Running a Cat House
June 26, 2010 10:41 AM   Subscribe

Pets allowed! Advice/suggestions/cautions for renting an apartment to pet owners - ?

Pet-less tenant is moving out. I'm thinking of renting to pet owners in the future.

Any and all advice and suggestions concerning any aspect of the situation are appreciated!

(E.g., how would you go about pet-urine proofing a floor? How would you determine beforehand if a pet is owner is likely to be responsible?)
posted by coffeefilter to Pets & Animals (21 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The San Francisco SPCA has a page called Guidelines for Landlords. Also -- I am a renter with a dog and a cat, thank you for considering pets.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 10:47 AM on June 26, 2010

Best answer: I just moved to Seattle and all of the pet friendly apartments I toured (many of them ... Seattle loves its pets) require either a pet deposit and/or pet rent. Usually the deposits seemed to run around $500 and the pet rent was anywhere from $20 to $50 extra per month.
posted by kthxbi at 10:49 AM on June 26, 2010

Best answer: Also, it's quite common to give breed or weight restrictions for dogs. Not that I'm saying you should do this - it's just what I've encountered time and time again. It actually ends up being a problem - it's not uncommon to see ads on Craigslist along the lines of "does any one know where I can rent an apartment that allows pitbulls? PLEASE??!?!" ...
posted by kthxbi at 10:51 AM on June 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: How would you determine beforehand if a pet is owner is likely to be responsible?

I suggest requiring prospective tenants to allow you to meet the pet before you consider renting to them. Observe how the tenant-to-be interacts with the pet (especially dogs). Do they let the dog jump all over you or jump on the furniture or in general don't really seem to have a lot of control? If so, think twice.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 11:01 AM on June 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Asking for an extra pet deposit is reasonable, but some states do limit the total amount you can ask for in a security deposit, so you'll want to check that out for your state and/or structure the deposit to be in compliance with local laws.

How would you determine beforehand if a pet is owner is likely to be responsible?

Neutering. Unless someone is a serious legit breeder of the type biscotti would approve of, a responsible pet owner neuters their pets.

If that's not enough for you, you could use immunization certificates and/or proof of obedience training (for dogs) as a proxy indicator of how responsible a pet owner is. That's a lot of documentation, but if it helps you feel more comfortable renting to pet owners, that's one way to gauge responsibility.

When I was a landlord I rented to people with pets, both cats and dogs, without any problems. Pet-owning tenants tend to be more stable in their schedules (and frankly appreciative of a landlord that would rent to them with pets) so I think pet owners in general can be great tenants.
posted by ambrosia at 11:04 AM on June 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: When I was a renter who wanted to adopt a kitten, the property management company required me to purchase renter's insurance to cover any potential pet damage before they would allow it. You might consider having a similar requirement.
posted by fancyoats at 11:05 AM on June 26, 2010

Best answer: As a former renter/dog owner thank you so very much for considering renting to pet owners. I always felt, if I were a landlord, rather than having a size limit on dogs I would have a training requirement. Any owner who has put the time into training his/her dog (beyond puppy classes) is likely a pretty responsible dog owner. A dog that has passed the AKC's Canine Good Citizen test would be a shoo-in for me.

I had a Labrador for 13 years who lived with me everywhere from a <500 sf apartment to a 200 year old farm house (complete with farm animals). He did great every where we lived because he was well trained (2 levels of obedience school) and well exercised. In addition I bent over backwards to be a good tenant because I was so thankful that my landlords allowed my dog.
posted by a22lamia at 11:06 AM on June 26, 2010 [3 favorites]

Best answer: You could consider dog interviews as a screening process; I think most landlords would prefer an impeccably mannered pit bull tenant to a perpetually yappy sheltie, for example.

We always ignored the weight and breed restrictions and brought our boxer with us to look at apartments specifically so the landlord could see how quiet and well behaved she is, and they always agreed to take her.

We also always offered to provide references for the dog and extra security. The fact that my dog's vet and groomer will provide references doesn't really tell you much; the fact that I made the effort to provide them, though, should indicate that I am a responsible owner. (That was always my strategy anyway!)

Rules for dog owners will help protect you if the dog becomes an issue - stuff like yard cleanup, stain treatment, etc. You cannot really pet-proof floors unless they are tile or lino, but you can dictate how you want your hardwoods cleaned in case of an accident. I unexpectedly spent 13 hours in the ER with appendicitis one night and my dog certainly did pee in the house, but with proper blotting, non-ammonia cleaning and mopping, the floor was completely fine.

In general I think well-trained dogs are vastly less destructive than potty training, crayon toting kids - thank you for considering taking pets as tenants!
posted by DarlingBri at 11:22 AM on June 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: One of the reasons why my wife and I are staying in our current place instead of moving to where it would be easier for her to get a teaching job is because of the price of pet fees. We have two cats and most places want at least around $500 in pet fees.

One thing that would help us out a lot is if that pet fee could be broken up so it doesn't have to be paid all at once. An extra month's worth of rent due at the same time as the regular rent and application fees and administrative fees and stuff is a lot of money.

I'd be perfectly happy paying more in a refundable deposit if it meant that I didn't have to pay as much of a nonrefundable fee. Even if that meant you'd be stricter about the condition of the place after I move out.

Another thing on the money front is paying for more pets. We never paid for our second cat because that was another $200-300 after already paying that much for the first one. I think extra rent because of a pet is crazy. I don't think any of these people would charge extra rent for human children.

My apartment complex has trash cans around with bags to pick up poop. Now if only everyone would use them....
posted by theichibun at 11:30 AM on June 26, 2010

Best answer: One thing not mentioned here is to consider the current condition of the unit. Keep in mind even the best cared for pets will have accidents at some point. No matter how well behaved they are they will get sick or old or have a random error on occasion.

The floors are by far the most important thing to consider (although dogs will sometime scratch up doors). If you have carpet, what condition is it in? If it is already used and will be replaced at the next turnover, pet damage isn't as much of an issue. If it's all wood floor, how is the finish? Big dogs can wear the finish with their nails. Conversely, good finish is essential with smaller pets because it protects the floor from fluids.

As a renter with pets who is currently looking, I see lots of pet deposit and "pet rent" scenarios. I'm glad to pay either as long as it's a clean, well-maintained building. If the current condition is just "OK" or less, I don't feel like a higher move in cost or ongoing pet rent is worth it and I keep looking.
posted by quarterframer at 11:33 AM on June 26, 2010

Best answer: As another responsible, pet-loving renter, I also thank you for considering pets. We specifically chose our current apartment due to its pet-friendly policies. We have a big, energetic young dog and a large cage with four rats, and we are very careful to keep our apartment quiet, clean, undamaged and odor-free.

Looking at things from a landlord perspective, here are some things I'd consider:

- Check references. We adopted our dog after moving in so they didn't meet her first; but we came with years of excellent references from previous landlords, so they knew we were responsible, stable tenants.

- Are they experienced with pets? Do they have a regular veterinarian? Are the pets house-trained, obedience trained, spayed/neutered? Questions like these might help gauge if they're responsible and in control of their pets.

- Will you limit the number/type of pets? What if they want to adopt new pets while living there?

- What are your laundry facilities like? The one thing I didn't realize before adopting our dog was the amount of laundry she would generate - the bedding, towels, exercise clothes from dog-walking! I'm really glad we own our own washing machine because I'm not sure the communal laundry facilities at our old apartment could have handled it.

- Require a pet deposit, and signed pet statement so that you have an agreement about what is required and actions to be taken if there's a problem. We put down a $500 deposit and signed a statement basically agreeing to take proper care of our pets, keep them from making excessive noise, clean up after them, not let them run free, etc. We also had to agree that in an emergency or other urgent situation (e.g. if our dog were disturbing neighbors with prolonged barking) if we couldn't be reached, management could enter the apartment and remove the pets to a boarding facility, and we would pay for that. I also expect to pay for carpet cleaning when we move out.
posted by spiny at 12:32 PM on June 26, 2010

Best answer: A landlord friend who has a pet friendly building requires that pet owners show proof of up-to-date vaccines including rabies for dogs. She does this for two reasons: 1. she wants to help ensure that all tenants in the building are protected and 2. she figures that someone who doesn't keep their pet up-to-date also doesn't take enough care of it to make a good pet-owning tenant.
posted by Pineapplicious at 12:49 PM on June 26, 2010

Best answer: Check your insurance. My landlord allows pets, but I don't know if it's local laws or just his liability, but while he's fine with dogs in general, he can't allow a tenant to have a pit bull or certain related breeds.
posted by lemniskate at 1:00 PM on June 26, 2010

Best answer: We pay an additional deposit for our cat for our apartment. We also rent out our place in Vancouver to people with a small dog.
I think the suggestions of looking for neutering and evidence of shots etc. are a great way of showing responsible pet ownership.
posted by arcticseal at 1:15 PM on June 26, 2010

Best answer: From Ms. Vegetable:
We have a retired kitty who sometimes misses the box and/or spews up hairballs. It was really easy to clean up the tile floor; it's far less easy to clean up our current carpeted apartment. We intended to pay for carpet cleaning when we eventually move out until we found out our landlord will be replacing the carpet anyway, so it doesn't really matter.
I second the references/spaying or neutering/licenses aspect. I also like the pet contract idea where you explicitly get permission to take said pets to a pre-approved boarding facility in the event it is needed.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 3:30 PM on June 26, 2010

Best answer: Offer to clean the carpeting with each year's lease renewal. You'll always know it's getting done and you'll be able to tell if there are any problems before they get out-of-hand.
posted by Pamelayne at 3:52 PM on June 26, 2010

Best answer: I've only had cats in apartments in California. We always come equipped with a pet renter's resume" when we were meeting prospective landlords, including an adorable picture of our felines, statement of our commitment to their care (we never leave them solo when we're traveling, we take them to a vet regularly, we consider ourselves responsible for anything they do) and references (former landlords, petsitter, vet).

I don't pay attention to whether the ad says "no pets" or not. Without exception, when I approached prospective landlords in a friendly way, gave them a copy of our pet renter's resume, and asked if they'd consider allowing us to apply as tenants, we've gotten a yes.

Two of our three most recent apartments were "no pets" apartment.

We haven't paid any additional pet rent (either in the Bay area or Los Angeles). We have offered to pay an additional deposit. One of the three landlords accepted the offer to pay an additional deposit ($200), the other two said that they didn't need it.

We are careful to clean up after our cats, and clean our apartments very thoroughly when we move out. We've never lost a bit of our damage deposit. I mention all this because it sounds like there are a lot of other experiences.

My advice:

Do some research with other landlords in your area to find out what the majority of them do in regards to pet rent and/or deposits (though of course, it is your property and yours to do with what you choose)

Ask for an additional pet deposit rather than pet rent unless you think that your place will have significant wear and tear from the animals.

Thanks for considering pets! Responsible pet owners are (in my humble opinion) great tenants!
posted by arnicae at 4:45 PM on June 26, 2010

Best answer: Thank you for considering pets! Like theichibun, part of the reason that I'm still in the same crappy apartment is that all the open places in my price range don't allow pets!

My place has well-sealed hardwood floors (I don't know anything about wood but it's very shiny) and that works pretty well with the dog. I have an older, very well-behaved Corgi so there are very few messes, but she has thrown up a few times and messed inside when she was sick, and it was easy to clean on the hardwood.

I love the ambrosia's idea of proof of obedience training for dogs. Definitely shows that the owner is proactive. And definitely vaccination records for any animal.

I'd also require that dogs and cats be spayed and neutered. For male dogs, neutering really helps with behavior/aggression. I know a lot of people don't like Pits because they are worried about bites - it's usually the intact males that you need to worry about. I'm personally very suspicious of anyone who doesn't fix their dogs (unless they're responsible show breeders with a proven record, but then again those people are probably not going to be renting apartments!).

I don't really know anything about fish, but the only thing I'd worry about is water damage?

Oh and if someone has a small caged animal (bunny for instance), have some kind of clause about regular cleaning of the cage. Those animals can really make a place stink. I had this horrible roommate once who had a bunny. She claimed that she cleaned the cage all the time but I never saw it. I ended up not getting along with her so I never went in her room. When she moved out, I went in there and there was a horrible stench - and bunny piss all over the walls! I hope that this is the exception not the norm, but I just mention it because I wouldn't expect a small animal like that to cause such a problem. (A lot of 409, baking soda and Zeolite finally got the smell out.)

One thing about cats is that they're often going to destroy the blinds if they have claws. They just do that. Some dogs do too (my neigbhor's dog sits on the couch and sticks his little head out when they're away). You can either a) freak out about it or b) expect it to happen, know how much it will cost to replace them, and make sure it's built in to the pet fee.

If you have carpet, you might want to check into the laws about carpet replacement in your area. I *think* that there is often a "lifetime" of carpet...I don't really know specifics, but when my mom was in her last apartment, our older dog had a lot of accidents on the carpet...but the carpet was pretty old to begin with, and was due to be replaced when she moved out, and they got into a big fight over whose responsibility the cost was. Or you could put it in the lease that they have to pay for cleaning when they move out. Or build the cost of annual cleaning into the rent or deposit.
posted by radioamy at 8:43 PM on June 26, 2010

Best answer: the way my landlord explained it-- cats = urine, maybe some scratching, dogs = chewing/pawing on the walls/panelling, any wood.

my contract is a pet deposit, that covers any reasonable number of pets (the tenant whose lease and deposit (:D!) I took over had an insane number, actually...) plus a fine of $50/pet/day of unauthorized animals. This of course is merely held over your tenants heads as a threat, and only followed up on if their neighbors complain ;)

animals like fish are usually exempt.
posted by rubah at 10:07 PM on June 26, 2010

Best answer: Depending upon your local laws, you might consider a non-refundable pet deposit. I don't have pets myself, and don't allow them in my building (I spent a great deal of time and money to rehab the units), but the landlord next door allows mostly cats with a simple $100 non-refundable pet deposit.

Yet another neighboring landlord has a very interesting policy which I think is also good - she asks prospective tenants on the application to provide proof the pet is spayed/neutered (she's also rather generous with allowing pets beyond that restriction). I think she may have a pet deposit, but not sure.
posted by kuppajava at 7:26 AM on June 27, 2010

Best answer: We moved in with a large dog (75lbs) and a cat, tenant upstairs had no animals and a child. She moved out recently.

Her apartment will require a LOT of work to make it rentable, including replacing the entire kitchen lino floor (WTF was she DOING up there????), sanding and resurfacing the wood floors (mom liked to let the kid practice her tap dancing on the wood floors and ride a hard wheeled scooter), replacing carpet, repairing broken windows.

Our animals have not done any damage to the house besides some carpet stains which I keep under control with a home steam cleaner thingy and (by agreement) the landlord didn't put in new carpet when we moved in since we were bringing the critters.

posted by legotech at 5:51 AM on June 28, 2010

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