I discriminate and its legal. I rent exclusively to my own kind and I have been doing it successfully for 27 years. I only rent to dog people, e.g., people who share their lives with dogs. Having a “dog’s only” policy over the years has confirmed what I instinctively knew from the onset, responsible dog people make fantastic tenants. The qualities possessed by successful pet stewards are the same qualities it takes to be good tenant: discipline, consistency, cleanliness and empathy. A person with enough maturity to take good care of an animal will usually take good care of their home.
After buying my first triplex in 1987, I called a local rental agency to list the property. When the intake person asked me if pets were “o.k.”, I said, “Pets are welcome.” She seemed aghast at my response. Little did I know that those two words, “pets welcome” would draw a swarm of people (and pets) to my doorstep by the next morning. I met so many wonderful people and pets that day I wasn’t sure how I would decide who to choose. I had to come up with some kind of criteria, and p.d.q.
So, here’s the basic 10-point pet screening formula that I developed. It has never failed me. I have tweaked it a bit over the years, but the basic formula is tried, tested and proven successful in creating peaceful, happy living situations and rental relationships for me, tenants and their canine companions. (The formula refers to dogs in the singular, but it also works for screening people with more than one pet as well.)
- Carefully evaluate the relationship between the person and their dog. Things to look for: Is the dog under voice control? Is there genuine caring between the person and their dog? (Notice signs of fear or cowering on the dog’s part.)
- Observe the temperament of the dog; is it calm and content? If so, that usually means the animal is being well cared for and is getting enough exercise. I don’t even consider renting to a person whose dog is pulling at the leash, or shows signs of hyperactivity or restlessness. It usually means the steward hasn’t taken the time to train their dog, or to exercise it adequately.
- Check the work schedule of the person (people); I like to rent to couples who have staggered schedules. Usually this means the dog has adequate care and company and isn’t left indoors for long periods of time. I also like to rent to single people who work at home, or take their dogs to work with them.
- Do not rent to people whose dog you haven’t met. Despite great dog resumes and references, there is no substitute for meeting the dog yourself. Regardless of offers of cash, pleading and promises, keep in mind that you are creating a long-term relationship with someone and their pet. So, don’t risk needless acrimony with your tenant, other tenants, neighbors and/or possible eviction proceedings, if the dog doesn’t live up to the hype.
- Make sure the prospective tenant’s dog gets along well with the other dogs on the property. Take time to introduce them and see how they play together. Once you’ve narrowed it down to one candidate, it is ideal if the prospective tenant and their dog can meet you, the other tenant (s) and their dog in a neutral setting, like a park, so the dogs can get to know each other on non-territorial turf.
- Be sure to check the references. For novice property owners, it is a good idea to take the extra step and visit the prospective tenant in their current living situation to see how they live with their dog.
- Fenced yards are a must. If you’ve not been fortunate enough to have purchased property with a fenced yard, it’s worth having a fence installed. This keeps dogs from having to be excessively cooped up in the house/apartment, which isn’t good for the dog or the house/apartment. I also allow tenants to install dog doors, if they want them. Obviously, this works best if you have or purchase property where the tenants and their pets have direct access to porches, decks and/or yards.
- Make sure that the prospective tenants walk their dog once, preferably twice a day. That cuts down on dog waste in the yard and usually results in happier animals, neighbors and nicer living conditions. Do not rent to people who chain their dogs up in the back yard. (I think conscientious landlords can contribute to the reduction of animal attacks on people and other animals, if they take the time to set and enforce rules for humane animal care on their property).
- Discuss in detail the prospective tenant’s animal maintenance regimen, most importantly their parasite management system.
- Explain your pet policies and require the signing of a pet agreement. I got a sample pet policy, agreement, reference form and guidelines from my local SPCA.
Due to the successful use of my screening formula and the steady increase in the number of people looking for rental property that allowed pets, I decided to buy more property. So, in 1999, I bought another tri-plex and am currently in the process of buying more property. It is an example how a person can do well and do good at the same time.
“Why go through all that?” you might ask. Why not just rent to pet-free people? For me, I just happen to love dogs (I have shared 42 of my 49 years with them) and I enjoy creating safe, peaceful pet-friendly communities. However, for the smart savvy property owner, renting to people with pets makes great business sense. There is less tenant turnover in the dog-owning population, increased protection for the property, lower vacancy rates, increased marketability, and thus enhanced profitability. Additionally, you foster goodwill. According to the Humane Society of America, “research has proven time and again that pets help most of us live happier and healthier lives. Allowing pets in your rental housing will not only help your residents, it will also help you by generating a positive public image and better return on your investment.” It is really a win-win situation.
If you or some you know is considering adopting a pet-friendly rental policy, why not consider contacting your local SPCA to find out whether they can provide assistance.
- For information on creating a “pets welcome” rental policy, including guidelines, forms, pet applications and more, visit the website of the Humane Society of the United States at: www.hsus.org/programs/companion/renting/managers.html
- For general information on renting to people with pets, including pet agreements, screening checklists and more, visit: rental-housing.com/rental/petpages.htm
- For Animal Guidelines for Tenants and Landlords, visit: https://www.sfspca.org/resources/tenants-landlords
This article appeared in Bark Magazine and BayWoof newspaper.