Pet Screening: What Is It & How to Conduct It? [Guide 2022]

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Is your potential tenant a pet owner, and are you still considering whether or not to allow them to rent your property? You might want to consider conducting a pet check along with your tenant screening process. Some pets can be violent, too big, or simply unfit to be on your property.

This article will talk about pet screening and how you can conduct it. Read on to find out more!

What Are Pet Screenings?

This is essentially a background check on your potential tenant’s pet conducted by a third-party service before you give them the green light to move in. This process gives you an insight into the pet’s behavior, health, and personality. It might also provide you with more knowledge than you get in a single ‘in-person’ meeting.

Some might argue with this, but we think checking a pet is equally as important as the tenant screening process itself. It helps you avoid any potential damage to your property or future complaints about noise. You can choose one out of the multiple pet and tenant screening services on the market to complete this process.

For example, let’s say you went through a dog screening process and discovered that your prospective tenant has a peaceful, shy dog with no history of violence and no signs of anger. That is okay, even high-energy pets can be alright. But, if the potential tenant has an unstable pet with a history of violence or one that makes too much noise, it’s a definite red flag. Even if the animal is peaceful, its size can be too big for your property.

Unruly animals can cause some serious damage to your house. If a pet is untrained, it might bark, causing noise complaints from the neighbors. Pet screenings can help you avoid these problems.

Why Are Pet Screenings Important?

Since we now know what is pet screening, let’s talk about why it’s important. Here are two good reasons why pet screenings are important:

  • Risk Mitigation

Sometimes, people get creative with pets and keep various undomesticated species as pets, for example, large spiders, tigers, snakes, etc. Your prospective tenants can also have an exotic pet which is simply illegal in your state. To mitigate all these risks, it is best to do a pet check before letting them move in.

  • Property Preservation

Pets, no matter how well behaved, can cause damage to your property in multiple ways. Accidentally knocking off things because of their size, or not being well trained, and chewing your carpet or sofa. All of this sounds like a nightmare, and while the pet owners might be completely aware of their pets’ habits, they might not disclose this information to avoid a high pet deposit.

Did you know: There is a reason why there are so many pet laws, and a pet screening test is a standard procedure for landlords to conduct. According to the Humane Society, 72% of tenants in America own pets.

How Does the Pet Screening Process Work?

Landlords conduct a pet check to avoid allowing tenants with pets that can cause any potential damage or cause the neighbors to complain.

It’s usually a 2-step process. The first step is a pet check application, and the next step is an in-person meeting with the said pet and its owner. This will also help you see how the pet and the owner interact.

You should get complete information about the pet. This includes the breed, whether the animal is owned legally, and its behavior. The process will give you enough answers to make an informed decision regarding your tenant, their pet, and whether they are well-suited for your property.

Any applicants must read the lease agreement, which should have clear information about the type and size of pets allowed. The agreement should also mention whether you need a pet deposit, a one-time non-refundable payment, or a monthly pet rental fee.

You can also ask your prospective tenants to cover any damage in their rental insurance. All of these points should be included in your pet policy for renters, and your potential tenants must be aware of them.

Do you know: Dogs remain the most popular pet, surpassing even cats. There are 1.6 dogs per household on average.

Using a Pet Screening Application

This is an opportunity for you to ask some questions and ensure that your potential tenant’s pet will be a good match for your property. You get to ask questions to screen your potential tenant’s pets, like whether they train their pet or not? This is done to get a complete picture before having an in-person meeting.

A pet screening request, also known as a pet resume, usually contains this basic information:

  • Name, type, and size of the pet
  • Number of pets
  • Registration information
  • Picture(s)
  • Information about any history regarding aggressive or destructive behavior displayed by the pet
  • Vet information
  • Renters insurance policy information
  • Training certifications

Here are some of the potential questions you can ask:

  • For how long have you owned your pet?
  • What type of pet do you have?
  • Can you give me a written reference regarding your pet from any of your previous landlords?
  • Can you provide me with a letter from your vet confirming that your pet is healthy?
  • Who looks after your pet in a medical emergency or if you are on vacation?
  • Does your pet have any behavioral or medical issues? What are you doing about it?
  • Is your pet housetrained?
  • Are you okay with paying a pet deposit?
  • How much time does your pet spend alone on average?

These are some of the questions that you might want to include in your application. Next, you can move on to an in-person interview with your prospective tenants.

Do you know: Even though the COVID-19 pandemic saw a huge increase in the number of people who adopted a pet, many pet owners also decided to forgo pet insurance in 2020.

When to Do an In-Person Interview?

When meeting your potential tenants and their pet(s), you can start by giving their pet specific commands after consulting with the owners. For example, if it is a dog, you can try the command come here or signal it with your hand and check whether the pet is obedient. Note that some pets will only obey commands from their owners, so you can ask the tenants to show you how their pet responds to the commands. Pay attention to how the pet behaves around its owner. You can also check if they are leash-aggressive or not.

You can take it a step further and ask to take the dog around for a walk to note how it behaves around other animals or kids. Watch how it behaves when you, a practical stranger, approach it; that is how it will most likely behave with others. You can also discuss the terms regarding dog damage to rental property.

These are some of the red flags you should look out for:

  • Growling
  • Hackles raising
  • Excessive barking
  • Bared teeth

While dogs are the most common pets, make sure you are not stereotyping any particular dog breed. There is a lot of misinformation regarding aggressive dog breeds that aren’t backed up by facts. So, rather than a breed restriction, perhaps you should consider a size restriction when it comes to what pets you allow.

Also, make sure you know all the local laws regarding animals that are allowed as pets in the state before you agree to sign a contract with a potential tenant. Make sure you are not housing any illegal pets!

People often keep unconventional pets, like reptiles or birds. You don’t have to blocklist them directly. You can simply set other pet screening criteria for these animals.

What About Service Animals?

According to ADA, only a dog trained individually to perform tasks or aid a disabled person is considered a service animal. No other animal, be it wild or domestic, even if trained, is considered a service animal. All the tasks performed by service animals are supposed to be of benefit to the disabled.

Even though the definition only covers dogs as service animals, many states consider other animals to be service animals as well, if they answer to the proper requirements. So, make sure you check in with your state’s rules and regulations concerning service animals. This way you will be able to add the relevant rules to your pet screening request.

According to the Fair Housing Act, you can also request proper documentation to prove that the said person really has a disability and needs a service animal. Not all impairments are physically apparent. Sometimes, your potential tenants can also have some kind of mental impairment and might need a service dog to help interact with other people or remind them to take their meds on time.

In such cases, you can ask for a letter from a doctor to confirm that they require a service animal for assistance. Here is a list of what you can and cannot do when it comes to service dogs:

Can do Cannot do
Ask for a letter of proof or recommendation from the tenant in your pet application form for rental to confirm the need for a service dog. It can be from a health professional or family member. You cannot ask for a pet deposit. After renting your property, however, your tenants become accountable for any damage beyond normal wear and tear.
You can also ask for the identification of the service animal, along with their medical records. Identification can include pictures or some other form of identification. You cannot ask for a service animal’s certification or the potential tenant’s medical records.

Although it may seem like it is mandatory to allow a service animal inside any of your apartments, here are the potential grounds for refusing a service animal:

  • The animal is not legal according to your state’s law.
  • Your potential tenant refuses to take responsibility for the service animal, refusing to resolve extra loud noises or clean up after the animal.
  • The animal is a threat to the other residents of the property.
  • The service animal threatens the normal way the landlord runs their operations daily.

Key Takeaways

Pet screening is a background check on your potential tenant’s pet to ensure that it is safe and meets your criteria for allowing it on your property.
It helps you to mitigate any potential risks and protect your property.
There are two ways to screen a pet: an application and an in-person interview.
With a pet screening application, you get the pet’s resume, and you can include a set of questions you want to be answered. The answers will let you know if you want to have an in-person meeting or not.
With an in-person meeting, you can learn more about the pet’s behavior and decide whether they are fit or unfit for your property.
Service animals are usually dogs but the term can also include other animals according to various state laws.

Conclusion

By allowing pets on your property, you increase revenue and minimize vacancies for your property. But before you do so, you do want to know more about the tenants and the pets that you allow on your property.

A pet screening test is a background check on your potential tenant’s pet animal carried out by a third party. It is done so you can determine whether you can permit them on your property or not. This test is important if you consider letting in pet-friendly properties.

FAQ

What happens at a pet interview?

Usually, at a pet interview, the landlord gives the pet a series of commands to examine their behavior and how well trained they are. They might also take them out for a walk to see how they interact with other people.

What is a pet profile?

A pet profile is your pet’s resume. A pet profile includes your animal’s name, breed, sex, age, and whether it has been desexed. It also includes their legal registration details, along with the microchip details. It can also include the pet’s previous experience living in rental properties or a letter of recommendation.

How long does pet screening take?

Pet screening carried out by third-party services usually takes 2-3 business days.

ABOUT AUTHOR

Alex is an IT wizz gone SEO gone fire-juggler. We’re not even joking. When he isn’t researching why one personal loan is better than the other and which piece of hardware you should buy next, he’s rollerblading or selling homes (because he does that, too, the smarty-pants).

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