Pet Policies: What you need to know
Pets are part of the family, so excluding them from your building may reduce the pool of potential tenants or unit owners. However, if you do decide to allow pets, there are many things to keep in mind when writing your pet policy that will help to keep your property, your tenants, and their pets happy, healthy & safe. Here are 8 things to think about when writing your pet policy:
1. Registration All pets should first be registered and screened prior to approval to move in. This should include up-to-date history of vaccinations, current licenses (if required) and a current photo to identify the pet by. This will help to reduce risks in the pre-screening stage. 2. Permissible Pet List Your pet policy needs to specific in the type of pets that are allowed to be living on the property. Many landlords only allow the common domesticated animals (dogs, cats, gerbils, etc.) and do not allow “exotic” pets (snakes, lizards, spiders, etc.). If you decide to allow only domestic pets, it should be stated in the agreement so all parties are aware of the pets allowed. Also, make sure to specify if there are any restrictions in the breeds allowed. Due to their nature, there are a few dogs that can be termed “aggressive breeds”. Though this may be a controversial topic, it is important to check with your insurer as some insurance programs may have restrictions in place if a property allows “aggressive breeds”.In addition to the type of pets allowed, your Pet Policy should also state the number of pets allowed and size restrictions as well.
3. Common area Restrictions Because not all your tenants or unit owners may be pet owners, it is important to set in place common-area expectations. If you have areas such as playgrounds, walkways, or open landscaping be sure to specify if pets are allowed in those areas and any restrictions/rules you may have. Specify waste clean-up rules as well and specific areas where they may discard pet waste.
4. Leash & Identification Rules To reduce the risk involved, ensure that all pets be property identified (via collar/tag) and be kept on a leash at all times when in common areas. It is important to also state that the pets must never be left unattended or tethered.
5. Tenant Responsibility When writing the Pet Policy, clearly state resulting actions that will be taken if the expectations are not met. The only way a Pet Policy works is when it is enforced and followed by all involved.
6. Pet-related Security Deposit Unfortunately, some pets leave behind their mark more than others, which is why you must also take into account the resulting costs that will be placed on you, the owner, when the pet moves out. To help protect your property, you may want to require a security deposit to help cover these costs should you need it. Always consult with your states laws for restrictions regarding deposits.
7. Tenant Liability Insurance To help reduce your liability exposure, consider requiring tenants with pets to obtain and maintain liability insurance. If in the evident of a pet related incident, the tenant’s insurance will be the primary insurance for any claims. Due to the high costs associated with pet injuries, it is recommended that a minimum of $250 thousand in liability coverage be required.
8. Signed Agreement The most important thing of all is to have a written agreement in place that is signed by all parties, even those who do not currently have pets (as they need to understand what is expected of their neighbors and themselves if they should decide to get a pet later on). Keep a copy of all signed agreements!