According to the 2017-2018 National Pet Owners Survey, 68% of U.S. households own a pet. As a landlord, that means that adopting a no-pet policy for your rental units could result in a loss of over half of your prospective tenant pool. So how can you protect your property, but remain competitive in the rental market?
Landlords who choose to allow pets should have an established pet policy and a reasonable screening process that is detailed thoroughly and enforced consistently across the property. Reasonable requests for information on the pet(s), such as confirming ownership, vaccinations, training, and care schedule are well within a landlord’s right, as they can impact quality of life for the building or community.
A comprehensive pet policy should:
- Identify the types or breed of pets allowed. This lease provision can be as simple as allowing cats or dogs, but not birds or reptiles. Keep in mind that the Illinois Dangerous Animals Act also prohibits keeping of dangerous animals of primates as pets.
- Identify the number of pets allowed. Depending on the size of the unit, or preferences of the landlord, the reasonable number of pets allowed in a unit can vary. Consider the square footage of the unit (as well as access to outdoor space for dogs) when determining an appropriate limit on the number of pets allowed.
- Identify the weight limit of each pet, if applicable. Depending on the size of the unit, or preferences of the landlord, a reasonable weight limit per pet (or total combined weight limit of all pets) can vary. Weight limits are often imposed on dogs, as some breeds can grow as large as 150 pounds. However, landlord should consider how accurately weight corresponds to undesirable pet behavior and/or damage risk before imposing restrictions.
- Specify the additional pet rent, pet fee, or pet security deposit, if applicable. Landlords often choose to charge additional rent, fees, and deposits to counterbalance their assumed risk for the damage a pet may cause. Keep in mind, that a pet deposit is considered a security deposit, and is subject to the Chicago Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance regulations. Conditions, restrictions and fees that housing providers apply to pets may not be applied to assistance animals if those conditions, restrictions and fees have the effect of denying the requested assistive animal.
- Specify the course of action if a pet is involved in an incident on the premises. Just as landlords outline policies for unreasonable tenant behavior, policies must be in place for unreasonable pet behavior, especially bodily harm. Landlords should also be prepared to mediate inter-tenant conflict if patterns of pet behavior become disruptive to the building or community.
- Specify if extra insurance is required to cover pet-related incidents. Just as some landlords choose to require renter’s insurance, some landlords choose to require tenants with pets to secure pet insurance. As always, Landlords requiring tenants to secure insurance policies should outline specific coverage types and minimums.
It is essential to note that assistance animals, which include both service animals and emotional support animals, are not pets, and cannot be flatly refused or restricted by pet policies. As such, tenants who request a “reasonable accommodation” for their assistance animal, either verbally or in writing, must be granted certain considerations.
Do you have questions or concerns about pet policies or accommodations for assistance animals in your lease agreement? Our experienced landlord-tenant law attorneys are here to help. Call KSN toll-free at 855-537-0500 or visit www.ksnlaw.com to get started today.
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