How Many Pets is Too Many?

Pet-friendly rentals always offer a plus for tenants, but there should be some rules and regulations in place. Letting your tenants have pets is awesome, but how many pets is too many?

In order to maintain your property’s conditions and ensure your tenant’s wellbeing, you should have a limit on the number of pets a tenant is allowed to have in the residence. Unfortunately, finding the right number isn’t always so easy since it can be different for every situation.

Refer to Your State Laws

Before doing anything, you should take a look at your state laws and local jurisdiction to see if there are any rules regarding pets and the number of pets allowed in a property. If your rental is located in a rural area, then there probably aren’t any laws dictating how many pets people are allowed to keep, considering it may be mostly farmland. However, urban and suburban neighborhoods usually do have laws that limit the numbers of animals per residence. Your pet policy can include your local limit, or it can be lower — it just can’t be higher than the legal limit.

Look at Your HOA Policy

If your property is part of a homeowner’s association (HOA), like a condo usually is, then you should read through your HOA policy very carefully. There may be some rules in place that apply to the number of pets allowed in the properties. Be sure that you are always compliant with the rules and regulation outlined in your HOA policy.

Consider the Size of the Property

As a good rule of thumb, the smaller the living space the fewer pets you should allow. Too many pets in a small, cramped space can be very problematic. The pets are going cause quite a bit of noise and it’s more likely that there will be some damage caused to the unit. Too many animals can also cause a potent smell that will linger in the property, making it unpleasant for other tenants and/or neighbors. Make sure you always consider the implied covenant of quiet enjoyment and understand how to deal with any noise complaints.

Choose the Types of Pets

Some properties allow all kinds of pets — others only allow dogs, others only allow cats… It’s up to you what you think your property can handle. Cats are house trained and easy to pick up after, but they may scratch up the walls, floors, and furniture. Dogs are a bit more active and require more attention, but toys and walks should keep them occupied. Other, smaller pets may be more difficult to limit. If a tenant wants to have a big fish tank, for instance, you can’t really limit the number of fish they can have, so long as it is humane. You should also think about the average pet-owning statistics in the United States.

In 2012, the Insurance Information Institute (III) revealed the number of U.S. households that own pets (by type of animal, in millions):

  1. Dog: 60.2
  2. Cat: 47.1
  3. Freshwater fish: 12.5
  4. Bird: 7.9
  5. Small animal: 6.7
  6. Reptile: 4.7
  7. Horse: 2.6
  8. Saltwater fish: 2.5

Think About the Pets’ Sizes

Not only should you be thinking about your rental unit’s size, but you should also be thinking about the pets’ sizes. Many landlords choose to put weight restrictions on pets, particularly dogs. For instance, a landlord may allow dogs under 60 or 40 pounds, or two small dogs that do not exceed the limit of 60 pounds in total. Some landlords might allow only two cats, each under 30 pounds. It’s really up to you, but you should consider all of the other listed factors in conjunction with pet size. If your rental unit is an apartment not located on the ground floor, then large, heavy dogs will definitely make a lot of noise and bother the neighbors below as they run, jump, and play.

Restricting Certain Breeds

Certain breeds of dogs are widely considered to be more “dangerous” than others. While this is not necessarily true, there are some reasons for restricting certain breeds:

  • Your city has a breed ban. Become familiar with any breed-specific laws in your area.
  • Your insurance charges more/you get less coverage. Some insurance policies charge more for certain breeds or even refuse to cover certain breeds altogether. Your insurer can let you know what parameters are in place.
  • You are concerned about liability. If you are worried about a dog causing damage or injuring someone, and you being held accountable, maybe implementing some limitations will give you peace of mind.

Keep in mind that you should judge the dog based on their personality, not the breed. You should have your tenants submit a pet resume and try meeting the dog in person to see how they behave. You never know, one prospective tenant’s Pitbull could be the sweetest dog in the world and another’s Chihuahua could be an aggressive menace.

Rescuing vs. Hoarding

If you have a tenant with a plethora of pets, you might be wondering when exactly they cross the line between being an animal-lover and a pet-hoarder. It’s important to note that hoarding isn’t about the number of accumulated pets or items, it’s about the individual’s lifestyle and their compulsive need to acquire more and more stuff. Hoarding is when someone reaches an overwhelming state of mind that results in unintentional animal neglect or abuse. So, if you have reason to believe your tenant is a hoarder, ask yourself these questions before doing anything:

  • Are the pets properly taken care of according to modern animal welfare practices and veterinary standards of care?
  • Does each pet have a place to retreat if feeling stressed? In other words, is there no evidence of overcrowding?
  • Are they legally kept and not considered a burden on the community?
  • Can the owner provide daily care for every pet without feeling irritable, overwhelmed or trapped?
  • Are the pets and their environment clean?
  • Financially, can the owner reasonably afford their care in the event of an emergency?

A Final Word

You should create a pet policy for your property that clearly outlines rules and fees. Pets can broaden your range of prospective tenants and even increase your income. Though there are certain obstacles associated with allowing pets, the risk is worth the reward. Here is an example of a pet addendum you can include in your lease:

1. PERMISSION

The landlord grants permission to the tenant to keep the domesticated pet(s) on the premises during the term of the lease agreement (INCLUDE LEASE START AND END DATE). The landlord may revoke permission at any time if the tenant fails to comply with any of the terms and conditions in the lease or following addendums.

2. SERVICE ANIMALS

Service, Guide, Signal, or Support animals are not “Pets” according to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as long as the animal is being used by the tenant to support a disability or handicap, or if the tenant is training the animal(s).

If the tenant’s pet actually a Certified Service Animal or in training to be a Certified Service Animal? : _______ Yes _______ No

3. ANIMAL PROFILE

Type of Animal(s): Dog, Cat, Bird, Rabbit, Pig, Reptile, Fish (circle all that apply)
Name of Animal(s): ________________________
Weight of Animal(s): ______________________ (lbs.)
Breed of Animals(s): ______________________
Age of Animal(s): ________________________
Spayed or Neutered?: __________ Yes _______ No
Current on Vaccinations?: _______ Yes _______ No
Valid Animal Licenses?: _________ Yes _______ No

4. WEIGHT RESTRICTIONS

No pets that weigh over 30 lbs collectively are allowed on our second- and third-floor units. However, pets that weigh 60 lbs collectively are allowed to reside on the ground floor.

______________________________________
Tenant Signature
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Landlord Signature

For an in-depth guide to pet-friendly rentals, read this guide.