One of the most common questions when a prospective resident contacts our office is “do you allow pets”? Many property management companies and landlords will not allow pets at all, others have size restrictions and still others will have restrictions against certain breeds of animals. Our company falls into the third category.
It has been my experience that a Great Dane can be an outstanding inside house pet. On the other hand, a small ferret can destroy parts of a home. With that being said, almost any pet can do damage to a house, size makes little difference.
Given the potential repairs due to animal damage, why would a landlord allow pets on the property in the first place? The bottom line is: the market demands it. Studies show that more than 60% of American households are pet owners. Using some of my own extrapolation with these numbers, someone who wants a single family home is much more likely to have a pet then someone desiring to live in an apartment or a condominium. Furthermore, I believe that Tennesseans are even more likely to own pets then the average American. Given all of that, a landlord restricting a rental home from pets could eliminate up to 80% of the tenant pool. This translates into significantly lower rents and longer vacancy periods, ultimately costing the landlord thousands of dollars.
I really don’t like pets in my properties any more than other landlords, but the numbers tell us that they are worth accepting. There is value in allowing pets. It simply becomes part of the risk in owning rental properties.
In my opinion, there are some animals that are not worth accepting. This is more about the liability then the potential damage to the home. Our office will not accept animals (typically dogs) that are either naturally aggressive or are commonly trained to be aggressive. I know there are differences of opinion as to what animal is aggressive and what animal is not. Ultimately the decision is based on how much liability an owner is willing to expose themselves to.
Dogs such as chows and pit bulls (also known as American Staffordshire terrier) are commonly known to be naturally aggressive and are not allowed in our homes. However, Yorkshire terrier’s and Chihuahua’s are also naturally aggressive and are allowed as pets in our rental properties. So why do we not ban them? It this case, size does matter. A pit bull or chow are large, very strong, dogs capable of doing a lot of physical damage to a person, especially a small child. Smaller dogs are not nearly as much liability.
Rottweiler’s and Doberman Pincher’s are naturally relatively passive animals. The problem with them is, along with shepherds, they are commonly trained to be protective. Again, given the size of these animals, they are capable of doing great bodily harm.
There are countless legal cases where a landlord has been held responsible for injuries caused by their tenant’s animals. Many of these judgments have exceeded the amount of insurance the landlord is carrying on the property. Therefore, it is prudent for a landlord and/or property manager to do everything they can to keep these animals off their properties.
I know that many of our banned animals, as individual pets, are very good companions, many of which would not hurt a fly. Unfortunately, a line must be drawn somewhere and that line is dictated by the liability risk stemming from specific breeds.
Scott Abernathy, MPM, RMP, GRI