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Should Virginia Landlords Allow Pets in Their Rental Properties?

Eric Guggenheimer - Wednesday, July 1, 2020

A growing number of renters have animal companions and are looking for units that accept pets. An estimated 50-90% of tenants own a pet and need housing where landlords allow them.

While Virginia law doesn’t require you to allow pets in your rental property—outside of service or emotional support animals—accepting pets has its pros and cons.

Should Virginia landlords allow pets in their rental properties? Here are a few things to consider when it comes to allowing people to have animals in your unit.

Appeal to More Renters By Accepting Pets

You’re automatically ruling out a large percentage of renters by not allowing pets.

When marketing your unit, you can say “no pets allowed”, but under federal fair housing laws, this can’t apply to service or emotional support animals, so you could end up with a tenant who has an animal anyway.

However, by accepting pets in your rental property, you attract more tenants, giving you a better selection when choosing the right renter for your unit.

You Can Charge More in Fees or Rent

Virginia landlords who allow pets in their property can charge more in rent or fees. By allowing pets, you’re able to:

  • Charge more for the security deposit. Because animals can cause damage to the property through scratching floors, urinating on carpets, or disturbing landscaping, you can increase the security deposit for people with pets.

  • Include a non-refundable flat fee for pets. This fee could be monthly or yearly, depending on your leasing terms, and can be included in the rent. Most renters expect to pay an additional fee when having a pet at their rental property.

You’ll have to decide if you’re willing to accept any extra damage to your property from pets, and consider how much extra to charge. However, you can’t charge additional fees for people with service animals, unless, of course, the animal ends up damaging the property.

Tenants With Pets Tend to Be More Responsible

People who own pets tend to be more responsible renters. They want their home to be a safe and healthy space for their pets, so they tend to take better care of the property.

Renters with animals also tend to stay longer, as they don’t like to stress pets out by frequently moving. Tenants with animals are often grateful for landlords that allow pets and are happy to pay any additional fees for your trouble.

That being said, not every renter with an animal will be a responsible tenant, and not every pet will be the right fit for your property, which is why conducting your usual screening process is essential. 

Consider Requiring Renters’ Insurance

If you choose to allow pets in your rental property, consider requiring the tenant to have renters’ insurance throughout their leasing term, especially if they have a dog.

Even well-behaved dogs can bite people, and with renters’ insurance, your tenants will have coverage should an incident occur, reducing your liability. Be sure the renters’ insurance covers any damages, including medical bills, if someone is bitten on your property.

Properly Screen Your Tenants and Adjust Your Lease When Allowing Pets

When allowing pets in your rental property in Virginia, it’s crucial to screen tenants. Pets, especially dogs, can make noise that disrupts your community. Always follow up with previous landlords to see if the animal posed an issue with noise or unit damage before approving a renter.

You’re also allowed to put restrictions on pets in your lease (again, not including service or emotional support animals). These stipulations could include:

  • Not allowing dogs or pets over a certain weight (i.e., 50 pounds)

  • Limiting the number or type of pets 

  • Requiring that the animal is up-to-date on any vaccinations

While you can choose not to allow certain breeds of pets in your rental property, this condition may not always be helpful. Some people may have a breed that’s considered more friendly, but in reality, their pet is aggressive, and vice versa. It’s up to you to ensure the animal—and its owners—will be a good fit for your property.

Your lease also needs to cover these stipulations as well as any other rules about pets, such as picking up after the animal and properly disposing of their waste.

Need Help Deciding Whether or Not Allowing Pets Is a Good Idea? Let Us Help!

For some property owners, tenants with pets aren’t an option. For example, if your Homeowners Association (HOA) doesn’t allow pets, you can’t choose to allow them. However, for many property owners, allowing pets is not only an excellent way to attract more renters, but to make extra income.

Need help deciding whether allowing tenants with pets is the right choice for your Virginia rental property? Let our professional property managers at Circle Property Management help you make the best decision, tailor your lease, and screen your renters accordingly. Call us today at (703) 349-0144!

About The Author

Eric Guggenheimer - SFR, ARM ® » Principal Broker, Certified Property Manager, IREM, ARM, NARPM, NVAR, NAR, VAR