October 14, 2014
Love them or hate the, pets have become an important part of the tenants family. Creating a pet policy is very important for every landlord so they have set a standard which they can use to treat all other tenants equally.
Pro-Tenant Pet Policy
Ok, I am going to sick my neck on the line by saying I am generally lenient towards pets and I even encourage my landlords to consider them; especially in Hawaii. But before getting too carried away, when I say encourage, as a property manager, I merely provide my clients with the general information I am about to share with you today. I feel it’s important for my home owners to understand both the pros and cons to owning a pet friendly rental so that they can chose for them which direction to ultimately go.
In places like Hawaii where landlords frown upon pets, there is a great opportunity for those who are willing to consider pets. Generally, there will be a shortage of homes for tenants to choose from that will accept pets. Therefore, home owner and property managers who allow pets can take advantage of faster turn around and the possibility of leasing the property at above market rent. An effective way to achieve this is to list the property at fair market value but specifically stating the landlord is willing to consider pets. Then if a tenant applies who has a pet, the owner could then use it as an opportunity to make a slight adjustment in the rent price to offset the risk of taking on a pet in addition to taking a pet deposit (with consideration to local and state real estate laws).
Military Families & Hawaii
Hawaii has a unique rental market as there is a large military presence. Military personnel often times are view as high quality tenants by landlords making them more desirable. However, many of them have pets and therefore pet restrictions can make it more difficult to attract military families. In addition, Hawaii is generally anti pets, so by considering pets, both home owners and property managers can increase their target market if they are willing to consider pets. This allows them to take advantage of the things outlined in the above paragraph.
Hawaii Law Update
Real estate laws in each state will vary. Within the past year, Hawaii just passed a law allowing landlords to collect additional security deposit for pets. Beforehand, property managers and home owners were unable to collect additional security deposit which most likely influenced the anti-pet policies that so many peoples have put in place. By allowing landlords to collect additional pet deposits, homeowners can now offset some of their risk which may help increase the number of pet friendly rentals in Honolulu and the state.
Important Lease Clauses
Whenever accepting pets, it’s important for a landlord to consider the additional risk that they are taking on. If the pet where to hurt someone else or damage the property, the rental agreement needs to have specific verbiage to help protect the owners interest.
Example clauses include:
- Requiring renters insurance with coverage against damage/injury caused by a pet and verifying that the tenant has obtained the insurance policy. Simply requiring insurance and not verifying that the tenant obtained coverage may not be adequate enough to protect the landlord’s interest.
- Specify that the tenant affirms that they are not aware of and neither the owner nor property manager are aware of any dangerous tendencies and behaviors for all pets at the property. This helps protect the landlord by providing a simple disclosure. In addition, it can shift liability to the tenant in the event that they were aware of dangerous tendencies.
- Clearly state the tenants responsibility to take appropriate measures to monitor and contain their pet to prevent damage to the property and injury to others. Affirm that the tenant is responsible for any damage or injury
What To Do When Taking A Rental Application
When taking a rental application from someone who has a pet, you should disclose that they will be required to obtain renters insurance with appropriate coverage to protect their interest in the event of damage or injury. In addition, it would be good practice to require the tenant to supply a picture of the pet to verify the size and the type of pet. This can help you verify whether the pet at the property is the one that was approved by the property owner.
In the past, many homeowner / landlord insurance policies were unwilling to insure against damage a liability for certain types of pets. Over time, this type of policy has become more relaxed. Now, most insurance companies do not place a restriction so long as you are not aware of dangerous behavior. However, you should verify this with your insurance company to make sure.
It is against federal law to discriminate against tenants who have service animals as well as collect a security deposit or increase rent. Essentially, service animals are viewed similar to a medication or assisted living device such as the use of oxygen or a wheel chair. For those who are a bit uneasy about accepting service animals, it’s important to consider that these animals have to undergo special training and certification before they are considered service animals. Those who are responsible for training such animals also have to be certified. These are not typical animals and are generally well behaved and typically will not cause damage to the home or harm someone.
Before making a decision whether or not you are willing to accept pets, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons. The cons them-self are fairly obvious:
- Damage to the property
- Possible injury to others
- Difficulty to remove odor and hair
However, there are some benefits when accepting pets which may offset these potential reasons not to accept pets. This does depend on your market as well as a personal preference. The only instance where a home owner and property manager do not have a choice is if the tenant has a registered service animal and is in need of one.