A Pet Addendum is a legal contract that modifies a Lease Agreement and adds specific terms and conditions for a tenant to have permission to have a pet live with them on a rental property. Once both parties sign the addendum, it becomes a legally binding part of the original lease agreement.
Why Use a Pet Addendum?
If your lease agreement does not include specific clauses for tenants that are allowed to have a pet with them at their rental property then a pet addendum is essential. This is the case whether the tenant requests a pet at the beginning of their lease or at some time during their tenancy. Having a pet addendum is important for the following reasons:
- Liability – Without a pet addendum, you may find yourself liable if the pet causes injury to another tenant or a guest. Having a pet addendum reduces the chances that a landlord will be sued and held responsible for injuries resulting from a tenant’s pet.
- Damages – Without a pet addendum, you may have to take care of additional damages such as replacing a carpet that an untrained pet destroyed.
- Eviction – The eviction process is not fun. It can be even more complicated and costly if you have a tenant with a pet and you don’t have an addendum outlining the tenant’s responsibilities and liability for the pet.
- Impact on the Tenant – Without a pet addendum, a tenant may not know what they can and cannot do with their pet. If issues arise, they may be caught off guard when their security deposit is not returned or they need to find a new home for themselves or their pet.
- Proof for Tenant. Many animal shelters and adoption services require proof that an individual has approval from their landlord before they can adopt a pet.
You do not need a pet addendum if you do not allow pets. However, there are some good reasons for allowing your tenants to have pets. Those include:
- Higher Rent – Landlords are often able to charge higher rent to tenants with a pet. This could come in the form of a monthly pet fee or simply a higher monthly rent.
- More Qualified Tenants – Allowing tenants with pets will provide you with a larger pool of qualified renters. You may lose out on a potential tenant if you are unwilling to allow them to have a pet. Also, you may be excluding higher quality tenants since many tenants that have the discipline to take care of a pet will likely also keep the property in good condition.
- Lower Turnover – Not every rental property allows pets, so when a tenant finds a pet-friendly rental property, they are more likely to stay long-term. For the landlord, this results in less time and money spent trying to find a new tenant.
Be aware that there are many instances when a tenant may try to have a pet at their property even if you do not allow pets. If you are suspicious, and the lease agreement allows it, you may want to conduct routine inspections of the property to make sure the tenant is not violating their lease agreement.
What to Include in a Pet Addendum
A Pet Addendum should include the following:
- Landlord’s name
- Landlord’s business address
- Tenant’s name
- Tenant’s rental property address
- Date of the original lease agreement
- Introductory information about the addendum and the lease agreement it is modifying
- Allowed Pets – This section will detail any restrictions on having a pet. This can include the number of pets, weight limits, and limitations on certain types of pets or breeds
- Pet Deposit – This section will indicate if an additional pet deposit is required and whether or not it is refundable. Pet deposits range between $200-$500. Typically, the amount charged is based on the type and size of the pet. A pet deposit for a Chihuahua is likely to be much lower than a St. Bernard.
- Pet Rent – In addition to a pet deposit (for damages and wear and tear), some landlords may charge an additional monthly pet rent to have a pet live at their rental property. This monthly fee is usually paid when a tenant’s rent is due and is normally between 1-2% of the monthly rent.
- Tenant Liability – This section covers various aspects of the tenant’s responsibilities for having a pet. This includes (1) compliance with any pet laws; (2) responsibility for damages caused by the pet; (3) removal of pet waste; (4) keeping the pet under control; (5) keeping the pet from unnecessary noisy or aggressive behavior; and (6) the tenant’s agreement that they will be solely liable for any damages or violations.
- Other Terms – Our template has a section in which you can add any additional provisions that may be necessary for your particular rental property.
- Landlord’s signature and date
- Tenant’s signature and date
Our template provides you with the standard elements used in pet addendums. However, your situation may require certain additional clauses. Here are some additional clauses you may want to consider including in your pet addendum:
- Specific Pet Information – If a tenant already has a pet, sometimes the pet addendum will include specific information about the pet such as their breed, gender, age, weight, and name. It may also include other information such as a license number, most recent rabies shot, and vet contact information.
- Pet Fee – In addition to a pet deposit and pet rent, some landlords charge a pet fee. This is a one-time non-refundable payment for the right to have a pet reside on the premises. This may be used instead of or in addition to pet rent. If there are pet-related damages, the pet fee must first be used to pay for expenses before a tenant’s security deposit is used.
- Housebroken Pet – This clause requires that the pet be housebroken. This clause may require the pet to be a certain age or have had professional obedience training.
- Insurance – Some pet addendums require a tenant to carry pet insurance and list the landlord as one of the insureds.
- Violation Fee – A landlord may also want to include a violation fee if the tenant violates the terms of the pet addendum. The landlord will have to decide on a dollar value that is high enough to prevent future violations but not so high that it prevents the tenant from paying their rent.
- Authorization – This clause informs the tenant that each request for a pet will be handled on a case-by-case basis. The landlord is given the right to refuse a specific pet as well as revoke a particular pet if the rules in the addendum are not followed.
- Common Areas – If a rental property has multiple units and a common area for all tenants, a landlord may want to include a clause that details whether or not the pet is allowed in the common area and what the tenant’s responsibility is if the pet is allowed.
- Removal – This clause will give a landlord the right to remove a pet from a rental property for reasons such as repeated violations or animal neglect.
- Certain Pets or Breeds Prohibited – A landlord might want to consider specifically prohibiting certain types of animals or breeds. For instance, when it comes to dog breeds, landlords will often prohibit known aggressive breeds such as Pit bulls and Rottweilers or certain larger dogs like Mastiffs and Great Danes. Landlords may also consider charging a higher rent for tenants that have one of these breeds.
Just like with the lease agreement, both parties should have a signed copy of this addendum.
Determining Whether or Not to Allow a Pet
Just like with other aspects of screening a tenant, you may want to screen the tenant’s pet. Here are some questions to ask when considering allowing a pet to stay on a rental property:
- Is the pet housebroken?
- Is the pet spayed or neutered?
- Do you have proof that your pet is up to date on their vaccinations?
- Is someone home during the day to take care of the pet?
- Who takes care of the pet when you are away?
- Is the pet an inside or outside pet?
Typically, a landlord does not have to allow a tenant to have a pet at their rental property. However, there are limited circumstances when the law requires a landlord to allow a tenant to have an animal. If a tenant sends a letter requesting an animal as an accommodation for disability, the landlord will likely have to grant the request if reasonable, regardless of their pet policy.
Landlords must be aware of the laws regarding assistance or emotional support animals (ESAs). If the tenant has a disability that requires an assistance or ESA animal the landlord must be aware of the following requirements:
- Landlords Cannot Deny Reasonable Accommodations – The Fair Housing Act prohibits a landlord from refusing a tenant’s request for an animal to live with them as a reasonable accommodation. Refusal to allow this reasonable accommodation can result in significant penalties.
- Additional Charges Prohibited – Landlords are prohibited from charging an extra deposit or pet rent in these scenarios. An ESA is a necessity for a tenant to be able to enjoy the rental unit to the same extent as other tenants. Similar to other reasonable accommodations provided under The Fair Housing Act, a landlord cannot charge a tenant for this right.
- Request – The tenant is still required to make a reasonable accommodation request with the landlord. They cannot simply ignore a lease agreement’s terms because their animal is used for assistance or emotional support.
A pet addendum will still be needed, but it should be tailored to the requirements and limitations provided by federal law.