Everyone loves their pets. In fact, the majority of Visalia tenants looking for their next rental home have at least one pet. Maybe it’s a dog or a cat. Maybe it’s a snake. How are you going to decide whether or not to accept pets into your property?
Typically, we don’t like pets in a property. Animals are unpredictable, even beloved family pets. You also don’t know whether the tenant is a great pet owner. If the pet is alone inside an apartment all day, there might be a mess made that’s hard to clean up when you’re turning that property over.
We don’t like having pets in rental properties, but we do allow them.
Why? Because if you don’t, you’re losing a large part of the tenant pool. It may take you longer to rent out your home. You also won’t earn as much on your property. When you allow pets, you can potentially collect a pet fee and even pet rent.
Allowing pets doesn’t mean allowing ALL pets. We’re choosy about dog breeds and pet types. We have a strict pet policy in place.
You also have to be mindful of the animals that are not pets. Service animals and companion animals such as emotional support animals cannot be treated like pets.
Here’s how to decide whether or not to allow pets in your Visalia rental property and what you should be careful of when you’re screening those pets.
Accepting Pets in Visalia Rental Homes
In your marketing materials and listings, say that you’re willing to consider pets. That opens up your property to all pet-owning tenants on the market, and you’ll attract a lot more attention to your property. When it comes time to consider the pets that tenants want to move in with, however, it’s a good idea to be discerning.
For example, dangerous dog breeds should be a strong no. There’s a list of vicious breeds that most insurance companies use when they decide if they’ll cover your property. You can potentially lose your coverage if you allow one of these dangerous breeds:
- Pit bulls
- German Shepherds
You don’t want to be sued because a tenant’s dangerous dog bit a neighbor or attacked a delivery person.
Typically, we recommend allowing one pet per tenant that weighs 20 pounds or less. We allow dogs and cats but are wary of permitting tenants to move in with snakes, birds, or any other exotic animal. Your pet policy should be clear about what is allowed and what you’ll expect from your tenants in terms of caring for their pets, cleaning up after them, and monitoring their behavior. You can require that dogs be on leases when outdoors, for example. You can also require proof of vaccinations and flea treatments.
Visalia Tenants with Service Animals and Companion Animals
A dog is not a pet when it’s a service animal. A cat is not a pet when it’s a companion animal.
You need to know the difference, or you can face some serious fair housing penalties.
Whatever you’ve decided in terms of whether you’re going to allow pets or prohibit them, you cannot turn away a service animal or a companion animal. You must allow those animals when a tenant is otherwise qualified to rent your home.
This is the law.
The Americans with Disabilities Act requirements were updated in 2020 to define what a service animal actually is. According to their new guidelines, we must define service animals in this way:
“Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Examples of such work or tasks include guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications, calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack, or performing other duties. Service animals are working animals, not pets. The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability. Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.”
You cannot deny a tenant with a service animal. You cannot charge a pet fee or collect a pet rent every month.
Companion Animals and Emotional Support Animals
The law is pretty clear in terms of service animals.
Requirements around companion animals, the most popular of which are emotional support animals, are a bit less clear. This area of the law is changing all the time and it often feels like regulations and requirements are up in the air.
At one time, a doctor’s note would be required for an animal to be classified as an emotional support animal. A lot of people abused this requirements and websites popped up to generate these letters for a fee. You can still require a note from a medical professional that states why a person needs a companion animal, but this is a strange area of the law, and we recommend caution.
For example, you can ask about a tenant’s specific disability if it’s not immediately obvious. But, you cannot ask a person who is blind why they need a Seeing Eye Dog.
We recommend you don’t ask at all. Why invite that liability if you’re not sure whether or not you’re legally permitted to ask?
We continually educate ourselves on this area of the law. We attend Fair Housing Seminars and we take classes on how to best manage tenants with service animals and emotional support animals. Make sure you’re doing the same, or working with a Visalia property management company that can protect you from potentially discriminating against a tenant with a disability.
If you’d like to talk further about pets and whether you should allow them, contact us at The Equity Group. We’d be happy to help you weigh the risks and the benefits.