A large percentage of Seattle area tenants come with some kind of a pet.  Most pets (and responsible pet owners) are not a problem in rental properties.  However, if you’re a landlord in the Seattle area, you more than likely are somewhat apprehensive when it comes to pets in your property.  The good news is that the risks can be minimized by following these tips:

 8 Tips to Make Renting to Tenants with Pets Successful

1. Have the Prospective Tenant e-mail or Text a Picture of the Pet

This will allow you to better verify the pet is an acceptable and agreed upon breed/size and give you a document that can be referred to if it is ever discovered the pet is changed or replaced.

2. Check Pet References

Aside from the actual interview and screening of the tenant, it is also important to check on references from past landlords. It’s ideal to call all their former landlords to have an idea if their pets have caused an issue in the past. Likewise, this will give you an idea of how the pet behaved in its previous home. If the tenant cannot provide a reference, then you should be cautious about renting the property.

3. Have a Clear Pet Policy

If you’re going to rent a property in the Seattle area, it’s important that your lease agreement includes the groundrules. Make sure that the pet policy is also clear. That means that your lease should explain what constitutes damage to the property, such as stained carpets or scratched woodwork. There may be instances where the pet would behave antisocially, a lease or pet addendum should clearly state the consequences of this.

You should always have a clear plan to deal with misbehaving or dangerous pets.

4. Emphasize the Tenant’s Personal responsibility for the Pets behavior

Make sure that it is clear the pet owner is responsible for any all damage caused by their pet.  This might include property damage or perhaps medical expenses in the case of a dog attack.

5.  Charge an additional refundable deposit for each pet rather than a fee or “pet rent”

Refundable deposits tend to give the tenant an incentive for being a responsible pet owner.  After all, they will be able to get their entire deposit back if their pet does more damage.  To the contrary, a non-refundable fee or “pet rent” will likely give a less responsible tenant a bit of an entitlement mentality, perhaps thinking, “since I’m paying extra for my pet, the landlord should expect some extra damage”.

6. Limit the Type of Breeds a Pet Owner Can Bring

In the Seattle area, most rental properties don’t allow their tenants to keep aggressive dogs, such as Pit Bull, German Shepard, Doberman, etc. There’s a reason for that; aggressive breeds are known to have a history of hurting someone. That means if the landlord has rented the home to an owner with an aggressive breed then there’s a risk of being held liable if the neighbors or other tenants have been attacked. In addition, many insurance companies exclude specific “vicious” breeds from coverage.  It is a best practice to limit the breeds accepted by you to those accepted by the insurance industry.

7. Provide weight limitations:

It is perfectly acceptable to provide pet weight restrictions.  If your personal preference is to have only small pets, perhaps a 25-pound weight limitation would be appropriate.

8. Provide Age Limitations:

There is widely known that puppies (or other young pets) are more prone to destructive tendencies.  It is a good practice to prohibit pets that are under a certain age, perhaps 12 months.

Final Words

Every landlord seems to have different personal preferences or definitions for what constitutes a suitable pet for their home.  It is important for a landlord to explore what they are most comfortable with.   Much of this decision may be reliant on the type of property being rented (i.e. Condominium vs. a fenced back yard).  In any case, following these basic steps and precautions will help to greatly limit exposure to any additional damage.

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