Paws and Sonoma County Property Management: Pros and Cons of Allowing Pets - Article Banner

One of the hottest topics in Sonoma County property management is the topic of pets. Should you allow them? Should you avoid them? And, of course, when is a dog or a cat not a pet? 

We’re barking all about pets and the pros and cons of allowing them today. We’re also talking about the details that make up a great pet policy and why you should screen pets almost as carefully as you screen tenants

We’ll talk about service animals and emotional support animals, too, because that’s when dogs and cats are not pets: they’re accommodations, instead. At least that’s how the law sees them. 

Let’s chase this bone. 

Pros and Cons of Pet-Friendly Rental Properties in Sonoma County

As professional property managers in Sonoma County, we are responsible for helping the owners and investors we work with make good decisions. While we recognize the value and the benefits of allowing pets in properties, we never force an owner to allow pets. There’s always a risk when we allow animals  and if a property and if damages occur because we made a hard sell in favor of pets, we’re not exactly doing our job. 

Having said that, not allowing pets does significantly narrow your market of potential tenants. Here are some of the things we would ask you to consider when you’re deciding whether or not you want pets in your property. 

  • Pets: The Pros

You’ll rent your home faster when you’re willing to consider pets. The statistics show us why. More than half the people making up Sonoma County’s tenant population have at least one pet. If you don’t allow pets, you’re alienating a large portion of your potential tenant pool. That could lead to longer vacancy times, and we don’t have to tell you how expensive and disruptive vacancy is. 

There’s also the potential to increase rent value when you allow pets. And we’re not just talking about the faster leasing process and the lower vacancy rate. per pet. You collect this fee in case the animal damages your property. 

In addition to lower vacancy, you’ll also have lower turnover in pet-friendly properties. Tenants who own pets are less likely to vacate. They’re more likely to renew the lease, even if it comes with a reasonable rental increase. They’ll stay with their pet, if they’re enjoying a satisfactory rental experience. 

  • Pets: The Cons

Pets are not always a ideal for every property. If you have high-end floors, expensive finishes, or landscaping that you’re particularly fond of, pets can be a bit of a risk, and you might not be willing to take that risk. Pets have been known to tear up carpets, scratch floors, take the paint off walls, put holes in walls, and dig up landscaping and yards. 

They can cause damage, and that damage is sometimes costly. 

You also have to think about pet odors. A dog that isn’t house trained or a cat who cannot find the litter box. And, if you’ve ever tried to remove pet odors, you know that it’s not as easy as hiring professional carpet cleaners. Those smells really sink into the carpet fibers, the subfloors and  floorboards, and even the walls. If your next tenant moving in is highly allergic to cats, there could be some problems in getting the property clean enough for them to safely live there. 

Pets can also be a liability. What if a tenant’s dog bites a neighbor? 

If the property has mutli units, apartments, duplex, triplex, unless there are private access to each unit and no shared common area, its best to not allow dogs.

We stand by the list of benefits we provided on why pets can be beneficial.  However, we absolutely understand owners who are hesitant. If you’re not comfortable allowing pets into your property, don’t allow them. 

Establishing a Pet Policy for Your Sonoma Rental 

At the time of applying for the rental We’re asking tenants who do move in with pets to fill out a complete pet application for each pet, take some extra precautions, and we’ve found that most tenants are willing to do it. You can ask for proof of vaccinations, proof of flea treatments, and a letter about general health from a veterinarian who knows the animal. You can screen any dog or cat that a tenant wants to move in, and you can even meet the pet. 

Include a sound and detailed pet policy in your lease so that your property is protected. Here are some of the things you may want to include in that policy and in your pet application, which you should also collect with your tenant’s application:

  1. Collect pet information, including names, ages, and photos of the pets. Require records of vaccinations as well as flea and tick treatments. 
  2. Set boundaries that make you comfortable with the pets you’ll allow. You can implement limits on the number of pets you’ll allow, and/or the size. For example, you can say that you’ll only allow one pet per property or two pets per property. You can require pets to be less than 30 pounds. Any restrictions are allowed; pets are not a protected class.
  3. Check with your insurance company about restrictions on dangerous breeds. Pit Bulls, Akitas, Rottweilers and Dobermans can be very sweet animals, especially if you ask their owners, but you cannot convince an insurance underwriter of their temperament. They tend not to cover dogs that are considered vicious. {This is different if dog is a Service or ESA animal} You should prohibit these breeds or require your tenants to purchase additional insurance that will hold you harmless if something happens. 
  4. Conduct tenant reference checks with former landlords. When you’re evaluating a tenant’s rental history, ask current and former landlords about the pets. You’ll want to know if they were well-behaved, if there were any complaints, and if the pet was responsible for any damage.

You might also want to conduct pet inspections throughout the lease term. Getting inside the home will allow you to check for evidence of pet damage. You can make sure that only the pets you have approved are living there, and that the pet population has not grown. When you drive by the home, you can check to see that dogs are on leashes, and you’ll know that the lawn has not been torn up by the animals. 

Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals: NOT PETS

Allow PetsEven if you don’t allow pets in your Sonoma County rental home, you could still end up with a dog or a cat in the rental. 

Service animals and companion animals are protected as accommodations and not seen by the law as pets. You have to allow them when a tenant has a disability that requires a service animal or an emotional support animal. 

Service animals are almost always dogs. In very rare cases, they can be miniature horses, but your tenants who need a service animal will usually have a very obvious physical disability, such as a vision impairment. 

Emotional support animals, on the other hand, can be any kind of animal. 

You cannot charge pet rent,  charge a pet fee increase the security deposit or any restrictions on these animals and  to remain compliant with fair housing laws. 

There has been some recent relief in California around emotional support animals, however. AB 468 requires that any licensed physician who provides documentation about an individual’s need for an emotional support animal must have an established relationship with their patient. That relationship must have been established for at least 30 days in order for the documentation to be accepted. The physician must also complete an in-person clinical evaluation of the individual who requests the emotional support animal.

We’d be happy to talk through the topic of pets, and we’d also be happy to provide some additional guidance around service animals and support animals as they pertain to your rental property in Sonoma County. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at D & G Equity Management with any questions about how to better protect your investment. 

Experienced Sonoma County property managers, D & G Equity Management serves area landlords and real estate investors with furnished or unfurnished single family homes, multi-unit properties and commercial units throughout the Sonoma County area.