We are splitting this topic into two parts because there are two steps to consider. The first is determining your pet policy for your rental property, and the second is what to do when accepting a tenant with a pet. Our property management team know that it can be a worrisome decision so these are the steps you should take to ensure you are not losing sleep at night.
Your Pet Policy
Initially, you may be a definite no on pets, and it may be that you have a good reason for this. If, however, you have based your decision to not allow pets on stories you have heard or on a fear of damages or problems that a pet may cause, it is worth reviewing your decision. Take a look at it from an angle that you may not yet have thought about, as you may find that considering a pet is actually a better decision for you.
Check Your Bylaws
If your condo is in a strata or leasehold building, before doing anything further, obtain a copy of the most current set of bylaws for the building and review any bylaws or rules that pertain to pets. Some stratas will have a bylaw that does not allow pets at all in the building, in which case your decision will already have been made for you. Others may allow pets, but will also have a bylaw or rule that puts a limitation on any of a number of things in relation to pets. Most commonly there can be restrictions on the number, type, breed, size and/or weight of pets that are allowable in the building.
Is There A Benefit In Considering Pet Owners As Tenants?
Assuming you are not prevented from doing so from the building bylaws, there is definitely a benefit to considering a tenant with a pet. Some of the best tenants out there, that take great care of your property, happen to own a pet. It should be noted that good tenants (tenants that will ensure your property is taken care of, pay rent on time, respect the neighbours and the rules of the building) come in all packages. This includes pet owners. If a tenant owns a pet, this does not mean that they are a bad tenant. It’s not likely that when they move out you will be dealing with a myriad of problems caused by the pet. Just as with any other applicant, you need to use due diligence when processing the application to prove, to the best of your ability, that the applicant is responsible. That they will live cleanly, respect your property, your neighbours, the rules of your building/strata, and the terms of your lease. Applicants that live in this way will most likely also handle pet ownership with the same care.
The best way to highlight this is to think about friends or relatives that own a pet. When you visit their home, do you notice big issues in the home that can be attributed to the pet? Is the home kept in good clean condition? In the case that there are damages or pet related cleanliness issues (pet stains in flooring, dog/cat hair), would you attribute these issues to the pet or to the owner of the pet? The fact is that it is almost always the pet owner, not the pet, that is the real cause of the problems. A pet not properly taken care of, including dealing with pet related issues when they arise, will usually be blamed on the pet, but is really the fault of the tenant. In most cases, the decision to not rent to a tenant with a pet should be based on the results of your application processing of the tenant, not on the fact that the tenant has a pet.
What This Means
Pet or no pet, your main focus should be on the human that has applied for the apartment. Just because a potential tenant has a pet does not mean you should put them first in line, but also does not mean you should immediately discount them.
Say, for example, you have received four applications to rent your condo. One applicant has a dog, and the other three have no pets. During the showing process the person that you felt the most comfortable with was the one that had the dog. Taking it a step further, after processing the four applications, the one that you were able to gather the most positive, confirmed accurate, information on was also the applicant with the dog.
If this applicant had no dog, this applicant would certainly be your first choice to live in your rental property. If you had a firm “no pet” policy you would turn this applicant down, regardless of the fact that you felt that of the four applicants, he/she would take the best care of your home.
Is this the right decision? It may be, as you have good, specific reason to not want to accept a pet. However, remember, when basing the decision on your pet policy on stories you have heard:
1. If you have heard a story of a pet that has caused significant damages to a landlord’s rental property, it is highly likely that the same landlord would have far more horror stories to tell related to the owner of the pet – the tenant. A bad pet owner is likely a bad tenant as well, and this is not the fault of the pet. If there are any negative findings during your tenant screening process, the tenant, including their pet, should not be approved.
2. Some of the worst tenants out there do not have a pet! For every story about pet related damage, there are probably ten about problem tenants that had no pet. If you are using stories you have heard to arrive at a “no pet” policy, it is worth noting that if you were to use the same line of logic when hearing stories about someone that has had a terrible tenant experience (with no pet involved) you would never place a tenant.
The Next Step
So, you’ve read the advice of our property manager and are now reconsidering your stance on pets. We are not saying you will never run into pet related issues if you approved a tenant with a pet. Problems can arise with any tenant you have placed, including those with pets. Part 2 of this blog post will talk about steps that you can take to help mitigate the likelihood of pet-related damages and issues arising down the road.