Relocating with Pets? A Word about Marin Rentals and Four Legged Friends

by Christopher 9. March 2009 12:05

I think I read somewhere that 60% of Marin households have pets.  As a 2-dog/1-cat household myself, I'll believe that.  Marin is a family-friendly demographic. Families have pets.  Pets have families.  And, of course, every tenant who calls to ask about your pet policy has a "very well behaved" cat.  Or Labradoodle.  Or Cookapoo/Dachshund mix.

So if you're a landlord having just installed brand new hardwood floors/new landscaping/have pet allergies/etc and have decided you want to list your property as "no pets" what can you do?

First, I might ask you to reconsider.

If approx 60% of the households come with pets, by marketing "no pets" you are effectively eliminating 60% of your possible tenant pool.  If you simply do not mind spending that extra time on the market and are prepared to wait, then absolutely, go ahead with your firm no pet policy.

But if the prospect of losing an extra 4 - 6 weeks of income while sitting waiting for that perfect pet-free household to apply causes lost sleep, here are a couple tips that might help ease the pain.  Or pet dander.

1)  Get references.  The current landlord is best, but if your applicants are previous homeowners they may not have a reference.  Ask for a current neighbor's contact info.  Ask for a letter from the vet certifying no known urination or defecation issues.  Ask for their trainer's contact info.  (They did send it to to puppy class, right?)

2) Ask to meet the "very well-behaved" pet.  Is it well behaved?

3)  Look extra closely at the applicant's credit report.  It has long been my thinking that when a tenant is sloppy in one area of her life, she is more likely to be sloppy in the rest.  A credit report with several late pays--while the tenant might explain he's been really busy and involved with work and it was just two little Target late pays--might be signs of the type of tenant who, say, lets his pure bred show cat pee on your new carpet because he's too busy to keep the litter box clean enough.  When I see an applicant with two grown Maltese dogs and a 731 Transunion score I'm a lot more likely to accept the tenant than the applicant with the one cat and 620 score with high balances and two missed cell phone bills. 

4) Take the maximum security deposit allowed in your state.  Period.  This is non-negotiable for me when I represent landlords in Marin. I feel strongly about and have killed deals over tenants who refuse.  (Sorry Tenants--I pay it, too!)  A tenant concerned with turning over a high security deposit sounds like a tenant who might be comcerned about getting his security deposit back.  In California, for an unfurnished property two months is the max.  I've seen $15k worth of damage done to a property in under six months!  (These dogs literally ate the outside of a $3 million home in Mill Valley rented for $10,000 a month.  Luckily, we had taken a $20,000 deposit.)  If a tenant believes his pet is well behaved, a high deposit should not be a problem.

5) Sign a Pet Agreement.  The agreement we use here in Marin for our leases asks a tenant to agree to take responsibility for the complete cost of replacing surfaces damaged by a pet; including but not limited to complete hardwood floor replacement.

6) Check the age of the pet.  An older or younger pet is more likely to ruin carpet or floors due to potty accidents than a healthy 2 - 10 year old pet (with the exception of kittens--somehow most seem born litter box trained!).  Also, younger dogs, depending on breed type, are usually more active and better equipped to leave scratches in your hardwood floors.  While you can't discriminate against a tenant's children or age, you certainly can deny applicants who plan to get a puppy this year for Christmas for those children!

Now a quick word to tenants:  if you do have a "well behaved pet" (or two) and are tired of hearing "sorry, no pets", increase your chances of bringing Fido with you by presenting a Pet Profile that takes the above into consideration. Offer up the two-month security deposit.  Bring references.  Offer to introduce the potential landlord to your pet -- in your own home if possible.  (I've been successful with this route even after the first answer was no). You can even create your own Pet Agreement showing that you are totally willing to accept responsibility.  I've done the above every time my fiancee' and I find ourselves moving and have happily kept our own "well behaved" pets with us throughout.

(And, uh, when my own show cat got sick and pee'd all over the carpet, guess who went ahead and replaced the carpet - padding and all - right away?)

Good luck!

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Comments (17) -

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