Everyone loves their pets. If you own a dog or cat or a ferret or some fish, you probably think of them more as part of the family than as pets. The same is true of tenants. A majority of renters in New Jersey have at least one pet. They’ll want to move into your rental home with their pet.
Landlords don’t love the idea. It means the potential for extra liability and more mess.
Our team works with a lot of New Jersey landlords and property managers who need some guidance when it comes to animals. Today, we’re sharing some of our best practices on the subject.
Pets Aren’t Protected by Fair Housing
The owner of a rental property in New Jersey can decide to allow pets or not allow pets. It’s not discriminatory or prohibited for you to have a firm no-pets policy. That’s because pets aren’t a protected class.
Emotional support animals and assistance animals are different. They are legally protected and permitted for individuals with physical, intellectual, or emotional disabilities. That’s a different discussion altogether. When we’re talking about pets, we’re talking about animals that are not medically required.
If you decide to allow pets, make sure you have a strict pet policy in place so you can protect your investment against the potential damage pets can do.
Pet Policy Restrictions and Costs
We recommend allowing a maximum of two animals. This is manageable and inviting to tenants who have pets. You don’t need an entire litter of cats taking up residence in your home, nor do you want tenants to feel like they can continue adding new animals once they move in.
Screen the animals just as carefully as you screen your residents. Make sure they are an approved breed and an acceptable size. You should charge pet rent. We recommend $25 a month in extra rent per pet. That means one dog will add $25 to the monthly rental amount or two cats will add $50.
When you charge more rent for pet-friendly homes, you can also increase the allowable security deposit permitted in New Jersey. That should accommodate any damage the animal may or may not do. Just like a child or even an adult doing potential damage, the security deposit takes care of that risk.
Pet Policy: Address Restricted Breeds
Most insurance companies will refuse coverage to dog breeds that are considered dangerous. Make sure you restrict these breeds. Check with your insurance company for a complete list.
If you have a well-qualified tenant who has a dog on the restricted breed list, you can require them to buy renter’s insurance with a specific rider for the animal. We often consult with owners when this happens, and usually we recommend not accepting the breed unless there’s a compelling reason to believe it won’t be a liability.
Animals can be challenging to rental property owners, but when you have the right precautions and policies in place, it’s not impossible to rent to tenants who have pets.
We can help you manage animals in your New Jersey rental property. Contact our legal team at Robert A. Gleaner, P.C. We serve landlords, owners, investors, and property managers in New Jersey.