If you allow pets in your rental property, you may want to consider making pet screening a part of your tenant screening process. Depending on the species and personality of the individual animal, problems can arise. Some animals, particularly those of larger stature, can potentially cause normal wear and tear or significant damage to a space or be a disturbance to other tenants.
Below, we outline the pet screening process and offer a printable pet screening application you can give to prospective tenants with pets to complete.
The Best Approach to Pet Screening
First, you should always make it clear to prospective tenants if you have restrictions when it comes to pets (i.e. species or size), and if there are additional fees they will be responsible for if they move in with an animal. This will help you and prospective tenants avoid wasting each other's time submitting an application if the pet is outside of what you allow or they are unwilling to pay a required additional fee.
The main reason to go through a pet screening process is to avoid having a tenant move in with an animal that may cause significant damage to your space or could cause harm to other tenants. Pets who are rambunctious, are not vaccinated, or have a lot to say can be problematic.
Pet screening can help you avoid a more complicated situation involving a notice to vacate or an eviction down the line.
How to Use a Pet Screening Application
A pet screening application is a great opportunity to ask the questions you need to ensure that the tenant’s pet will be a good match for your rental. You’ll want to ask a variety of questions about the pet in order to get a comprehensive picture.A few sample questions to consider asking include:
- What type of pet do you have?
- How long have you had this pet?
- Can you provide proof of vaccinations from a veterinarian?
- Does your pet have any behavioral problems?
- Has your pet ever injured a person or animal?
- Are you willing and able to pay a pet security deposit?
Download the pet screening application below to make sure you receive all of the information you need about a prospective tenant’s pet.
When You Should Do a Pet Interview
If the pet screening application raises any red flags, it may be worth screening the pet in-person. This is likely only necessary if the animal is capable of making a lot of noise and will be encountering other tenants.
During an in-person screening, you’ll want to first make sure that the pet matches the photo and description initially given by the tenant. Depending on the particular concerns you have, you may want to address the following during the pet interview:
- Does the pet have any behavioral problems like aggression or excessive barking?
- Does the pet follow basic commands from the person responsible for it?
Keep in mind that some pets can get nervous in new situations and their behavior is not necessarily reflective of how they will act once they are acclimated to a new environment.
Service Dog and Emotional Support Animal Exemptions
Tenants can request reasonable accommodations, including waiving “no pets” policy, under the Fair Housing Act. However, landlords are exempt from waiving “no pets” policies in the following cases:
- Renting a single-family home without use of a real estate agent
- Buildings with four units or less where the landlord occupies one of the units
- Hotels and motels
- Private clubs
When it comes to service dogs and emotional support animals, landlords can:
- Ask for a letter from the tenant, a family member, or a mental health professional confirming the need for a service dog to assist the tenant with a specific disability
- Request identification of the service animal, such as a photo, as well as the animal’s medical records
However, in cases concerning service dogs and emotional support animals, landlords cannot:
- Require a pet deposit that makes the tenant liable for damage beyond wear and tear
- Ask for access to the tenant’s medical records or proof of the service dog’s certification
A landlord can refuse a service dog under some circumstances, such as the tenant is not legally disabled or the service animal is not prescribed for the tenant’s treatment. The following are also potential grounds for refusing a service animal:
- The tenant won’t take responsibility for the animal, like cleaning up waste or resolving noise issues
- The animal is illegal according to state or municipal law
- The animal is a direct threat to other tenants
- The animal’s presence “fundamentally alters the nature of the housing provider’s operations."
In order to keep your other tenants safe and rental space in good condition, it’s important to understand who exactly will be moving in. Pet screening can help ensure that your tenants remain happy and comfortable and your space is not damaged beyond normal wear and tear. To make the tenant screening process easier, RentSpree offers helpful tools such as an online rental application and tenant screening.