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Do Landlords Need To Start ‘Pet Screening’?

November 10, 2022

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Pet Screening For Landlords

As a landlord, taking a proactive approach to your business is critical. 

Part of a proactive approach is screening pets in much the same way you screen tenants. 

You need insight into a pet’s behavior, demeanor, history, and personality to determine if they’ll damage or disrupt your property.  

You want to prevent as many headaches as possible and thoroughly learning about pets is a great way to do that.  

You want to give yourself the best chance to avoid pet-incurred damages and pets that disrupt neighbors.  

Let’s dive into the best way to screen pets and figure out if they’re a good fit for your property. 

What Is Pet Screening? 

Pet screening is essentially a background check for an animal’s behavior, personality, and health. It’s vital to learn as much as you can about the kind of pet you might allow onto your property.  

Start creating your pet screening policy by considering which breeds and pet sizes you want to restrict. By making prospective tenants aware of your restrictions, you avoid wasting each other’s time when their pet doesn’t meet your criteria. You’ll also want to notify potential tenants about any pet fees and the amount of those fees.  

If the pet meets your initial criteria, then a pet screening application is the best method to collect the information you need to decide whether the pet works for your property. By asking insightful questions, you get a comprehensive overview of the animal. Here are some sample questions to ask: 

  • What kind of pet do you have? 
  • How long have you had your pet? 
  • Do you have proof of vaccinations from a veterinarian? 
  • Has your pet ever harmed another animal or person? 
  • Are you able to pay the associated fees? 
  • Is your pet housetrained? 
  • How much time does your pet spend alone every day? 
  • Can you provide references from previous landlords?  

Your pet screening application should collect the pet’s name, details like gender and age, previous addresses, medical history, behavioral issues, and housetraining information. 

Also, look out for red flags like aggression and loudness. No one wants to live around a pet that might bite them or keep them up all hours of the night. If something in the application leaves you wanting more information, consider conducting an in-person interview with the pet and owner. 

Why Is Pet Screening Important? 

Pet screening is a proactive way to protect your property, look out for neighbors, and mitigate risk.  

1. Protecting your property 

One of the most important reasons to thoroughly screen pets is to protect your most valuable asset. Pets can do a lot of damage to a property, so make sure you’re renting to a responsible owner and a well-behaved pet. 

Dig into the animal’s history and past behavior. A detailed pet screening with insightful questions will help you understand the animal’s habits, cleanliness, and socialization. Avoid pets that tear up floors, scratch walls consistently, make a ton of noise, and generally misbehave. The more proactive you are about weeding out destructive pets, the better protected your property will be. 

2. Looking out for neighbors 

Another reason to conduct pet screenings is to ensure that residents won’t be negatively impacted by the pet’s presence. Most tenants want some peace and quiet. 

If a pet begins to disturb the living condition of someone living nearby, that resident may complain and sometimes go as far as legal action. This, of course, shows the importance of keeping neighbors in mind and making sure you find an animal that doesn’t infringe on other peoples’ living experiences. 

3. Mitigating risk 

Lastly, pet screenings are imperative because you want to avoid running afoul of the law.   

For instance, some pets are illegal in certain states, so be sure to know the local laws and abide by them. Renting to people who own these species could lead to legal trouble, and no one wants to deal with that. 

Additionally, pets are an inherent risk. Pet screenings mitigate risk by providing a clearer picture of an animal’s personality and characteristics. 

What About Service Animals? 

You cannot, by law, screen a service animal or emotional support animal. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) defines these animals as assistance animals that aid, perform tasks, or provide emotional support to help a person with a disability. The law stipulates that an assistance animal isn’t regarded as a pet, which means no pet deposit or fees can be required. And you cannot deny housing to potential tenants with disabilities who have a service animal. 

Per the HUD guidelines, those who provide housing can “request reliable documentation when an individual requesting a reasonable accommodation has a disability and disability-related need for an accommodation that are not obvious or otherwise known.” 

Furthermore, the kind of service animal must be “commonly kept in households.” This means that barnyard animals, exotic animals, and non-domesticated animals aren’t usually classified as assistance animals. 

Despite not being able to screen a service animal, there are specific instances in which you can reject a service animal. These instances include if the animal is illegal in your state, is a threat to neighbors, or the owner doesn’t take responsibility for noise issues or severe damages. 

Conclusion 

Every landlord should screen pets. Screening is a proactive measure that helps weed out disruptive pets and tenants. You want pets that have a good track record and behave well. And, even with service animals, it’s important to keep an eye on how they behave.  

Following this article’s guidelines will help protect your property and set your business up for success. 

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