Learn how to Accept Pets as a Landlord—Responsibly

According to The Outline, the facebook page entitled ‘Dogs’ has over 6.5 million followers, and the ‘Cats’ page has over 2 million. In fact, animals make up a humongous portion of the internet, and of our everyday lives as well. The average pet owner thinks of their animals as their family and would never separate from them, even if this meant making up lies to keep them around.

So, where does this leave the ‘big bad landlords’ that are too afraid of property damage to approve any pets in their rentals? Unfortunately, in most cases, the answer is simply that pet hesitancy leaves them without very many viable candidates, constantly defending their decisions, and finding that even their best tenants aren’t being honest about their pets. 

As such, we decided to compile some of the best information regarding accepting pets as a landlord in Maryland as well as how to accept them responsibly moving forward. In doing so, we hope to help out those landlords on the fence and get them the kinds of candidates they crave without all the stress and panic. 

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What Does Maryland law State About Pets in Rentals?

The basics are relatively clear. Landlords are not required to accept any pets that aren’t emotional support or service animals. Beyond this, in the state of Baltimore, new laws dictate that any damage or injuries caused by a pitbull now leave the tenant and the landlord financially and personally responsible. More information about this ruling can be found on this Maryland and Dog Renters page created by The Humane Society of the United States. 

Despite this, there are also ways to responsibly rent to a pet owner and specify what pets are acceptable which is a great way to open up your candidacy requirements without dealing with damage and liability cases.

Essentially, the law in Maryland allows you to dictate the size, the type of animals you accept, the paperwork they have, and an additional amount allotted for ‘pet rent’ when creating a lease agreement with a new tenant. You can also put in specific wording that may help you to avoid liability in the case of an aggressive episode or damage. For instance, you can say that you can terminate the lease at any point if you can prove damage or aggression, or you can also say that you can revoke the animal’s rights to be there if they act out as well. 

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What are the Main Things to Avoid When Approving a Pet?

There are several big mistakes that landlords make when dealing with pet agreements. One is they don’t create paperwork that is in-depth enough and they also don’t do frequent check-ins. While a property management team does frequent inspections, many solo landlords forget to do these check-ups. As such, they wind up shocked when the year goes by. Mainly because they inevitably find irreversible animal damage done to their rental. 

Similarly, without the rights concepts in the lease, if the dog attacks, you can become personally responsible. You may also be the one responsible for the repairs necessary if an animal has damaged your rental. 

Lastly, a lot of landlords also make the mistake of not ensuring that the animal has its paperwork. They also skip ensuring that the animal is also healthy. If a dog with a particular disease walks around your property and makes other animals sick, it’s horrible. On top of this, you may be liable based off of negligence alone.

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How Emotional Support and Service Animals Impact These Laws

All of the laws and concepts above are completely accurate in most situations. However, when emotional support or service animals are involved, quite a bit changes. 

For starters, you cannot deny an emotional support or service animal. You also can’t charge the tenant pet rent either if they can legally prove their pet’s ESA or SA accuracy. On top of this, your potential damage is covered through the government up to a certain degree. This means that there is much less to worry about in these situations.

In the end, pets may all too often feel like a landlord’s worst nightmare. But this is simply not the case. All it takes is knowing the laws, accepting pets responsibly, and being aware of them. In doing this, you can ensure that you get the best pet-loving tenants out there. You can also ensure that you never deal with the ugly side of pet agreements again. 

If you would like help fielding potential pet owners, don’t hesitate to contact us at Moon Ridge Management today. We love all animals. But, we also know how to handle the good, bad, and ugly surrounding them in Maryland as well!