Should You Allow Pets in Your Rental?

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A pet, for many people, is a member of the family—a shaggy, yippy member of the family, maybe, but an important one nonetheless. And like the rest of the family, when vacation plans are made, the issue of what to do with Fido becomes a big part of the planning conversation.

According to a 2014 survey by TripIt, 87 percent of respondents said they wished it were easier to travel with their animals. As a vacation rental owner, you might be thinking about how to balance the need for being as accommodating as possible to future guests (including their furry family members) as well as protecting your rental from stains, scratches and neighborly noise complaints.

There’s not an easy one-size-fits-all remedy, as we discovered when we talked to real estate and home rental experts. But we’ve collected some of their best arguments for and against allowing pets in your rental to help you make an informed decision:

Pros: Be kind to your furry four-footed friends

  • You’ll increase your customer base. “Allowing pets to stay in your property means your potential customer base increases, meaning lower vacancy rates,” says Realtor Jose Tijam in southern California.
  • You can differentiate yourself from your competition. “We have several rentals in southwest Florida and they are all dog-friendly,” says Nick Braun, founder and CEO of PetInsuranceQuotes.com. “We have found that allowing pets was a huge differentiation point for our rental properties, because most other landlords prohibited pets.”
  • You can earn more from the rental. It’s your choice whether to charge a refundable or nonrefundable pet deposit, or even a flat pet fee. “You can charge an extra pet fee for allowing pets, and most people who travel with their pets have well-behaved animals,” says Mindy Jensen, community manager of BiggerPockets.com, a real estate investing social network. “So there is opportunity to make more money by allowing animals.”
  • Pet owners (and their pets) are generally considerate. Braun says that he requires a pet deposit for his rentals, and if there is any damage, he retains the deposit to pay for repairs. “Fortunately, we’ve only had to keep the deposit twice in more than five years, and the renters were both 100 percent understanding,” he says.

Cons: Don’t let your rental go to the dogs

  • Your insurance liability might increase. “Make sure you check with your insurance policy on what is covered and not covered. Dogs of a certain size and weight, for instance, usually requires a higher premium,” says Tijam.
  • Pets can bring in the noise. Animals can be loud and disruptive, especially when traveling outside their home environment. If your guest’s dog barks or if your property adjoins neighbors who are allergic to animals, it could cause problems, points out Harrison Vigersky, founder of Bone & Yarn, a lifestyle blog for pet owners.
  • Some guests may turn their noses up at pet-friendly places. “You may lose renters who do not want to rent a place that has housed pets,” says Tony Delisi, a real estate broker in Chicago. This includes travelers who have allergies to pet dander, which account for about 15 percent of the population.
  • The problem of pests is real. Bringing in pet food means that your rental will be more attractive to mice and other pests. Anything you do to mitigate these critters, such as ant and rat poison, means an additional hazard for guests with children and pets.
  • There is greater potential for damage. Scratching of wood floors and leather furniture, clawed drapery and chewed furniture are all significant concerns for homeowners. “Especially for larger pets—big dogs can damage wooden floors or carpets,” says Tijam.
  • About that smell … Pets who never have accidents at home might behave differently in their new surroundings. “An animal on one visit can leave a scent, and the next animal may be territorial and want to cover up the scent with its own,” says Jensen. All that adds up to a ubiquitous dog or cat smell that might be hard to remove even with the most rigorous carpet cleaning.
  • ‘It’s OK to bring my well-behaved pet goat, right?’ Allowing pets opens the door for potentially uncomfortable conversations about which kinds of pets are OK for your guests to bring. If you allow dogs and cats, will you also allow pigs and reptiles? Some homeowners resolve this issue by specifying up front that they are dog-friendly only.
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