Today’s topic is pets and service animals. We’ll talk about pets first, since service animals require a different set of rules and responsibilities.
People often ask us if they can deny pets. The answer is yes. When you have pets, they can cause damage. You might find scratches on baseboards, and pets can tear up carpet or create stains. They can also create invisible damage such as urine smells. Sometimes you need to seal floors and remove sheetrock because there is so much of an odor left behind. Hair and dander can also collect in the ductwork. In a perfect world, we wouldn’t rent to tenants with pets. But this isn’t a perfect world, it’s the real world. Most tenants have pets. Well over 60 percent of tenants nationwide have a cat or a dog. So, you need to be prepared to accept them. There are some things you can do to mitigate the risk when your tenants have pets. You can require additional insurance. Ask for verifiable rental references on those pets. Do a pet interview. Have the person bring the pet in to see if it would work in your property. You can also have the same list as most insurance companies of aggressive breed dogs that you don’t want in your property. If you flat out deny a pet, you’re eliminating over half of your rental market.
Service animals or companion animals are separate. They are not considered pets and they aren’t even considered animals. Basically, you treat them like another resident in the unit. You cannot charge additional rent or deposits. There are restrictions; the tenant must make sure the animal is maintained and taken care of and not aggressive. The tenant can still be responsible for any damages left behind by the animal. It’s a good idea to talk to a professional property manager or a tenant attorney about pets and service animals. Learn your rights and obligations and the tenant’s rights and obligations. Make sure it’s an attorney who specializes in landlord tenant law. Recently someone told us something that their attorney had told them that was wrong based on fair housing laws and service animal provisions. Check into it thoroughly. This is really a legal landmine for landlords right now. If you have any questions about how to handle pets or service animals, please contact us at Madison Real Estate and Property Management.