Ultimately, as a Maryland rental property owner, it's up to you to determine if you should allow pets on your property. In many ways, they can be a benefit if a good renter is trying to find the right home for them and their furry, scaley, or feathered friend.
At the same time, pets can damage your property, making it much more difficult (and costly) for you to maintain it. How do you know when you should and should not welcome pets into your property?
As your Maryland property management company, the experts here at Renters Warehouse want you to have the full perspective on what pets entail for property owners in the Baltimore area. That begins with understanding which types of animals do and do not qualify as pets.
Please note: This article is not legal counsel. When in doubt, you should always reach out to your attorney or your property management expert at Renters Warehouse!
Service Animals Need to Be Handled Differently
There are no Maryland laws that say a property owner has to 'allow' a renter to have a pet. However, service animals are outside the realm of traditional pet ownership.
Think of them more as a tool for everyday living: If a person has a licensed service animal, that means they rely on that animal for some component of their well-being. It becomes critical that you make wise decisions about these animals and your Baltimore rental properties unless you want to end up on the losing end of a lawsuit.
Remember that fair housing laws make it a requirement that you cannot discriminate against someone because they have a disability or handicap when renting a property. That often means you need to make exceptions where service animals are concerned. Thankfully, they tend to make excellent 'renters!'
Service animals are highly trained dogs (and miniature horses). If it's not one of these two animals, then it's not a service animal as defined by the ADA. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides the foundation for these laws and rules. Here are some key 'talking points' you need to know as a Baltimore property owner:
- Service animals are individually trained to do specific work or perform tasks.
- Some types of service are harder to see. For example, dogs may provide support to those who are deaf, at risk of a seizure, dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder, or blind.
- Plus, it's worth noting that you're not allowed to inquire as to the nature of a disability. If you're thinking about directing a visibly disabled renter to a ground-floor unit, think again.
If you are struggling with the limitations imposed by the ADA, your Maryland property management company can offer some guidance. They can help you make the right decisions concerning disabled applicants to reduce risk and liability.
What If You Want to Allow Pets?
If you decide to allow pets as a Baltimore rental property owner, there are a few things to know.
- Specify your requirements: Your lease needs to provide very specific rules and requirements for the pets you will and won't allow outside of service animals.
- Outline your policies in your listing: The hunt for a renter starts with your property listing, so be sure to make it clear what you are allowing specifically. The more clarity you have right from the start, the better.
- Create a pet addendum: This is a component of your contract that outlines what types of pets are allowed on the property, as well as how many.
Remember: Maryland doesn’t have any laws that limit you here outside of ADA requirements. That means you can choose how many pets, the type of pets, and the renters' responsibilities in managing those pets. Here are some things to keep in mind.
Be sure to lay out any fees associated with having a pet. Fees can work as a type of security for you; those funds can later be used to maintain or improve the property once a renter departs. Fees should be outlined clearly in your pet addendum and lease.
- How much are the fees?
- Are there additional fees for additional animals?
- When are the fees due to be paid?
- Are they a deposit the renter gets back?
Some Baltimore rental property owners charge pet rent. That means that, in addition to charging the renter's rental fee, there is an additional monthly fee for the pet. This may be beneficial in spaces where there is heavy competition for properties that allow pets: you can adjust your 'pet rent rate' based on the properties around you.
Is It Worthwhile to Allow Pets?
Some property owners will find it improves renter relationships to offer this opportunity. If you do your homework and price out the potential damage and repairs, there are few drawbacks to allowing pets with the right pet-screening process.
You are certainly missing out on good renters if you don’t allow them! Pets are a staple of the modern American family, and allowing them into your properties helps you stand out in the Baltimore rental market. Simultaneously, you can reduce some of your risks by using routine inspections to investigate how your property is being cared for by your renter.
It’s a Hard Decision to Make: We Can Help
Working with our Rent Estate™ Advisors as your Maryland property management expert can help you with this process! Let our team provide you with some guidance and help you to create a rental agreement that properly protects your investment. This, along with the right monthly rent, can help you to benefit from opening up your Baltimore rental homes to pets.
However, a pet isn't the only part of the equation! You need to make sure you've found the right renter, too. Download your free copy of our Tenant Screening Checklist to get started!