Pet ownership in the United States has skyrocketed over the years, causing an increased demand for pet-friendly properties. As a landlord, welcoming pets can attract more renters, maximizing your rental income. However, concerns about pet damage, noise, odors, and insurance can make things overwhelming. 

Thankfully, an effective pet screening program is effective in dealing with these issues. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the pet screening process, which will help you minimize the risks that come with allowing pets thus allowing you to maximize your rental income. 

Why Allowing Pets in Rentals is Beneficial

Many renters seek long-term homes that accommodate their pets. When tenants find pet-friendly environments, they typically renew leases and avoid frequent moves that could be disruptive to animals. 

Also, making your rental property pet-friendly can help justify higher rents. This is because of various factors including, higher potential for damage, cleaning costs, liability concerns, and the limited supply versus high demand for such homes. 

Furthermore, it’s often the case that pet owners are more responsible than people without pets. After all, caring for a pet requires a lot of time, effort, financial stability, and commitment. Pet owners need to clean up after their pets, walk them, feed them, and provide them with veterinary care. This can help instill a sense of responsibility that extends to their care of the rental space.  

pet owner hugging their small white dog

Understanding Pet Screenings

A pet screening includes an assessment of a pet’s health, behavior, and personality to provide the landlord with valuable insights. The process may involve a questionnaire, an in-person evaluation, and documentation of the pet’s health history.

Questionnaire

Begin with a pet screening application to gather basic information about the pet. Some general sample questions include:

  • What type and breed is your pet? 
  • How much does your pet weigh?
  • How old is your pet, and how long have you had them?
  • Can you provide vaccination records and a veterinarian’s health letter?
  • Has your pet ever harmed a person or another animal?
  • Is your pet house-trained and are there any behavioral concerns?

For dogs specifically, ask:

  • Has your dog been spayed/neutered, or is it planned?
  • Has your dog received training and do they walk on a leash?
  • How often do you clean up after your dog?
  • How much time does your dog spend alone daily?

For tenants with cats, make sure to ask:

  • Has your cat been spayed/neutered or is it planned?
  • Is your cat an indoor cat, and do they use a litter box?
  • Does your cat have a registration and identification?

In-person Assessment

An in-person meeting helps verify the accuracy of the pet screening application. However, if you choose this route, keep in mind that pets may behave differently in unfamiliar settings. It’s best to leave interactive evaluations to experienced professionals if you’re not comfortable with animals.

A person sitting in a chair training a medium-sized dog

Why Use a Pet Screening Service?

Conducting pet screenings can be time-consuming, so opting for a third-party service might be more efficient. These services help establish pet policies, set appropriate fees, and manage screenings. These services can often also review pet accommodation requests, assess potential risks, and ensure compliance with relevant regulations.

Things to Keep in Mind When Screening Pets

Consider the following things when screening pets:

  • Consistently screen all pets, regardless of size or breed, to minimize risks of housing discrimination claims. Update pet records whenever a lease renewal occurs, even if it’s less comprehensive than the initial screening.
  • When filling a vacancy, make sure to screen all tenants thoroughly. Ask for their referees, and credit reports, and verify their income and employment, among other things.
  • Charge appropriate fees. You may charge the tenant a non-refundable one-time fee, bill the tenant every month, or a refundable deposit, returned if the tenant returns the property in good condition. Check local laws before charging pet fees.
  • Ensure compliance with local laws. Communicate with residents if they breach pet policies and give them sufficient time to resolve issues. If problems continue, send a lease violation notice, outlining policy details and a compliance timeline.
  • Know the exemptions for support and service animals. To assess whether the animal is a support or service animal, request a letter from the tenant or a mental health professional, as well as the animal’s identification and records. Do not ask for medical records or pet deposits.

a person walking with their seeing-eye-dog

What to Do When a Tenant Violates Your Pet Policy

You may still occasionally find tenants violating your pet policy. But before taking any action, make sure that you’re observing the terms of the lease and local laws yourself. In the case of a violation, the following are some of the actions you can take:

  • Gather all relevant information and confirm there is indeed a violation. 
  • Communicate with the tenant. Be respectful and discuss the situation with the tenant and provide them with a written notice. The notice should outline the violation, as well as the action the tenant needs to take to remedy the situation.
  • Remove the tenant from your rental property. If the tenant refuses to abide by the pet policy, then consider starting the eviction process from the property.

Bottom Line 

Allowing pets into your rental property doesn’t have to be risky. Armed with a solid pet screening process, you will be able to minimize risk and maximize your rental revenue. Just make sure your pet screening process is fair to all prospective tenants. 

If you need expert help in screening a pet or the overall management of your property, look no further than T-Square Properties. We’re a full-service property management company that can help manage your rentals reliably and professionally. Get in touch to learn more!

Disclaimer: This blog article is for informational purposes. The information contained in this blog article may not be the official policies of T-Square Properties.

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