing must be made in order to offer everyone equal access to housing, and equal enjoyment in their home. Rejecting an application because your prospective tenant has a service animal is a violation of the Fair Housing Act, no matter your what policy you have for pets when you rent out your home. 

Requirements and Situations that Affect Service Animals

While you cannot deny an applicant based solely on their service animal, there are several requirements and situations the property owner and prospective tenant must consider. 

  • When a request is made to allow a service animal and it is not apparent to the property manager or owner why it is needed, then reliable, disability-related information must be provided to support the request. 
  • As a property manager or owner, if you believe a service animal would cause a financial or administrative burden, or change the essential operations of the home, you must demonstrate this.
  • If you believe a service animal will be a threat to the health and safety of others, or cause damage to property, and there are no accommodations to reduce this threat, you must demonstrate this.

Be aware that reasonable accommodations for service animals may also mean a request to waive pet fees and pet deposits. To learn more about the Fair Housing Act and HUD rules for reasonable accommodations, visit this page.

Atlanta Property Managers Can Help You Review Your Pet Policy

If you are considering a change to your pet policy contact your property manager. Not all pet policies are the same, and as a property owner, you decide what kinds of pets you allow in your rental home. You may choose to allow some, but not all pets. Many property owners have breed restrictions, weight restrictions, or a limit on the number of pets allowed. For example, you may choose to not allow dogs over 25 pounds. Some of the common large and aggressive dog breeds that are restricted from rental homes and apartments are Great Danes, Doberman Pinschers, Rottweilers, and Mastiffs. Remember when creating your policy that breed and weight restrictions do not apply to service animals protected under the Fair Housing Act.

At Specialized Property Management Atlanta, we have extensive knowledge and experience in the local Atlanta rental market. Our property managers will be able to advise you on whether allowing pets could result in fewer vacancy days. If you choose to allow pets, we can also help you decide how much your pet deposit, pet fees, or pet rent should be.

Before You Rent Out Your Home Contact Specialized Property Management Atlanta

Specialized Property Management Atlanta is a full-service property management company. Our job is to make sure your rental home, tenants, and their pets are well cared for. Before signing a lease, we will make sure your prospective tenants understand your pet policy and any fees. We abide by all rules laid out in the Fair Housing Act, protecting you from violations. Your property managers will enforce your pet policies at the beginning of the lease, and perform regular property inspections to ensure lease compliance and preventative maintenance. At the end of your tenant’s lease, we will evaluate the property and disperse security and pet deposits as needed. With Specialized Property Management Atlanta, you never need to worry about your rental property or tenants.

Want to learn more about the services we offer? Visit our services page here, or our FAQ page here. Request a quote from our Atlanta property managers by simply calling our office at 404-596-8454.