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Should Northern Virginia Landlords Allow Pets in Rentals?

When you own investment properties, you will have to make decisions about what you will or won’t allow as you define your leasing agreement. At RentSimple, one question we get asked a lot pertaining to this is, “Should landlords allow pets?”

With approximately 85 million people in the United States who own pets, it’s no wonder that this is a pressing question on the minds of investors! People all across the country adore their pets: not only do they love their pets, but they are willing to spend big on them, too!

When deciding what to do about paws in your pad, as a pet-friendly property manager in Northern VA, we always encourage investors to welcome pets into their properties! Keep reading to learn why we think that allowing pets is a great option for your portfolio.

Golden retriever dog

“Pet-Friendly” Is a Perk for Your Properties!

One of the reasons we’re so “pro-pet” here at RentSimple is because we know the advantage you give your Arlington investment properties when you allow pets. As we mentioned above: the number of people who own pets in the United States is a significant portion of your potential renters! Watch this video for more thoughts on the benefit of allowing pets in your rentals:

If you choose not to allow pets in your properties, not only do you narrow the number of quality renters you could conceivably fill your rentals with, but you miss out on the potential for additional income. “Pet rent” has rapidly become a staple of modern renting, and you miss out on this revenue boost when you refuse access to “Fido,” “Spot,” or “Mittens.”

It’s even easier to bring pets into your rentals when you work with a property manager in Arlington like RentSimple: with our Good Pet Promise, 100% of any pet damage is covered by us—so you don’t fear the fluff!

So You’ve Decided to Allow Pets—What’s Next?

If you decide to allow pets at your rental properties, you must add a professional pet addendum to your lease. A pet addendum will enable you to add whatever stipulations or agreements you and the tenant make regarding the pet. You can specify the type of pets, size, breed, how many a person is allowed to have per home, among other stipulations.

At RentSimple, for example, we place a restriction on dog breeds classified as “dangerous.” We also limit dogs over 50 pounds for our single-family rentals that don’t have at least a 0.25-acre lot. These are examples of things you should consider adding to the pet addendum for your Arlington investment properties.

Another thing you’ll want to add is a section about your pet deposit, pet rent, or pet fee if a prospective tenant has pets. Despite how common pet ownership has become, it can still be a challenge for renters with pets to find their next home sweet home. When tenants find a pet-friendly property, they’re happy to pay a little extra if they can bring their pets with them.

When you cover these crucial components in your lease, you prevent misunderstandings—and protect yourself in the event of a violation.

What If You Don’t Want to Allow Pets?

Some investment owners simply don’t want to allow pets: as the investor, you have this right! However, keep in mind:

  • There are millions of people who own and love their pets.
  • You will be missing out on many good tenants.
  • Tenants are less likely to “sneak in” a pet when they are allowed upfront.

That said, even if you do decide to ban pets from your Arlington investment properties—you still have to consider what to do if you have a potential tenant with a service animal or emotional support animal.

Assistance Animal Awareness Is a Must

The most recent data on how many people own a service animal shows that approximately 500,000 people have service dogs in the United States. Service dogs are the most common and popular type of service animal and can be trained to provide lifesaving help to people with disabilities. The other recognized service animal is the miniature horse.

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), “a service animal is…individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.”

Service animals are trained to help people in the following ways:

  • Alert the deaf or hard of hearing about people or things coming in their space
  • Pull a wheelchair
  • Alert a person just before they have a seizure
  • Retrieve necessary items, such as medicine, when the person is in distress
  • Assist people with mobility or balance issues
  • Alert people when allergens are nearby (they have a phenomenal nose).

As you can see, service animals are not a pet: they’re an essential tool to help those who rely on them to get through the day safely.

Labrador guide dog and his disabled owner

Don’t Get on the Wrong Side of the ADA or FHA

Because of their unique role in a disabled person’s life, a landlord should handle service animals differently. Even if you do not allow pets in your rentals, you must make exceptions for service animals. You wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)!

Fortunately, service animals make ideal “renters.” Highly-trained service animals rarely cause damage or make noise.

However, things are a bit different when it comes to an emotional support animal. These animals are not service animals and require a doctor’s note—but they are covered under the same Fair Housing Act (FHA) protections as their service animal counterpart. Additionally, you cannot charge tenants with either a service animal or emotional support animal pet-related fees.

When it comes to understanding and navigating the law with respect to these special classifications of animals, it’s best to work with an expert property manager in Arlington who is well versed in local, state, and federal law.

Seek Help to Do It Right!

There’s no rush when it comes to accepting paws, claws, scales, and tails into your investment properties. You want to be sure you make a decision you can live with! However, it helps to have a professional property manager guide you through the various steps involved in allowing pets to make sure you’re covered with a thorough pet addendum.

Keep in mind, too, that screening pets is only one half of the total equation when it comes to your rental properties: you have to screen their owners, too! Screening your human tenants is a process far more delicate, and it requires a careful understanding of the FHA, ADA, and FCRA—just to name a few!

The complexity of the law concerning screening is exactly why we offer investors access to our Tenant Screening Checklist—for free! This insider tool will help you boost your tenant screening policies with some of the same tips that the pros use! Download your free copy today to start protecting your portfolio!



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