The Best Ways to Handle Renting to Pets and Service Animals in Beaufort, SC
Pets can be difficult for rental property owners in Beaufort. Everyone loves their animals. More than half of the population has at least one dog or cat, and those pets are considered part of the family. So, if you don’t allow pets in your rental home, you’ll likely have a harder time renting the home out to good tenants. Your vacancy period will be longer, and you’ll need to wait until you can find a well-qualified tenant who doesn’t have a pet.
However, pets carry a risk of property damage. No one likes to be left with scratches on the floor or urine odors in the carpet. There are things you can do to protect yourself against this damage. We strongly recommend that you allow pets in your rental home, and we believe you can keep your property safe and well-maintained with a strong pet policy and a few precautions.
Implement Restrictions for Pets
You don’t have to allow every single pet. Dangerous dog breeds, for examples, are often excluded because insurance companies won’t cover you if there’s a Pit Bull or a Doberman living in your property. You can limit the number of pets you’ll allow a tenant to have. That could look like one dog and one cat or two cats or just one animal per resident. You can restrict size and age as well. Perhaps you only want adult dogs or cats and you’ll prohibit puppies and kittens. You can say that you’ll allow dogs that are less than 20 pounds. Include these requirements in your pet policy and always ask tenants what kind of pets they have. Ask to see pictures or meet the animal.
Require a Pet Fee or Deposit
Many landlords will collect a pet deposit in addition to the security deposit but the problem with that is you’ll have to return the deposit if the pet doesn’t cause any damage. With a pet fee that’s nonrefundable, you get to keep the money. You can also charge pet rent. That might be $25 per animal per month. This will increase your cash flow and make renting to tenants with pets more profitable for you. It can also pay for the additional cleaning you may have to do when the tenant moves out.
Service Animals are not Pets
You’ll need to understand the difference between pets and service animals or emotional support animals. When a tenant has a service animal or an emotional support animal, you cannot deny them the home based on the animal. Even if you have a strict no-pet policy, you cannot reject an otherwise qualified tenant based on the service or support animal. It’s a violation of fair housing laws and prohibited according to the Americans with Disabilities Act. That’s because the animal isn’t seen by the law as a pet. It’s seen as an accommodation that you have to make for someone with a disability. You cannot charge a pet fee or pet rent.
When you’re clear about your expectations and you are careful to screen the pet as carefully as you screen your tenants, you shouldn’t have a problem renting to tenants with pets. We have rarely seen instances where pet damage was more than the deposits or fees collected. If you have any questions about pet policies or service animal legal requirements, please contact us at Beaufort Rentals.