Rentals in Chicago>Question Details

Starrynight1…, Real Estate Pro in Chicago, IL

Tenant has pet: increase security deposit or increase rent?

Asked by Starrynight12hk, Chicago, IL Mon Feb 14, 2011

I am a landlord. I have a potential tenant who has a small dog, what will landlords usually do to this kind of tenant in Chicago? Should I increase the security deposit (to how much?) or increase rent (to how much?) I don't have this experience. Thanks for your help!

0 votes Share Flag Rentals in Chicago

Help the community by answering this question:


As a broker and the owner of a multi-unit building in Chicago, I'll share my solution for all owners considering pets:

Tenant must bring pet to interview.

Seriously. I love pets, armadillos to bunnies to Great Dane Mastif Mutts. All of 'em. But I also respect the neighbors, and their right to quiet and stank-free air.

So, how does one conduct such an interview:

Watch how the owner deals with their pet. If they have no control or seem abusive, then it's a no go.
After the pet has grown accustomed to the place (5-10 minutes), observe their behavior. Any signs of extreme anxiety (for dogs, means they'll bark or whine when owner is gone, or destroy property) or aggressive behavior, is another no go. have to check pet references. I'll ask similar questions like I ask for the prospective tenant:
How does the pet behave when the owner isn't home?
How does the owner treat their pet? (are they gone for 14 hours a day...)
Has the pet ever been evicted?
Does the pet contribute to the rent?

An extra half month security is normal. And people with pets are generally appreciative of accommodating landlords, and tend to stay longer. Plus pets usually provide either free mouse control or building security.
2 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Dec 1, 2011
Small dog vs big dog, yappy puppy vs. old incontinent quite dog. And the number! If you allow one guarantee the tenant will baby sit for a friend's dog and you will have two or three at times in the unit. Is it that hard to find a tenant with zero pets? I would suggest adding to the security deposit and charging a rent premium. IMHO, small dogs are worse than cats. Cats don't scratch at doors, or leave little surprises anywhere you walk.

Paco, dog ownership is not a protected class unless the dog is required as a handicapped assistant. Then you have to make accommodation for the handicapped person or might be seen in violation of HUD rules. Where is legal discussion you think we should not comment as non attorneys? I don't know why you think a landlord cant discriminate against pets. However , that said if you allow one person a pet and deny the next then you might need to have a consistent written policy and a lawyer involved so there is no appearance of discrimination. Back to my original point, let another landlord deal with the pets.
2 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Feb 15, 2011
Why would anyone want to babysit someones pet that they do not really own and have control of? My boston is 2 and has never destroyed anything but plushies. She is potty trained and very clean. She is very well trained,I will bet you have kids, and those nasty little monster are destructive. Kids make holes in walls, piss on floors, grind food in floors,make stains, ect. They are worse then trained dogs, maybe you do not know how to train a dog and you get the ones that are destructive, nasty, and stupid.
Flag Sun Feb 9, 2014
It's people like you that end up sending perfectly wonderful companions to shelters - stressed out and usually euthanized. Certainly wouldn't ever use your services.
Flag Tue Sep 24, 2013
Wow, what an ass.
Flag Tue Sep 24, 2013
Speaking as a former property manager, if you let one tenant have a dog, expect requests from your other tenants to get dogs as well. Once you've opened that door it is very hard to close it, short of waiting for all of the existing dogs to move out. Therefore, if you are making a pet policy make sure that you make one that you're willing to enforce fairly throughout your building.

The issue of deposits and rent needs to be based on the effect that pets will have on your property value, cash flow and expenses more than what the market will sustain. If you run the numbers and the market agrees with the rates you deem acceptable, then great! Dog happens. If your costs exceed what the market will pay, then dog should probably not happen for your building.

Looking at the expenses you will incur from allowing this dog into the building. Figure out which of those expenses are in the "definite" camp - like insurance premium increases and increased wear on the common areas - and which are in the "maybe" camp, like dog bites, increased pest control due to fleas, repairing damaged woodwork, floors and doors from puppy scratches, etc. Tally up the numbers, get as close to realistic figures as you can for best case, middle ground, an worst case scenarios.

If you see that most of the expense is happening in the "maybe" side of things, go for the deposit. If you see that most of the expenses are going to be "definite" costs for you, go for the increased pet rent. If it's evenly balanced, do both. Charge no less than you will have to pay out to satisfy your middle ground risk scenario.

I have seen pet deposits up to $600 per animal this year, although most that I have encountered have been substantially lower. I have seen pet rent up to $100 per month and pet fees up to $1000, but again, normally the amounts have been much lower. Whether or not this is market-acceptable depends on the time of year and the desperation level of tenant.

Allowing pets into your investment building is a business decision, much like a shop owner deciding whether they want to stock a new line of merchandise. You need to look at it first from a financial standpoint, set the amounts that would make it worth your while to go down that route, and then see if the market will support those amounts. Unless you can make your needs agree with what the market will bear, the risk involved is not worth the effort.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Thu Dec 1, 2011
Damage to the unit from any source is already covered with your security deposit. Lots said about this already but one thing no one has touched on is the potential added work of keeping the common areas in order when there are pets in the building. This is mostly all about dogs since cats usually don't go in and out.

Dogs won't wipe their paws before coming into the common areas so the stairs will need more cleaning. Dogs owners are not always perfect about picking up after their pets. Yard pick up is a near certainty. Dogs often will pee immediately upon hitting the outdoors so the grass and other vegetation near the doors may need more replacement. Let's not even talk about the dog who "couldn't hold it" until he got outside.

These are just some of the building maintenance issues. Once I heard these listed I no longer thought that an extra $10 or $15 a month for a dog owner was a problem.

RE/MAX NorthCoast Realty
1 vote Thank Flag Link Mon Feb 14, 2011
I always take dogs as most have pets these days. However look for responsible dog owners who have a dog walking service when they are not etc. There are conditions such as noise as you do not want compliments. Size is a MYTH! Sometimes larger is better less yappy, better trained etc. Do not restrict upfront but on a one on one basis. A small extra fee of $10/month or a non refundable carpet cleaning fee and you can take any damage off your regular deposit if necessary. Always interview carefully for tenant and pet owner without limitations or you may miss a perfect long term tenant.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Nov 29, 2011
Fantastic answer - love it!
Flag Tue Sep 24, 2013
You can do both, most lanlords place restrictions on the breed and weight of the dog. if its a small dog that weights less than 10lbs and are not hyper (hyper breeds tend to chew and scratch furniture) most landlords dont charge anything extra. Most landlords charge anywhere from $20 to $30 per month
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Nov 27, 2011
Alan is right, if you must allow a small dog for competitive reasons or expediency, have professional steam cleaning at end of lease written into the lease. Also video tape any current problem areas when you do the prepossession walk-thru. Dont want to be arguing that was there before I moved in scenario. Also work with a tenant to get a longer lease and provide discount. i would go so far as to say no pets and knock off $75 per month on the competitive rent you would charge.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Feb 17, 2011
Personally, I would increase the security deposit, and have the place (including steam cleaning the carpeting) professionally cleaned before they move in

Put in the lease that the tenant is required to do the same (have the carpet steam cleaned and the unit professionally cleaned using the same service you've used), on their exit.

Then, if there is any residual pet damage, it can come out of the deposit.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Feb 15, 2011
I am a renter of someone's private condo and they are trying to charge me one month's security for small 15lb dog. Is this outrageous? I live in Evanston, so I thought you may know some link or comparison rates.
Flag Wed Apr 9, 2014
Alan May, Real Estate Pro in Evanston, IL
Starrynight, you really should not ask real estate Agents questions that should be posed to an Attorney. We real estate Agents should not give legal advice. I know that in Chicago there are issues with taking any security deposit and a lot of the "big timers" are charging tenants with moving fees and not keeping security deposits.
I understand you want to cover yourself from a pet that may ruin or tarnish your property, but you may bargain for more trouble with an "extra" deposit.
I work with Rent Smart, and we have an attorney in our firm to help landlords be protected from the law.
Be smart now and be protected down the road from bigger headaches than a bit of dog pee.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Feb 14, 2011
I have a lot of experience with renting/leasing. Usually you have a minimal increase say $10/month for the small dog and a refundable security deposit that is around $200 additional to the regular security deposit in case some additional cleaning of carpets etc is necessary. Generally try and get as much information about the dog etc to make sure that all is covered. Pet owners are generally great to work with.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Feb 14, 2011
Hi Starrynight1

The answer is yes to an increase in deposit and increase in rent.
Remember, with a small dog, you may have to consider raising your liability insurance or
ask the renter to get insurance to cover.

Generally, a dog bite costs the Owner about $20,000 . If the owner does not
pay they come after the Landlord if the dog bite incident happened on your property.

Good luck.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Feb 14, 2011
Ask for a pet deposit that you feel comfortable with. Let the tenant know that if the dog doesn't tear the place apart, they'll get it back when they move out. If they know their dog is well behaved and that they'll have a chance of getting that deposit back, they will gladly pay it. But if they back out, then chances are they don't trust that there dog will behave enough to get that deposit back. If you just make them pay a non-refundable fee, they may not care whether the dog causes some damage or not since in their mind it will already be covered.

0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Feb 14, 2011
I agree with all of my collegues but unigue situations cause for creative thinking. A double security deposit may seem a bit agreesive. How old the pet is, whether it is a cat or a dog could sway the opinion of any landlord. What I have customarily suggested to my owners who have rental property is just charge a PET FEE, not a deposit. With a PET FEE it is not refundable, it is money that is given upfront and can be deposited just as rent would be. If you own a condo I would most definately see what the association charges for pets and pass that charge along to your potential tenant and ask for an additional $100-$150 depending on the size of the unit. The nice thing about a pet fee is that it is not subject to the same requriements as a security deposit. A one time fee,which the tenant may like instead of increased rent could prove to be a compromise to work in each parties favor.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Feb 14, 2011
I have seen it done in various situations. Many landlords will just increase the security deposit - sometimes double it for pets. The only problem with that is in Chicago there are additional rules about return of security deposit within a certain amount of time and there is cause for what you can or can not deduct for.
The other problem is, will a tenant have that kind of money to give up front.

I think a better solution is to charge more for monthly rent. You are likely going to have to replace something with a pet - carpet, etc. So this way you have the money already. You do have to pay increased taxes on that money for income though. You also have to consider whether they will want to pay more money.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Feb 14, 2011
What I would do is add pet deposit - Usually get about a $100.00 and increase in rent of $25 dollars for every 25lbs of animal (ex $25 for pet that weighs 1-25lbs and $50 for a 25-50 lbs etc....) I have this detailed in my rental agreement that the tenant signs prior to moving in. You may need to consult with your attorney if you didn't have that one the original rental agreement.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Feb 14, 2011
Increase the deposit. On my properties, if a tenant has a pet, I do double security deposit.

Matt Laricy
Americorp Real Estate
Brokers Associate, e-PRO
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Feb 14, 2011
It can depend on a variety of factors. How easy is it to rent? How long have you been trying. Do you want to risk losing the tenant? It is common to ask for an increased security deposit for pets, but do you have carpet or hardwood floors in the unit? Carpet might not last as long and the smell will never come out.
If this is a condo are you sure the building is ok with pets?
In most areas of the city it seems that tenants have more options than landlords so if that is true for what you have and where it's located you might not want to increase the rent. It would be nice to keep the tenant more than one year so maybe don't play hardball.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Feb 14, 2011
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