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How to Handle a Pet Violation in Your Rental Properties

7% percent of US households—or about 85 million families—own a pet, according to the 2019-2020 National Pet Owners Survey by the American Pet Products Association (APPA). This is up from 56% of US households in 1988. 

Approximately half of all your potential renters have pets—that's a lot of fluff! This can spell out serious problems for your Dallas-area rental properties if you have a "no pets" policy in place.

  • When are animals allowed on your properties—even if you don't allow pets?
  • What type of leasing language is essential to include in your pet addendums to protect your properties?
  • What can investors do when they discover a tenant has a pet on the premises if it violates your lease?

Business dog typewriter

As an expert in Dallas property management, RentHub is here to weigh in on these questions and provide property investors some useful tips when it comes to how you can preserve your portfolio.

Please note: While we are fantastic at what we do as one of the best property management companies in Dallas, this article should not be misconstrued as legal advice! When in doubt, work directly with your attorney or Dallas property management company to sort through these issues concerning your residents and their rover.

Pet or Medicine? Addressing Service and Support Animals

At RentHub, we're not about to beat around the bush: even if you have a no-pets approach, you cannot deny accommodations to renters with service animals. This could land you, as the investor, on the wrong side of some mighty federal laws!

In the vast land of litigation, investors need to understand that a service animal is considered a medical device—not a pet. There are two types of non-pet animals that have protections under the Fair Housing Act (FHA):

  • Service animals: These animals are trained to have special skills to assist those with disabilities. Currently, only dogs and miniature horses fall into this category.
  • Emotional support animals (ESA): This type of assistance animal alleviates symptoms of disabilities but doesn't necessarily receive specialized training. In the US, certification is required from a mental health professional such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or doctor. While emotional support animals technically differ from service animals, they do not classify as a pet—and fall under the same FHA protections as service animals.

While these two classes of animals have some strong protections, investors can take some small comfort in knowing that ESAs require documentation that you can ask for as a landlord. You cannot ask a resident to provide documentation for their service animals—but on the upside, service animals are highly trained and make great "tenants!"

Legally, residents are not required to let investors know that they need (or may need) a service animal as an extension of medical confidentiality. If you find an unauthorized pet in your rental properties, it's best to leave the issue in the hands of your Dallas property management professional.

Why Your Leasing Language Matters

If your property does not allow pets—that is to say, your leasing terms forbid pets outside of service and support animals—don't be surprised to find an unauthorized pet on the premises. It's a good idea to take your leasing terminology a bit further than merely banning pets; include language that:

  • Clearly spells out what constitutes a violation of the lease
  • What fees or penalties will be incurred if a pet is found
  • How you, as the landlord, intend to act on the collection and application of those fees.

If you don't currently have this type of protective language built into your lease, start there; a simple "NO PETS ALLOWED" won't cut it—or fix your damaged carpets!

If you need advice from the professionals on what kind of language protects investors, don't download a free online lease and assume you're covered! Many of those templates contain clauses that damage your position as the landlord. Work with an expert Dallas property management company from the start to craft a protective and profitable leasing agreement.

Naughty dog in the kitchen

Keep in mind that you can always choose to allow certain pets on your property based on a set of policies wrapped into your lease known as a "pet addendum."

  • The pet addendum grants permission to your renters to have pets on your rental property with certain conditions.
  • This addendum is also the place to document any pet fees or deposits the tenant must pay to have pets on the premises.
  • Using a pet addendum allows investors to define the quantity, type, and size of an animal that the tenant is allowed to have as well as the expectations surrounding their care and behavior.
  • If you happen to be allergic to cats, restricting cats in your properties is one way to increase your pool of interested renters, protect your profits, and secure your rentals.

It's important to note that service animals and support animals are exempt not only from restrictions in your pet addendum but also from any fees or deposits you might exact.

Additionally, the Department of Housing and Urban Development does not allow breed, size, and weight limitations to be applied to assistance animals. This includes restricting animals based on fears about a specific type of animal or evidence of past damage from similar animals.

In this regard, expert Dallas property management can be a tremendous asset to you and your investment portfolio. Trying to keep informed of the legalities concerning pets and housing can quickly get tricky. When you consider that different suburbs in Dallas have different pet restrictions (Plano is a great example of this), having the professionals on your side helps limit some of your risks.

Be sure to check out our other blogs for more expert advice on Property Management!

Moving Forward When a Violation Is Found

If you have defined your fees in the event of a violation as a component of next month's rent, failure to pay such fees would be a basis for eviction. However, at RentHub, we view eviction as something that should only ever be used as a last resort: eviction is expensive and time-consuming.

Diplomacy in these situations can often be useful—especially if you have defined in your lease the steps that come next after a violation is found. Ultimately, your rental properties are a business—and a business has to be managed professionally on all fronts to remain profitable.

If you're struggling with how to handle a pet violation in your rental properties, leave the burden to one of the best property management companies in Dallas! At RentHub Property Management, we're here to help you navigate the complexity of the law concerning your renters and their pets. You don't have to manage these scenarios alone! Get in touch with us today, and let us help you tackle your rental risks with a solid leasing agreement! Download our guide to finding the best property manager for more information and advice!

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