Do bunnies make good tenants?
August 10, 2009 3:36 PM   Subscribe

As a new landlord, what should I consider when a prospective tenant has two litter-box trained bunnies?

We just bought a house which includes an unfurnished rental unit. We have started to put the word out among circles that we have connections with (school, work). The first person to show interest wants to know if we will consider her friend (described a nice and reliable) who has two rabbits who are "litter box trained and live in a pen"

I read in a previous post that bunnies mostly chew and poop. Since it is unfurnished, my concern would be mostly carpets, floors and wires. Am i foolish to consider this? If I do consider it, what should I ask the owner or what rules might we need to have? (Example - if the person tells me that the rabbits are used to being in their pens when she isn't home and we put that in the rental contract, is that sufficient?)

My husband thinks we should just say no pets but I would like to be open to situations that don't really cause us any problems. (the contract the previous owner used said "pets only with permission".
posted by metahawk to Pets & Animals (23 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
If the bunnies ever ever are let out of their cages they will destroy any moldings and wires that they can reach. I have a rental unit and I would never consider renting it to someone with a rabbit.

I like rabbits and all, but they are born to chew.
posted by alms at 3:50 PM on August 10, 2009 [3 favorites]

My landlord asks for a larger deposit with animals. Check to make sure your state/municipality allows for it first. If you are within the law, do it. Worst case scenario you don't return the deposit, and your apartment gets furnished with new carpeting/paint for the new tenants...on the old tenants dime.

Good luck.
posted by hal_c_on at 3:51 PM on August 10, 2009

They chew on wires. Otherwise, I don't see how it would be any different from allowing a cat.
posted by meta_eli at 3:53 PM on August 10, 2009

Larger deposit. Damage to woodwork and higher risk of fires from cable chewiZZZZT! are the main hazards. Most owners who let their bunnies out and around either monitor them closely (i.e. have a hand on them at all times or have them penned into a specific area) and provide things that are 'safe' to chew on but still satisfying to the bunny. (Phone books are a fave, it seems.)

Get references, and if it's legal in your state, ask if the person had rabbits at the time and if there was any damage to the unit that they know of.
posted by SpecialK at 3:57 PM on August 10, 2009

They chew on wires.

and baseboards and anything else soft enough to chew. I own a rabbit, and I would want a big deposit from a renter. they're fun pets, but they're destructive and anyone who tells you different has either had EXCEPTIONAL rabbits or is not being honest.
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:01 PM on August 10, 2009

Best answer: They chew on wires.
and baseboards and anything else soft enough to chew

... which in our experience does include carpets. Rabbits don't make good indoor pets for renters. Besides the chewing problem, rabbit poop is fairly easy to clean up but their urine leaves a long-lingering odor. Our last rabbit thought our looped carpet was an ideal litter-box (I guess the feel of the loops triggered its coprophagic reflexes.) The rabbit is long gone, but its mementos are still with us.

Your sympathy for pet-owners is nice, but as landlord you'll do better without rabbits.
posted by anadem at 4:14 PM on August 10, 2009

I must have had exceptional rabbits, then. I've successfully rented with rabbits for more than seven years with zero damage to walls, floors, or anything else. I even fostered an entire litter of bunnies at one point. It really depends on the rabbit (some are destructive, some are not), and on the owner (a little bunny-proofing goes a long way). Personally, I would ask for a rental reference for the bunnies.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 4:15 PM on August 10, 2009

Oh, I should add: I have had exceptional spayed and neutered rabbits. That solves the vast majority of behavior problems, including peeing outside the box.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 4:17 PM on August 10, 2009

As for a pet deposit of $500.
posted by k8t at 4:22 PM on August 10, 2009

I would like to be open to situations that don't really cause us any problems.

Pets cause problems. They're delightful (what your tenant gets to deal with), but they chew things and shed and stain the carpet and otherwise cause problems (what you get to deal with). Having any kind of furry, shedding, licking, barfing, pooping non-human creature in your carpeted rental unit may well mean that when you next try to rent it out, not only are you repairing the damage done by that pet to baseboards and wires and whatever else, you're also getting turned down by would-be tenants who have allergies (my parents' cat died years ago, and they've cleaned the carpets and air filters many times, but my cat-allergic husband still gets wheezy if he stays overnight at their house).

(I love animals and would love to have a pet, but my landlord says no and--while I don't like it--I completely understand why.)
posted by Meg_Murry at 4:22 PM on August 10, 2009

Best answer: Well, I hate to bash rabbits, because I really loved mine, and I'm sure all rabbits are different. But mine was very litter box trained.

And she chewed everything. the paint off the walls, the carpet, cords and wires, the baseboards, everything. She chewed up to the subfloors a one square foot portion of carpet under my bed that I never knew about until I moved the bed. And that is just the actual apartment damage she caused. Never mind the books, fabric and remote control buttons she chewed through. Nevertheless, I did rent with her and I did end up paying for about $200 or so in damages.

I think, though, that it depends on the house. For instance, if there is an unfinished basement or something that the rabbits could stay in, or only be let free out in the yard or a rabbit run, it is possible to have rabbits without home damage. I'd suggest a few hundred dollar deposit.
posted by Bueller at 4:35 PM on August 10, 2009

We used to have a pet rabbit, who had unsupervised access to our finished basement and home office (painted cement and carpet). Apparently while we were at work during the day, she sharpened her teeth on a drywall wall in the back corner of the basement, going all the way through a finished wall (two layers of drywall) only being stopped when she hit a wooden sink base.

That was our fault. She wasn't fixed (a literal rescue from the side of the road, the vet said she was too old to survive the surgery), and while we gave her toys to chew on, but it wasn't enough. We eventually had to leave her a small piece of drywall leaning against the wall so that she'd leave our walls alone. Guests found it disturbing to hear the sounds of her gnawing away, while we explained how she had to grind her teeth down.

We also noticed, after she passed, that she'd managed to strip the paint off of several of the bricks around the base of the fireplace (you can see a bit in the corner here), and after she got to a certain age and grew incontinent, we discovered that rabbit pee is an amazing paint remover.

She was an amazing pet to me. I loved her, but if we had her cloned, I'm not sure our house would have survived. I'm confident that like people, rabbits vary, but you should know the bad end of the spectrum.
posted by librarianamy at 4:41 PM on August 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

As stated by others, bunnies are very - very - very destructive. Bunnies are not domesticated animals like cats or dogs. They are large cute rats with floppy ears and big feet. Unfortunately people think they are cute. Unfortunately people equate cute with won't-get-in-trouble. It is in their nature to chew. It is in their nature to go behind things that are tough to move. It is in their nature to wreak havoc as indoor pets.

There are only two ways to make sure that doesn't happen. Either no bunnies, or the tenants are so restrictive to the bunnies that PETA is protesting on their door for the poor treatment (cage-life only) of the bunnies.
posted by Nanukthedog at 4:42 PM on August 10, 2009

Our three bunnies are more inclined to destroy the things we own than they are to destroy anything in the apartment. As for wires, that is easily solved by a) placing them out of reach such as behind large pieces of furniture and b) wrapping them very carefully --- we've used several methods, the best of which is a tube of plastic wrapped around the wire with some metal mesh wrapped around the plastic tube. Our apartment is hardwood floors. We have our own rug in the living room. However, in our state, it's mandated that carpets in apartments are changed every five years or so --- so, for that reason more carpeted apartments are pet friendly than hardwood floor apartments --- carpet will have to be replaced eventually. Something to look into for your state.

Also in our state, it is illegal to ask for deposits outside of the standard security and key deposit. The security deposit cannot exceed one month's rent. Therefore, asking for a pet deposit on top of the security deposit is illegal. However, our landlord was only charging half a month's security on our apartment but with the rabbits asked us for a full month's security, which is legal and which we were expecting to pay anyway. So make sure you know your state laws on this.

We only give our rabbits access to one room when we're not home.

As with anything lived in by someone, there may be some damage. But I have yet to meet the rabbit who can do more damage than many a human, especially if the rabbit is well cared for -- unfortunately it's not always possible to know this ahead of time. But I second the spayed and neutered rabbits and that litter boxes must be changed once a week.
posted by zizzle at 4:43 PM on August 10, 2009

Best answer: Chiming in as another rabbit owner and former renter. I never had a problem with rabbits chewing moldings or wires, but I have had some ruined carpeting. My rule now is, rabbits and wall-to-wall carpeting don't mix.

If I were a landlord, I would rent to a rabbit owner but only if I didn't care about the carpeting (say, if it were due for replacement anyhow) or if I got a sizeable pet deposit to cover replacement.
posted by cabingirl at 4:56 PM on August 10, 2009

Don't do it. I had a rabbit for several years as a renter. He ate the wall moldings. He ate the outlet covers. He ate the door corners. He ate the rug. Cutely. He'd sit there and just hoover up that berber carpet, pulling & chewing one looooooong strand at a time, like linty spaghetti, as the whole carpet unraveled from the edges like a cheap sweater. Of course we stopped him when we saw him chewing inappropriately. We didn't even realize the extent of his activity until we moved out. I had to do a lot of carpet patching on moving day.
posted by cuddles.mcsnuggy at 5:14 PM on August 10, 2009

Either ask for a large pet deposit, or charge additional "pet rent" on top of the already established rent (when I rented with my cat 12 years ago this was an additional $15/month - I don't know what the going rate is now).

People with pets often tend to be good long-term tenants because it's difficult to find places that accept pets.

Does the house have a yard/outdoor space? You could prohibit them from free-ranging the bunnies inside and the tenants could get an outdoor enclosure/portable play yard to exercise the rabbits. This is probably what I would do.

Take pictures of the place before renting so you can document any rabbit damage later.
posted by Ostara at 6:06 PM on August 10, 2009

On a technical note, all of the above advice (asking for a larger deposit for the pet or banning certain types of animals) should be double-checked against your state or municipality's fair housing laws and can either be written into the lease or added as a rider to a standard lease that's legal to use in your state/municipality.
posted by TrishaLynn at 7:02 PM on August 10, 2009

Response by poster: Thank you everyone! It seems like there is a possibility that might work out OK having two rabbits in our rental but more likely that there would be some damage. As a new landlord, I would rather avoid the damage than have to collect a large enough deposit to pay for fixing it. (In California the maximum of all deposits is twice the monthly rent.)
posted by metahawk at 9:27 PM on August 10, 2009

I have a rabbit ( wild) in the backyard and it chewed the vinyl off the bottom of a coated chain link fence in the spot where it comes through from the neighbors yard. It didn't chew through the chain link but the wire is all bare in a spot about the size of a football or so.
posted by Taurid at 9:58 PM on August 10, 2009

Bunnies are so cute but they are really difficult pets. I had a roommate who had a bunny and after she moved out it took *forever* for me to get the stench out.
posted by radioamy at 12:12 AM on August 12, 2009

If the bunnies are "living in a pen", they are not going to be chewing any carpets or wires.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:41 PM on August 12, 2009

Many of the above posts about super-destructive rabbits imply that the rabbit was being kept alone. While I'm not a rabbit owner myself, I'm told that rabbits who have rabbit companions are far, far, far less destructive because they don't get bored the same way.
posted by joyceanmachine at 7:42 AM on August 18, 2009

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