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Screening the Pets of Potential Renters

What is Pet Screening?

Pet screening is a process that landlords choose to implement during their resident screening process when deciding if they should allow pets at all.  Property owners provide a questionnaire to potential renters with pets and make an educated decision about the specific pet rather than following weight, breed, or type restrictions.

Property management companies can develop their own screening questions or use a third-party service that specializes in pet screening.  Third-party services, like PetScreening, will have a potential renter fill out the information about their specific pet for a nominal fee, grant them a “FIDO” score (much like a FICO credit score), and report back to the management company within 48 hours.

Pets on an Individual Basis

Pet screening can be a valuable tool for property owners, as it takes an animal on a case-by-case basis.  According to recent surveys, 75 percent of renters say that they have pets; however, only 55 percent of rental properties accept pets as a part of their rental agreement.

Many property management companies also choose to have weight and breed restrictions. This can be beneficial, but there are plenty of large dogs that are not aggressive regardless of their breed and some small dogs that are aggressive even if their breed typically isn’t.  All rental properties under the Fair Housing Act and Americans With Disabilities Act are required to give reasonable accommodation to those with service and support animals.

Pet screening allows a property owner to take animals on a case-by-case basis. They can pick and choose renters and their pets based on a set of criteria rather than the two categories of breed and weight.

When using a third-party service, the pet owner and potential renter fill out a list of questions about their pet, weight, claw status, and vaccine information and can upload pictures and vaccine paperwork as well.  There are also questions regarding bite, damage, and veterinary history.

Property managers can use the information to make a more educated decision about the pets they choose to allow on their property.  Property managers can also develop their own screening questions, usually more in-depth than the stereotypical “Do you have a pet?” and “What type?”.

Pets Bring More Revenue

Pet screening is also an effective way to gain more rent and security deposit income for property managers.  Renters with pets usually expect a larger deposit due at the time of move-in, and a portion of that deposit may not be refundable to cover damages to the carpet and lingering odors.  In Florida, this amount is typically between $200-$500 on top of the security deposit, already collected upon move-in.

Renters with pets are also usually willing to pay additional pet rent every month to ensure that they can keep their animal with their family.  This amount is usually between $20-$100 per month, but in a traditional 12-month lease at $35 per month, you’d collect an additional $420 in rent.

Pet Screening Offers Some Legal Protection

If property owners choose not to screen for pets, they could be missing out on great potential renters.  Pet owners are typically responsible and attentive renters.  Taking care of an animal requires a lot of patience and attention, and they are usually more willing to put that attention back into their home.

Choosing not to screen pets and allowing an aggressive animal comes with its own set of drawbacks.  When a dog bite occurs, it can come with a lawsuit directed at the dog owner.  According to Meldon Law in Florida, for example, landlords must protect tenants from dangerous pets.  If the landlord is unaware of the animal’s potential to bite someone, or there is no language regarding bites in their lease, they might also be held responsible for bites that occur on their property.

Renting to pet owners can be beneficial for property managers, but it is not without its complexities. There are many different laws and rules, depending on your region.  Property managers are well-trained in the laws and can provide valuable information about starting a screening process for pets.

If you’d like to learn what makes a great landlord even better, download our free guide. We cover basics from marketing and maintenance to important laws you’ll want to know. Click the link below for your free guide!

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