Confronting the challenge of rental housing for people with pets

ST. GEORGE — Finding pet-friendly housing is not always easy in St. George but it is doable for some. Property managers say there are landlords who allow pets and certainly many people with pets who are looking to rent homes, but some would-be tenants say they have had to make difficult decisions because they couldn’t find a place that would allow them to have their creatures.

One would-be renter moved to St. George in 2014-15 to live temporarily with a relative while searching for a rental home for herself and her two medium-size bull dogs. Boo and Dozer were well-trained, Denise said, and they were her family. She could not find any rental in the St. George area that would consider renting to her with her two dogs on any terms, she said. After over six months of searching, she left St. George and moved back to her former home state in the Pacific Northwest.

Other would-be renters have relinquished their pets to shelters when their need for housing was paramount.

Over 60 percent of Americans consider their pets family members, according to the American Veterinarian Medical Foundation, and many need rental housing for their entire family, furry family members included.

In Washington County, over 25 percent, or nearly 39,000 residents, are renters according to U.S. Census Bureau Statistics taken in July 2015. Additionally, a 2015-2016 National Pet Owners Survey shows that 65 percent of all U.S. households own a dog.

Dogs play at Dog Play Dates of Cedar City meetup group, City 4th 14th Ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Cedar City, Utah, fall 2015 | Photo by Mandy Robinson courtesy of Courtney Sullivan, St. George News
Dogs play at Dog Play Dates of Cedar City meetup group, City 4th 14th Ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Cedar City, Utah, fall 2015 | Photo by Mandy Robinson courtesy of Courtney Sullivan, St. George News

If these numbers are correct then that means that approximately 25,000 renters in Washington County own, or may own if housing is available to them, at least one pet.

With so many pet owners seeking housing that accepts their furry family members, St. George News set out to determine if pet-friendly housing is available in St. George and the surrounding areas.

A 2016 article in “Best Friends News,” a magazine distributed by Best Friends Animal Society, says there is mounting evidence that shows saying no to pets (or no to larger breeds) does not reduce property damage but can reduce a property owner’s revenue.

The Landlord’s Guide to Tenant Screening,” an e-book resource for landlords and tenants through  Landlordology, says there is a national shift taking place making pet-friendly housing and even lodging easier, largely due to the fact that many property owners are alienating an entire segment of society by choosing  not to open their properties to pets.

Despite this shift, the Humane Society of the United States cites the inability to find pet-friendly housing as the No. 1 reason dogs and cats wind up in shelters across the nation.

The local numbers possibly reflect this, with nearly 50 percent of all dogs and cats voluntarily surrendered to the shelter being because of housing issues, St. George Animal Shelter supervisor April McManus said.

Stock Photo | Getty Images, St. George News
Stock Photo | Getty Images, St. George News

Part of the discrepancy stems from breed and weight restrictions that exclude many dogs, so sometimes renters think they are applying for pet-friendly housing when the reality is they’re not.

Another woman, who requested not to be identified, said that after more than a month of looking she finally secured a rental in the Washington Fields area of St. George that accepted her medium-size border collie.

Then, nearly two weeks before her move-in date the homeowner called and said he would be unable to rent the property to her, as a family member had an emergency housing need that took priority. The owner also assured her, the woman said, that it had nothing to do with her dog but had everything to do with family issues.

This woman spent the next week frantically looking for another rental that would accept pets but her search was in vain, she said. She was unable to find anything suitable for herself and her dog, and after unsuccessfully using social media and other networking tools to find the animal a home she ended up surrendering her dog to a shelter in St. George before moving into an apartment alone.

“I was absolutely heartbroken,” she said, “and even now months later I still can’t really talk about it without crying.”

The research shows that many people are willing to pay more for a pet-friendly property, are more likely to stay in their rental longer and pet-friendly rentals generally rent faster. Yet, many landlords choose not to promote their properties as pet-friendly.  

Trent Collins with BMG Rentals Property Management in St. George said over half of the rental properties his company manages allow pets, and there are significant advantages for property owners who allow pets.

The first advantage is a larger pool of applicants, Collins said, and the number of applicants can even double, which is compelling.

In the current market that has more applicants than rentals, he said, it makes a huge difference in the number and quality of applicants.

Photo by Sparky 2000 | Getty Images, St. George News
Photo by Sparky 2000 | Getty Images, St. George News

Collins added that the number of times a property becomes vacant and the time that it remains vacant is reduced for property owners who allow pets, mainly because pet-friendly housing is in such great demand.

Best Friends Animal Society’s studies have similar findings. As a matter of fact, a 2011 analysis in the “Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics” found that “pet-friendly landlords who place no restrictions on pet ownership currently enjoy an 11.6 percent rental premium over landlords who do not allow pets.”

There are restrictions as well, Collins said, such as the breed and weight restrictions. Generally, property owners allow dogs who weigh 25 pounds or less, which can disqualify larger breeds. 

The size of the property and layout is also a concern, Collins said, because many pet owners prefer a fenced-in backyard if they own a dog who primarily remains outside.

Another consideration for property owners is credit and past rental history, both of which weigh in heavily when deciding whether to rent or not to rent to a particular applicant.

“Generally, applicants with pets that have good credit and a clean rental history are more likely to leave the property undamaged,” Collins said.

In his experience, Collins said, renters with poor credit and negative rental history are a higher risk when it comes to pets. In many cases those renters who move often and leave the property damaged or unclean are less likely to care about the condition they leave the present property in, or the damage that is caused by their pet.

“If they don’t care about their credit or rental history,” Collins said, “then they are less likely to care about the damage their pet can cause – there are exceptions of course.”

On the flip side, the property manager said, there are property owners that do not allow pets at all and consider the risk too high – particularly if their property was severely damaged, in which case repair costs can run into the thousands of dollars. Many times those property owners no longer accept pets on their property, Collins said. For them, the first time is the last time.

“It only takes one time,” Collins said of a pet owner leaving a rental unclean, damaged or both. “And then it ruins it for everyone else.”

Tom Wood, owner of Real Property Management of Southern Utah, agrees. Many property owners have either heard pet horror stories or have experienced the damage and expense brought about by allowing animals on their property.

In his experience, Wood said, roughly 30 percent of his company’s clients allow applicants with pets, but sometimes those clients with a “no pets” policy have a change of heart.

“Some of them will allow us to do it,” he said, “based on the fact that we have actually interviewed the pet.”

This entails requesting the applicants bring their pet along with them to the showing of the property, which enables Collins to see how they react in the home, the animal’s disposition and any destructive habits the pet might have that can cause damage. Bad habits include door scratching, urinating on the carpet, and other behaviors that can cause damage to the property.

It’s beneficial to the owner to open it up to pets,” Collins said, “we can get it rented very quickly, usually within days.”

The type of animal is also a significant consideration, he said.

“Cats are even harder than dogs.”

The requirements for landlords to make allowances for a service animal to live in a rental unit are clearly addressed by the federal Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act as a reasonable accommodation for tenants with disabilities.  Information is available at Service Dog Central:Utah.

For those seeking housing in St. George who are pet owners, it is possible to find pet-friendly housing, with a little perseverance, and a lot of work. Many property owners and management firms require a pet deposit, and some a monthly pet charge, a portion of which is refundable at the end of the tenancy as long as the property is vacated undamaged, Wood said.

The Humane Society offers tips for finding pet-friendly housing:

  • Allow as much time as possible to search.
  • Research animal-friendly listings and realtors using online classified ads.
  • Reach out to friends and family, using networking sites and social media to uncover connections and opportunities.
  • Obtain a letter of reference from a current or most recent landlord.
  • Written proof that your dog has completed a training class.
  • A letter from the vet showing your pet is up-to-date on vaccines and spayed/neutered.
  • Prepare a “Pet Resume,” including the animal’s name, age, breed, any training completed, personality traits, or anything else that will “sell the pet” to a potential landlord.

Landlordology offers way in which landlords can mitigate risks of renting to pet owners:

  • Get References and screen the tenant.
  • Charge a higher rent
  • Collect a larger security deposit
  • Evaluate personality over breed
  • Require a pet be spayed or neutered; animals that have been spayed or neutered are often more well-behaved and have a calming personality.
  • Require written proof that the animal has completed obedience or training class.

St. George News Editor-in-Chief Joyce Kuzmanic contributed to this report.

Email: cblowers@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

 

Free News Delivery by Email

Would you like to have the day's news stories delivered right to your inbox every evening? Enter your email below to start!

14 Comments

  • ladybugavenger August 14, 2016 at 12:55 pm

    Our apt mAnager allows service dogs including emotional pets,this #complexisfullofemotionalpetowners
    Lol!

    • .... August 15, 2016 at 9:25 pm

      I used to have circus people living door.. I moved !

  • outsider_100@hotmail.com August 14, 2016 at 2:58 pm

    As someone renting in Washington County, until we find a great deal, it was especially tough early this year to find a decent rental house, with the option to “babysit” our daughter’s well-behaved dog for 4 months over the summer months.
    Even with exceptional references, credit, etc. many prospective landlords were unwilling to even entertain the thought of a medium sized (35 to 40 Lb.) temporary tenant…..
    We are used to providing an incremental refundable security deposit as a way to demonstrate responsibility.
    No question, you can find horror stories of tenant’s irresponsibility, but as pointed out in the article, it seems like there were other indicators of a potential problem tenancy…….

  • NotSoFast August 14, 2016 at 3:30 pm

    You watch, I see a new code law a brewing for St. George. i.e.,’ if you don’t allow pets to occupy your rental, your property tax will double’

    Maybe they should consider a move to Baltimore and start a ‘Dog lives Matter’ campaign. Or sell their pet to a trafficking coyote for his back across the southern boarder expenses? OR how about applying for a down payment subsidy from Freddy Mac and buy the home of your choice.

    • .... August 14, 2016 at 8:35 pm

      Dog lives matter only if their black lol !

  • Sapphire August 14, 2016 at 9:35 pm

    It is the lazy people who won’t train their dogs, housebreak their dogs, or who allow their dogs to be a nuisance to the neighborhood. If people were responsible pet owners, then there wouldn’t be a pet housing problem. Some people let their pets go all over the carpet, chew the drapes and furniture, rip the yard to pieces, bite their neighbors. When landlords saw how well trained my dog and cat were, they made an exception for me in each case.

  • Common Sense August 15, 2016 at 7:12 am

    I have one large dog, one medium dog and two cats. I have lived here 2 years with my husband and children. I have had NO problems finding a rental home that would allow my pets and suit our needs. We have found by communicating with the potential landlord about how you manage your pets they are more willing to consider you and your furry pets as tenants. First off are dogs are kenneled when we are not home. Second, they have an enclosed “dog” yard they have been trained to use so they don’t burn the grass with pee spots. Third, You need to make sure the property owners know you are willing to pay for any possible unforeseen damages by providing a large partially refundable pet deposit. We usually do at least $1,000 with $250 not refundable. A great way to prevent the cat peeing in the house problem is by scooping their cat box twice a day. Once in the morning and once at night. It is also important to wash the cat box and change the littler once a week. Cats are very clean animals. When we leave a place it is turn key ready for the next tenant.

    • RealMcCoy August 15, 2016 at 10:50 am

      Unfortunately you are the exception, not the rule.
      We don’t allow pets at our rentals specifically because of the “renter-mentality”- that is, ‘well, I’m not getting my damage deposit back, so I don’t care what my animals do’.
      I see far too many renters that are so used to dog and pet damage in their residences that they now consider ‘some damage’ to be normal, and ‘you can’t expect a dog not to chew on things/you can’t expect a cat not to pee on the carpet occasionally’ are their excuses.
      Our fenced yard rentals are not fenced for a dog to destroy; they are fenced for the safety of the home renters and their children.
      Don’t even get me started on smokers hahaha…

  • CaliGirl August 15, 2016 at 4:46 pm

    Do you want to know how a potential renter really keeps there home? Arrange a time to have them view the rental but meet them at the curb. Check out their ride. Is it dirty with trash all over? That’s pretty much how they’ll treat your rental.

  • whatever August 15, 2016 at 8:31 pm

    The biggest advantage of ‘pet friendly’ rentals that Mr Trent Collins of BMG Property Mgmt conveniently leaves out is his fleecing of tenants under the guise of terms like ‘deposit’ ‘fee’ and ‘inspection’ exclusively for his benefit. We know firsthand how Mr. Collins runs his business having rented a home through BMG when we moved here from out of state with our 2 dogs. A security deposit with an additional pet deposit is standard fare (and usually refundable).
    Utah seems to have very lax, landlord-friendly laws when it comes to renting and fees. $250 of our security/pet deposits was taken/kept for a ‘Lease Initiaion Fee with Pet’ (it’s *only* $150 without a pet). Also a $25 per pet/per month ‘Monthly Pet Inspection Fee’, with 2 dogs that’s $50 in addition to a hefty monthly rent/deposits. The funny part is we actually thought there would be monthly inspections, how silly of us! That monthly $50 went to BMG (not the property owner) for doing nothing. If there is damage, it will be deducted from the security/pet deposit. FWIW, we saw Trent once, when he finally came to remove the frt door lockbox 2 months after we moved in.
    Oh, and regarding Mr Collins of BMGs’ care of properties and vigorous ‘vetting’ of potential renters; he doesn’t bother. He didn’t check our history at all, did not contact our previous property manager. He also didn’t bother to fertilize or perform other regular maintenance the owner was paying him to do. Appx 8 months into our lease, the owner came to visit and after some discussion, dumped BMG and dealt with us directly (BTW, she dropped the pet fee and lowered our rent -BMG no longer taking their cut).

    We are great tenants with positive rental experiences and usually find that honesty is the best policy, that is until you encounter certain entities like BMG Trent Collins who are simply out for themselves, no wonder he loves pet owners and is actively encouraging more prop owners to allow pet$$$. Two dogs would be difficult to conceal, but in hindsight, I would only claim to have one dog. BMG would never know if you have pets since they are never on the premises, even repair work is contracted. If they are discovered then say you just adopted it. Mr Collins claims his goal is to attract and retain responsible pet owners yet his treatment and fee gouging produces the opposite. No one likes to be taken advantage of even in this tight rental market and good tenants will stop caring.

    • whatever August 15, 2016 at 11:03 pm

      Meant to add:

      Renting a home through BMG – In addition to monthly rent and security deposit:

      12 month lease NO pets: $150.00 for lease initiation fee -BMG pockets this (not owner). Total after 12 months – $150.00

      12 month lease ONE pet: $250.00 lease initiation fee with pet, plus $25 monthly pet inspection. Total after 12 months – $550.00

      12 month lease TWO pets: $250.00 lease initiation fee with pet, plus $50 monthly pet inspection. Total after 12 months – $850.00

      These ‘fees’ and ‘inspection’ charges go straight into Trent/ BMGs pocket for doing absolutely nothing. Obviously, they make much more offering pet-friendly properties, and keep the extra charges. The OWNER of the property Trent/BMG is managing gets NONE of this, nor any extra benefit/peace of mind that BMG is taking care of the property–just sore tenants.

  • .... August 15, 2016 at 9:23 pm

    Some dogs would make better tenants than some people

Leave a Reply