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You are reading: Do You Need to Implement Pet Screening as a Property Manager?

June 27, 2024

Do You Need to Implement Pet Screening as a Property Manager?

Noah Goldman
Chief Operating Officer

In the rental property space, property managers and landlords often wrestle with the question of whether to allow pets. For many people in the U.S., pets are considered family members. However, for others, they represent potential risks to property damage and resident satisfaction.

As such, a growing trend has emerged in recent years – pet screening during the rental process. This procedure involves evaluating potential renters’ pets to determine their suitability for the unit.

The big debate, however, is whether pet screening truly benefits landlords or if the process is an unnecessary hassle. In this article, we delve into the particulars of pet screening to shed light on its significance in the rental world.

What is Pet Screening?

Pet screening is the process in which landlords assess the pets of prospective tenants before approving a rental agreement. The screening generally involves gathering information about the pet’s breed, size, age, vaccination records, and behavioral track record.

Some property managers may require additional documentation, like “pet resumes” or references from veterinarians or former landlords.

Why Pet Screening is Important

One of the most significant advantages of pet screening is risk mitigation. By collecting comprehensive information about potential renters’ pets, landlords can determine the likelihood of property damage or potential issues.

Screening also allows apartment owners and property managers to identify possible red flags, like aggressive behavior or a history of destructive tendencies, allowing them to make better decisions about whether to accept a pet in their rental unit.

Here are some additional reasons why it’s essential to implement pet screening:

1.     Resident retention: Allowing pets can be advantageous for tenant retention. Numerous pet owners often find it challenging to track down rental units that accommodate their fuzzy friends, leading them to stay longer in more pet-friendly dwellings. By implementing pet screening, property managers can appeal to a larger pool of prospects, thus reducing vacancy rates and boosting the stability of their rental income.

2.     Increased revenue: It’s no surprise that pet-friendly properties tend to command higher rental prices and additional pet fees. With proper screening measures, landlords can make the most of this market demand while protecting their interests against possible liabilities. Additionally, pet-friendly units often experience lower turnover rates, resulting in long-term financial benefits for property owners.

3.     Legal compliance: In most areas, landlords are legally obligated to accommodate renters with assistance animals or emotional support animals (ESAs) under fair housing laws. Pet screening helps property managers navigate these complex legal requirements more easily while ensuring compliance with applicable regulations.

How to Conduct a Pet Screening

Here are some steps you can take to conduct pet screenings effectively during the lease agreement process:

·   Include your pet policy in the lease agreement. It’s crucial to have a clear and comprehensive pet policy outlined in your lease agreement. The policy should spell out any restrictions on the breed, size, and number of pets allowed. It should also detail additional pet-related fees or deposits.

·   Request pet details. During the application process, ask potential renters to share detailed information about their pets, including the type, age, size and overall temperament of each. Also, it’s OK to ask for documentation like vaccination records and proof of spaying or neutering to confirm that the pets are up to date on medical care.

·   Conduct pet interviews. Like interviewing potential renters, it’s not unrealistic to consider conducting interviews with pets. These can be done either in person or via video calls. Take this time to assess the pet’s behavior and overall demeanor. It’s also a good time to watch how the pet interacts with its owner—this can often uncover valuable insights into the animal’s temperament and suitability for your rental property.

·   Consider references. In addition to interviewing the pet and owner, some property managers also request references from previous landlords (or neighbors) who can attest to the pet’s behavior. References can offer personal accounts of how the pet has behaved in previous rental units and whether it’s caused any issues.

·   Charge pet fees. Some landlords may choose to charge extra pet fees or deposits to cover potential damages or cleaning charges associated with the pet. The fees should always be clearly outlined in the lease agreement. Charging pet fees can help offset the risks associated with allowing pets in and around the rental unit.

How to Handle Service and Emotional Support Animals (ESAs)

 Many landlords and property managers today agree there’s been a dramatic uptick in ESA accommodation requests in recent years. Verifying these requests can be challenging, time-consuming, and daunting. These animals are not considered pets and as such, have special permissions.

So, what’s the best way to approach ESAs when it comes to rental properties? For starters, always request documentation. Valid ESAs typically require documentation from a licensed health professional, like a psychiatrist or therapist, authenticating the tenant’s need for a service animal or ESA. Be wary of nonspecific or easily accessible “online” certifications, as this could be a red flag of fraudulent claims.

When it comes to service or assistance animals, housing providers cannot refuse to make reasonable accommodations in policies, practices, or services when such accommodations may be necessary to afford a person with a disability the equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling. There are only a few questions you can ask an applicant that has a service animal. We highly encourage you to look into your state laws regarding service animals to ensure that you adhere to all specific requirements.

Lastly, incorporate a comprehensive pet screening process, complete with background checks and vaccination record verification. This strategy can ultimately help distinguish legitimate service animals and ESAs while circumventing fraudulent claims.

The Bottom Line: Communicate Expectations from Day One

Implementing pet screening in the rental process comes with both opportunities and challenges for property managers and landlords.

The key to success is openly discussing expectations with potential renters regarding pet-related responsibilities, including cleaning up after their pet, maintaining control of the animal, and observing pet-related rules outlined in the lease agreement.

By creating open lines of communication from the start and adopting transparent, fair pet policies, landlords can strike a balance between fostering a pet-friendly space, minimizing risk, and protecting their properties.

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