Considerations for your Vacation Rental Pet Policy

Erin Colbert —  August 23, 2012
Dog Vacation Rental

photo credit: Matt Peyton/Nestlé Purina

93% of US travelers said their pet makes a good travel companion and 51% of travelers with pets said they would bring their pet along on every vacation if they could, according to a AAA/Best Western survey. The third most searched for amenity on HomeAway, VRBO, and VacationRentals.com is “pet friendly.” Its clear that renters enjoy bringing their furry friends on vacation, and accepting pets at your vacation rental could significantly increase your bookings.

If you’re considering allowing pets at your vacation rental, there are several things to think about for your pet policy.

Insurance

Check your insurance policy to see what restrictions they have for damage caused by pets. Are there breed restrictions? Will your insurance cover a guest’s pet if they attack someone?

Homeowner’s Association Rules

If your rental is in a managed community that has a homeowner’s association, you need to check and see if they have specific rules about pets. Many associations define the number of pets, types of pets, and breeds allowed. These rules are typically found in the CC&R’s (Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions) provided by the association management.

Increase in Revenue

With hotel customer satisfaction scores on the decline, more renters are looking to vacation rentals as an option. Allowing pets may be the differentiator between choosing a hotel or a competing vacation rental, thus increasing your bookings.

Additional Hassle

Allowing pets can be an extra liability and you should make sure that you are okay with the additional responsibilities that come along with a pet-friendly property. Additional cleaning will be required after each guest visit, especially if you have a renter who is allergic to pet dander. It is not uncommon for pets to scratch wood floors, dig into the carpets, have an accident inside the home, or tear at the screen door.

Creating Your Pet Policy

If you decide to allow pets in your rental unit, you need to include pertinent information in your pet policy to minimize liability and set clear expectations for your renters. This information will protect you and the vacation rental unit, and should include:

Parrot

photo credit: B.W Chin

Type of Pet

The AAA/Best Western study shows that 85% of pet travelers travel with their dog, while 21% travel with a cat. Dogs and cats are the most common types of pets allowed, but what if a guest wants to bring a rabbit, guinea pig, hamster, snake, iguana, or parrot?

Pet Breed

Clearly outline if there are certain aggressive breeds, such as Rottweilers or Pitbulls, allowed.  Your insurance or homeowner’s policy may also dictate these breed restrictions.

Accommodations

What accommodations will you provide for pets? Is there a doggy bed, food or water bowl for the pets to utilize, or do guests need to bring all of their own supplies?

Requirements

Any additional requirements specific to your rental should also be outlined. These might include whether the pet must be leashed or in a carrier in certain areas of your home. Do you only want to accept pets that are spayed or neutered, or of a certain age (i.e. no puppies who are just learning to be potty trained)? If guests are required to show proof of vaccinations or ensure proper flea and tick control, make sure to outline the process. You can also detail how pet waste should be disposed of and define “quiet hours” to appease unhappy neighbors in case of excessive noise or barking.

Pet Rent

To recoup some of the added costs of allowing pets, you should consider charging pet rent. This extra rent (typically $20-$50 per night) can cover costs such as steam cleaning furniture or spraying pesticides to ensure that fleas or other bugs do not invade your unit.

Pet Deposit

It is also a good idea to charge a vacation rental pet deposit. This deposit can be used to pay for things that the pet may break or damage. Put in writing whether or not this deposit will be refundable. If it is refundable, you need to state the conditions in order to get a refund at the end of their stay.

Having a pet policy should eliminate any confusion about your house rules and conditions for allowing pets, should you decide to accept them. It’s best to avoid surprises and set clear expectations for your renters.

Erin Colbert

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Marketing at MyVR.com. I help vacation rental owners improve their online marketing efforts and get more inquiries & bookings as a result. You can find me on Twitter and Google+.
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