Managing an investment property in Alamo Heights can be very rewarding, but it also comes with some unique challenges. One of those challenges is whether you will allow pets on the property and what kind.
Knowing how to screen for pets can be tricky, though less so if you manage a single home or small multi-residential unit. There’s also the service animal versus support animal issue to consider.
Knowing the pros and cons of allowing pets, some basic screening and information on service and support animals can aid you in your decision. Ultimately you may find that this process, along with other types of screening, is best handled by a professional property manager.
Pros and Cons of Allowing Pets on Your Property
When deciding to allow pets in your Alamo Heights rental, we’re mostly talking about cats and dogs. These are the most common pets and have the most interaction with other people. They also present the most danger to your property. Let’s go over the cons an animal can present:
Con: Damages and Odor
Allowing pets in your rental means exposing your property to possible damages. This can range from ripped carpets and screens to scratched floors to marks on the walls. Pets often have bathroom accidents inside the home as well and can give an overall odor to the property that is difficult to get out.
Con: After Effects
After the tenant has moved out, there will need to be deep cleaning so the next tenant can move in without worrying about allergies. If the home is carpeted, you’ll most likely have to replace this, though that could be needed without a pet as well.
Con: Considering the Neighbors
If your property has more than one resident, you have to consider the impact on others. A single unit home may need to consider the impact on the neighbors. This includes noise like excessive barking at odd hours and safety risks if the pet is easily startled or prone to violence.
The cons all seem to pertain to the animal itself and what can happen if they have irresponsible owners. However, renters with pets are often better tenants. Here are the pros of allowing pets:
Pro: Increasing Your Applicant Pool
A significant number of people own pets. If they don’t own one currently it may be because they’re living somewhere that doesn’t allow them. By allowing pets, you increase your applicant pool and your chances of keeping the property rented consistently.
Pro: Higher Rent
To account for the future damages and extra cleaning involved it’s reasonable to include pet fees, deposits, or even pet rent. Avail has an excellent breakdown of the different kinds of fees you can charge which can help you cover the cost of the pet living in the home.
Pro: Your Tenants Stay Longer
This connects to the increase in your applicant pool. Many rentals have strict restrictions on pets or don’t allow them at all. Once a tenant finds a place that provides for their current or future pet they will want to stay.
Pro: Pet Owners Make Good Tenants
A responsible pet owner is often responsible in other areas as well. Caring for the animal will translate to caring for your property and getting rent to you on time, so they don’t risk eviction.
Something to consider: Tenants may sneak in pets. This means you risk damages with no deposit or fees to cover the cost. This is a con that gives the advantage to the pro-pet column and can make your decision that much harder.
A property management team like Real Property Management Lonestar may be able to assist with this decision. With a property manager, you’ll have the backing of a third party to do screening if you decide to allow pets. If you decide against it, that same third party can assist if someone sneaks in a pet, breaking the terms of their lease.
Pet Screening is Owner Screening
According to Landlordtalking.com, the New Hampshire Humane Society (NHHS) has come up with a program that allows pet owners to be verified after they go through an ownership program. Though your rental is in Alamo Heights, TX the pet screening questions put together by NHHS work well in any state (you can check out the full list through the landlordtalking.com link.) Below are types or categories of questions you will want to cover in your pet screening:
Basic Information on the Pet:
What kind of pet? How long has the candidate owned them? Are they up-to-date with vaccinations?
These questions allow you to not only know about the pet but also a glimpse into how responsible the owner is for them.
Habits and Schedule:
How active is your pet? How regularly does the pet get exercise? How often and for how long is the pet left alone? Do you have someone to look after them when you’re gone for extended periods?
The answers to these questions give you insight into the pet’s ownership and needs. These questions are geared more toward dogs but knowing if a cat will be looked after in times of great absence is important too.
Have there been any incidents of violence with the pet? Has the pet done damage at your current residence and if so, how was that paid for?
Questions like these are sensitive, and pet owners may feel like they are unreasonable, especially if their breed is often discriminated against.
Overall, these questions have much more to do with the owner than with the pet themselves because good owners make good pets. If you’re going to allow pets, it would be wise to consider the owner’s responsible habits over the pet’s size or breed. Certain dog breeds are discriminated against based on previous breeding habits and training, but breeding has always been more about the cosmetic aspects of the dog rather than behavior. That’s why it’s important to know more about how the owner treats them and what routines and help they have in place for the pet. If you’re uncertain about a pet feel free to ask to meet with the pet and owner and base your decision on a case by case basis.
Telling a candidate “no” can be stressful, which is why it may be best if a property manager can step in and handle the screening. Applying a professional face like Real Property Management to your rental commands a certain authority and respect from tenants and makes the process less personal for both you and them.
Service versus Support
If you’ve decided not to have pets or have strict policies on the type of pets allowed, you still have to let for a reasonable accommodation request for a service animal. A service animal assists people with disabilities such as a guide dog, though they have a myriad of other uses.
The FHA protects service animals because of their connection to their disabled owner, and you could be liable for discrimination if you don’t handle the request correctly. However, support animals are muddying the waters and making it difficult to determine a pet’s eligibility.
Support animals are often used to comfort and soothe rather than provide aid, but the FHA doesn’t protect them and therefore doesn’t have to be considered for reasonable accommodation. Support animals can be helpful of course, but some pet owners have tried to scam the system to get into a rental they like.
Navigating these muddy waters can be tough. To adhere to FHA laws pertaining to a disability you may only ask to see documentation from a medical professional that states the animal assists the owner. In no way can you ask about the disability itself. Documents should only be requested if the disability isn’t apparent.
Property managers pride themselves on knowing these laws. Having a property manager handle these requests and others can save you from discrimination lawsuits.
Allowing pets into your Alamo Heights investment property is a difficult decision, which is why turning to a property management company may be your best option. They can help you decide if you want to allow pets, and they will then handle the screening and reasonable accommodation requests for service animals.
We are pledged to the letter and spirit of U.S. policy for the achievement of equal housing opportunity throughout the Nation. See Equal Housing Opportunity Statement for more information.