Pets are part of many renter’s families. As a landlord, you have to establish a clear pet screening process when evaluating prospective tenants with pets. The pet screening process involves collecting information about the pet, such as its breed, size, weight, vaccination records, and behavior history, to make informed decisions about allowing pets on the property.
This process has become crucial for property owners to make sure that the pet and its owner are responsible and compatible with the rental community. Carefully screening tenants with pets using background checks, documentation, rules, and policies allows you to minimize risks and pet-related issues down the road. In this article, we will dive deep into pet screening for rentals, helping you understand its benefits and how to conduct the process effectively.
How Does Pet Screening Work?
When a potential tenant applies for a rental application on a property that allows pets, the landlord or property manager requires the tenant to complete a pet screening application. The tenant must provide complete information about their pet, such as breed, age, size, weight, and temperament. Proof of vaccination and spay/neuter status also must be included.
Then, a pet interview is conducted over the phone or in person. The landlord asks the tenant questions about their pet’s temperament and behavior. They may also ask the tenant to provide references from their veterinarian and previous landlords.
If the landlord is concerned about the pet’s temperament or behavior, they may request the tenant to complete a pet background check. This check is generally conducted by a third-party service hired by the landlord. The pet background check will look for any history of aggressive or destructive behavior.
Once the landlord has completed the pet screening process, they decide whether or not to approve the pet. If the pet is approved, the tenant can move into the rental property with their pet.
Benefits of Conducting Pet Screenings For Landlords
While accommodating tenants with pets, pet screening is vital in protecting landlords from major headaches, property damage, and liability issues by only accepting responsible, diligent pet owners following clear rules and policies. This allows a smooth and positive rental experience for tenants and property owners. Here are some benefits of conducting proper pet screenings on rental applicants for landlords:
- Minimizes risk of destructive pets that can damage the rental unit through scratching, biting, stains, etc. Proper screening allows landlords to identify and decline high-risk applicants.
- Reduces noise disturbances and neighbor complaints that can occur from pets that excessively bark, cry, or make other disruptive noises. Screening provides insight into how an applicant has managed pet noises in the past.
- Lowers chances of pet odors permeating the rental unit when irresponsible pet owners fail to properly clean and dispose of pet waste. Screening questions help determine an applicant’s waste cleanup diligence.
- Lessens possibility of injury or attacks since screening can identify aggressive dog breeds or prior incidents of biting other residents or pets. Landlords can reasonably reject applicants in cases of known aggression.
- Upholds community rules and regulations by only accepting pets meeting requirements like licensing, vaccinations, no restricted breeds, etc. Screening allows verification of compliance.
- Helps avoid discriminatory denials or evictions down the road. Standardized screening procedures applied evenly to all pet-owning applicants reduces fair housing risks.
- Can allow higher rents and pet fees by permitting pets responsibly. Screening is crucial for this upside to outweigh the risks.
How to Conduct Pet Screenings For Rentals (Step-By-Step Landlords Guide)
Many tenants view their pets as family. As a landlord, you want to accommodate pet owners while also protecting your investment. Proper pet screening is crucial when evaluating prospective tenants with pets. Follow these steps to effectively screen tenants with pets while balancing legal considerations and minimizing risks:
1). Establish Clear Pet Policies: First, start by setting well-defined pet policies addressing allowed pets and include this in all rental listings and communications with applicants. This forms a contractual basis for screening and denying problematic pets.
Main details to establish upfront include:
- The types and number of pets allowed (e.g., cats, small dogs)
- Breed restrictions prohibiting aggressive dogs
- Weight limits disallowing large dog breeds
- Any pet application or pet rent fees required
Also, be transparent about your pet-related fees like deposits, monthly pet rent, and application fees so applicants know the costs upfront.
2). Use a Rental Application Requiring Pet Information: Have all applicants complete a detailed pet section when submitting their rental application, requesting information such as:
- Type of pet (cat, dog, etc.)
- Breed, weight, and full-grown size
- Pet age and how long owned
- License and vaccination status
- Vet contact information
- Emergency caretaker contact info
Thorough applications provide initial pet history. Follow up with vet and caretaker references to verify through further screening.
Also Read: Rental History Verification Process
3). Conduct a Pet Interview: Arrange a meeting with both the prospective tenant and their pet. This can be an opportunity to observe the pet’s behavior, temperament, socialization skills, or any potential concerns. A well-behaved pet is a strong indicator of a responsible owner.
Screening Questions to Ask Tenants with Pets
- Is your pet housebroken and spayed/neutered?
- How is your pet around other animals and strangers?
- Has your pet received professional obedience training?
- Has your pet ever shown aggressive behaviors or caused injury/damage?
- Who will care for your pet when you travel?
Listen closely to answers and observe how the tenant handles the pet during showings.
4). Required Documents for Proofing: To back up written and verbal pet history, require documents including:
- Proof of current rabies and other vaccinations
- City license showing pet is registered
- Documentation of neutering/spaying
- Previous rental references commenting on the pet
- Signed veterinary records release form
Review documents to verify pet care history and owner truthfulness.
5). Use Pet Screening Services: Take advantage of third-party pet screening services like petscreening.com that provide useful background information on tenant pets for a modest fee, searching records such as:
- Past landlord complaints or rental violations
- Known aggressive behavior incidents
- Veterinary records of injuries caused to people or animals
- City animal control violations.
This independent data helps surface red flags like bites or property damage.
6). Check References on Past Pet Behavior: Request references from current and former landlords or neighbors about the pet behavior of applicants. Look for complaints about the tenant’s pet, including any damage caused, odors, noise, aggression, housebreaking accidents or rule violations, etc. Positive references assure the pet’s suitability for your property.
These pet-related red flags can disqualify them:
- History of biting, aggressive behavior, or causing injury
- Poor veterinary care or lack of spaying/neutering
- Records of chronic noise, barking, or neighbor complaints
- Causing previous property damage or rental non-compliance
- Inability to provide vet records or emergency caretakers
- Lawsuits or evictions related to the pet are also disqualifying.
7). Implement a Pet Agreement: Finally, create a formal pet agreement outlining all rules, regulations, and tenant liability regarding pet-related behavior and deposits. This document protects both parties and provides clarity on issues such as pet damage, noise, and cleanliness.
Pet Screening For Rentals Conclusion
Pet screening for rentals is a win-win situation for both property owners and tenants. It promotes responsible pet ownership and ensures a peaceful community. Remember, a well-structured pet policy and screening process are the keys to ensuring a positive rental experience for everyone involved.
Can a landlord reject my pet based on its breed?
Yes, landlords can have breed restrictions due to insurance or property management policies. However, it's not a blanket rule, and some landlords may consider individual cases.
Do I need to pay a pet deposit if my pet passes the screening?
Not necessarily. Some landlords only require a pet deposit if they feel it's necessary to cover potential damages.
What happens if my pet doesn't pass the screening?
If your pet doesn't pass the screening, you need to either provide additional information or consider looking for a different rental that is more pet-friendly.
Can I negotiate pet policies with the landlord?
Absolutely. It's always worth discussing any concerns or suggestions regarding pet policies with the landlord. They can be open to find out a solution that works for both parties.
Are emotional support animals subject to pet screening?
Emotional support animals are generally considered separately from pets and have different regulations. It's important to discuss this with the landlord to ensure clarity.