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Should you let tenants bring their dogs to work?

By now, everyone in commercial real estate knows that bringing dogs to work is the latest, hottest trend. Everyone's doing it.

Well, about 7 percent of employers are doing it, but that's up 50 percent from five years ago. It's also probably close to 100 percent from just a few decades ago when pooches in the office were basically unheard of.

There are some pretty solid reasons for employers to allow dogs into the office. Pet have been proven to lower employee stress, to produce measurable health benefits, and to increase morale. Even better, allowing pets in the office costs employers nothing.

For landlords, there are a few more issues to consider. You'll likely never notice a dog coming in once in a while, but if employees are bringing in dogs every day there is the potential for damage and liability. That said, millennials will soon be the generation that owns the most pets and the largest group in the workforce. That suggests that this trend will only increase, and commercial real estate professionals who want to cater to these clients will need a strategy for dealing with issues that arise as a result.

To answer the question in the premise: Should you let your tenants bring their dogs to work? Probably, but if dogs in the office are going to become a long-term policy, you should make sure that you've done your homework first.


The do(o)s and don'ts of dogs in the office

If you do decide to allow dogs in your office space, here are a few smart practices to implement and pitfalls to avoid:


Do: Check with your insurance company first

Generally, you shouldn't have an issue with your insurance company over an issue as simple as dogs in the office, but you should definitely check in with them first. Some insurance companies won't cover properties that allow certain breeds of dogs. Others will see any decision to allow dogs as an event that changes the scope of coverage. If this happens, they may have grounds to deny a claim if one arises.


Don't: Rely on a verbal agreement

There are a bunch of legal details that you and your tenant should agree on before you let dogs into an office space. A verbal agreement simply doesn't cover all of these issues. Should something go wrong, you'll wish you had everything in writing.

In a set of guidelines on the subject, Allen Markins attorney Erin Murphy suggested two possible approaches. If you are permitting one specific dog, a side letter is generally sufficient written agreement. If you are agreeing to a general policy allowing employees dogs, however, you may wish to consider adding a clause to the lease.


Do: Include practical and legal considerations

Murphy suggests the following elements be included in your written agreement:

  • Tenants should indemnify the landlord from all claims related to the actions of dogs brought in. This includes things like biting, scratching, damaging property, etc.
  • Tenants should provide the landlord with documentation of necessary veterinary care. This means that all dogs have current vaccinations and flea treatments.
  • Tenants should agree to comply with any laws that apply to their pets' presence on the property. This includes the building's certificate of occupancy rules.
  • Tenants should agree to cover any incidental costs that their pets cause and clean up any messes they make promptly.


Don't: Neglect to follow up on the policy

As with any policy that directly affects your building's tenants, it is important to follow up. Your tenants will appreciate the effort, and you will be better able to head off potential issues. For example, if dogs are getting out of control and bothering other tenants in the building, you may need to take steps to address the problem. On the other hand, you may find a simple, low-cost way of improving dogs' experience in the space by talking to your tenants.

Do: Make sure that the dogs are having a good time

Office dogs are great for employee well-being, but coming in for the nine-to-five can be rough on the dogs themselves. The new environment can be stressful, especially for dogs that aren't used to a social space with other dogs and people. Owners may also get busy and fail to spend enough time with their dogs, leading to boredom.

Usually, tenants will deal with these considerations internally before they become an issue. If you start to notice signs of property damage or neglect, however, it may be time to consider other options. Some landlords in high-end properties have found a lucrative middle ground by offering doggie day care as a service. This is a high-effort amenity, but one that, at up to $400 a month per dog, at least one landlord has found lucrative.


Are office dogs the new norm?

At 7 percent, it's not like every office in America is inviting fluffballs in, but the number appears to be growing quickly. Dogs may not be right for every office, but right now, a pro-dog policy can help a property stand out. That alone may make this amenity worth property managers' time.

As if their adorable, slobbery faces didn't make it worth your time already.