According to the American Pet Products Association (APPA) 70% of U.S households own a pet (about 90.5 million families). In 1988 only 56% of US households had a pet. This notorious increase has made landlords acknowledge the benefit of permitting renters to have pets in their properties, especially in Chicago. Allowing pets can reduce tenant turnover and increase the size of the pool of prospective renters.
Regardless of the reason, it is imperative to have a thorough and sensible pet-policy in place for investment properties. Establishing a sound pet-policy will protect property owner’s and guard against unforeseen costs and negative outcomes from the presence of animals. Detail specific conditions in a “pet agreement” and include that agreement as an addendum to the standard rental lease.
A comprehensive pet agreement should include the following specifications:
PET SCREENING AND APPROVAL
The pet agreement should make it clear that the property owner / property management company must approve each pet before it begins living in the unit. Each animal is unique, regardless of the species, breed, or size. Therefore, it is important to assess each pet before agreeing to allow them to live in the rental space.
Questions should be asked to help investors judge whether or not they are comfortable with that particular animal staying in the property. Consider asking the following questions:
- How long has the renter owned the pet?
- Is the pet house trained?
- Has your animal had any aggression towards anyone?
- Does it get along with other people?
- Who is the primary caretaker for the pet?
- Who will watch the animal when the primary caretaker is away?
PET DEPOSITS AND RENT
It is common to charge an extra fee to the occupant that has a pet (pet deposits or pet rent). While state laws and regulations vary, Illinois does not have a limit on the pet fees that landlords are permitted to charge. The presence of animals often entails additional wear and tear to a rental property. It is completely understandable that owners may choose to protect (economically) against this damage.
Pet Rent – This is usually a non-refundable monthly fee in addition to the standard rental rate. Pet rent usually averages from $15 to $50 a month and is intended to offset the additional damage from the presence of the pet.
Pet Deposits – The other method for guarding against losses from pets is to charge an additional deposit when renters begin their lease. Pet deposits usually average between $250 and $500 and should be asked for if a tenant owns a pet or gains a pet during the course of the lease. Deposits are usually refundable if the pet does not cause damage. If they do, document all of the damage and deduct the estimate for repairs from the initial pet deposit.
Be sure to choose a reasonable amount for either of these options. While most prospective renters will understand the need for you to offset the additional risks of your property, excessively high pet rent or fees will deter high-quality applicants.
TYPES AND NUMBER OF ANIMALS
The pet agreement included in the rental lease should clearly specify the types of animals that are permitted in the property. The more specific, the better. It is normal to allow common domestic pets like dogs, cats, hamsters, and fish. Some landlords include prohibitions on certain pets that tend to be messier, more high maintenance, or more likely to cause damage to the interior of the unit.
Also, the pet agreement section of the lease should clearly specify the maximum number of animals that are allowed at any one time. Including a clear limit will keep pet-loving occupants from acquiring more pets than the property can reasonably accommodate.
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