For those of us that have pets, we know how easy it is for those little creatures to insert themselves as members of the family. In Calgary alone, there are over 90,000 licensed dogs and over 34,000 licensed cats in the city. Those high numbers guarantee that pet ownership isn’t exclusive to homeowners. With upwards of 45,000 rental units, our Stampede city sees its fair share of tenants looking for pet-friendly homes. As a landlord, you may have wondered if allowing pets in your rental property is a smart business decision. For those on the fence, we’ve compiled a list of the most important considerations to ponder before swinging wide the doors to all the neighbourhood companion animals.
Not all pets will live happily in all dwellings. First off, consider the square footage of your units. Smaller properties won’t be able to support large breed dogs in the same way they can for smaller animals like cats. Of course, a relatively tiny indoor space can be offset by a fenced yard or proximity to walking trails. Based on your comfort level and the set-up of your rental property, you should also consider putting limitations on the number of animals one renter can have. Local bylaws set household limits at six dogs and six cats, so be sure to state your own limits clearly in the rental agreement.
Pet fees are a great way to recuperate costs from the increased wear and tear of having pets living in your units. When incorporating these fees, be sure to outline exactly what this cost covers. For example, repairs like broken doors or scratched-up walls aren’t typically included. Physical damage like that can be taken out of the damage deposit as clearly stated in the rental agreement. You may charge a pet fee in several different ways:
- Include it in the monthly rental fee for all tenants.
- Charge a one-time fee when the pet moves in.
- Charge a monthly fee on top of regular rent starting from when the pet moves in.
The Nitty Gritty
Even if you love pets, there are going to be some less than savoury aspects to running a pet-friendly rental.
- Excretions. All pets need a place to relieve themselves. Cats and smaller animals may require litter boxes, which the tenant will be responsible for maintaining inside their units. Dogs, on the other hand, usually need to go outside. Dog urine can wreak havoc on your well-manicured lawn, so if you are allowing dogs you may want to consider special grass treatments or request that dogs not be allowed to pee on or around the property. Furthermore, the disposal of feces must be thought out. Having outdoor garbage receptacles available and signage can be a helpful tool to encourage pet owners to pick up after themselves. Some pet-friendly rentals even have dog poop bag dispensers stationed outside the exterior doors!
- Complaints. If you have a multi-unit property, you know that sometimes being a landlord means playing mediator between tenants. If a tenant complains about another renter’s pets you should have a plan in place to address their concerns while still remaining fair. Potential problems could stem from barking and aggression, to off-leash animals and irresponsible owners.
Service and Support Animals
No conversation about pets in rental properties would be complete without mentioning service and support animals. As a landlord, it is important to know the differences between these types of animals.
- Service Animal. Aids humans with both visible and non-visible disabilities such as PTSD, and diabetes. These animals are protected under the Service Dogs Act and the Alberta Human Rights Act. Landlords may not refuse a tenant application on the grounds they require one of these animals.
- Guide Dog. Trained and certified to guide humans with visual impairments. Same as above, except these are also covered by the Blind Persons’ Rights Act. Even if you are a no-pets building, you risk a $3,000 fine if you refuse a tenant who uses a guide dog.
- Emotional Support and Therapy Animals. These animals are used to comfort or support people, but do not go through extensive training like service dogs might. An ESA letter is required to prove that the animal is required for the health of the individual. Recently, Calgary has included livestock as possible emotional support animals.
- Companion Animal. This is just another way to describe our beloved pets. Other than dogs and cats needing to be licensed in the City of Calgary, they do not have any certification and landlords do not have any legal obligation to accommodate them.
If you are looking to open your rental property up to pets, taking the above list into consideration will help you ensure that your property, your tenants, and their furry companions are all properly taken care of. For more advice on pet-friendly rental properties or to work with a property management company, contact our team of experts today!