Pet Screening for Landlords: Laws and Best Practices

Pet screening is an essential check for any landlord who allows pets in their rental units. Like screening tenants, a background check on a tenant’s pet will let you know if the dog, cat, or other four-legged residents are a good fit. Screening pets is an excellent way to see if the animal is non-aggressive, housebroken, and properly vaccinated.

Another reason to screen pets is to rule out the possibility of fraud. Some pet owners try to pass their pets as service animals. Fearing allegations of discrimination, some landlords are reluctant to inquire about the prospective tenant’s legitimate need for an assistance animal. Professional pet screening services can help validate service or assistance animals.

This article examines the growing trend of using digital solutions to screen pets. You will also find out how to screen a pet along with its owner.

What is Pet Screening?

Pet screening is like a background check on a renter’s dog, cat, or other animals. The screening process should help the landlord gain an overall picture of the pet’s behavior, health, and care. Pet research is necessary for new renters and existing renters submitting a pet request.

Many landlords carry out the pet screening themselves during the conversation with the tenant. Usually, the pet should be present so that you can observe the animal’s behavior. The pet screening application must contain the following information:

  • Pet’s name
  • Details about the breed, size, weight, sex and age of the pet
  • Previous addresses where the pet owner has lived
  • Medical history, including vaccinations, health conditions and veterinary contact details
  • Behavioral problems such as noise complaints, reported aggression or biting
  • potty training

It is vital to remember that the pet screening process should allow you to confirm the facts provided by the owner. This means contacting previous homes where the owner and pet have lived. In addition, you should check the animal’s medical history.

You must ensure that your screening process is impartial. This helps avoid problems with breed owners who feel victimized or discriminated against because of the type of animal they own.

What about screening service animals?

It is against the law to screen a tenant’s service animal or emotional support animal. According to HUD, a service animal helps a person with a disability, perform tasks, or provide emotional support. By law, a service animal is not considered a pet; therefore no pet deposits or fees apply. You also cannot refuse housing to someone with a disability who has a service animal.

In 2020, HUD published guidelines on the rights of someone with a disability to have a service animal. According to the guidelines, housing providers can “request reliable documentation when a person applying for reasonable accommodation has a disability and disability-related need for accommodation that is not obvious or otherwise known.”

In addition, the type of service animal must be “usually kept in households”.Therefore, barnyard animals, monkeys, and other non-domestic animals are generally not considered service animals.

There are certain circumstances where hosts can refuse a service animal. For example, if the animal is illegal in your state, the animal poses a threat to other tenants, or the owner takes no responsibility for noise or litter.


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Why use a professional pet screening service?

It can be challenging for landlords to decide whether to allow pets in rental units. Even if you have a “no pets” policy, you cannot refuse housing to someone with a disability and an emotional support animal. In addition, it can be difficult to know a pet’s behavior from one owner interview.

Some landlords use online pet screening services when processing rental applications. This is like running credit checks or tenant background checks. Usually, the cost of screening a pet is passed on to the prospective renter. This way, the landlord can get accurate information about the breed, behavioral history, and medical details.

What if a tenant or prospective tenant makes a reasonable request for housing to accommodate an assistance animal? In that case, there is no cost associated with a screening process. The pet screening company confirms details about the authenticity of the submitted documents. This way, as a landlord, you can reduce your liability when admitting service animals into a rental property.

In many cases, a professional pet screening service can help you avoid fraudulent claims. HUD agents warn that it is easy to obtain service animal permit documents for a fee. However, only legitimate licensed health care professionals can confirm whether a person with a disability needs a service animal.

How to screen pets

If you decide to screen pets with a potential renter, what should you keep in mind? Here are a few tips for recognizing the signs of a good pet.

  • The appearance of the pet. Does the pet look healthy and happy? Is there a good relationship with the owner? A well-fed pet that has a strong bond with its pet parent is a good indication that the owner is taking good care of it.
  • Behaviour. Ask the owner to give a few commands to the pet. Does the pet respond well? Does it seem like the owner is in control? You can also give a few commands to see how the pet reacts. Does a dog bark excessively? Does the dog react aggressively when you approach him?

Of course, it may not be reasonable to screen all pets personally. But dogs are the most common pets and are the ones that can give landlords the most headaches. In general, landlords prefer to meet a tenant’s canine friend before approving the rental application.


Being a landlord can be fun – if you do it right

No matter how good you are at finding good leases, you can lose everything if you don’t manage your properties properly. Being a landlord doesn’t have to mean midnight calls, expensive evictions, or daily frustrations with ungrateful tenants.


Rental to pet owners

If you decide to rent out units to tenants with pets, you can decide whether to charge for this. This is reasonable because animals in an apartment can cause extra wear and tear. However, under the Fair Housing Act, you may never request compensation for a service animal. Also, check your local state laws about charging pet fees.

There are three types of fees you can charge renters with pets.

  • Pet fee. A one-time fee to cover potential additional costs for pets living on the property. This fee is non-refundable and you may charge an additional fee for each pet. You can also set different rates for different types of animals, sizes and breeds.
  • Rent a pet. As the term implies, a monthly fee to cover wear and tear with pets on the property. You can have a flat rate or rental rate based on the pet type and size.
  • Deposit for pets. Just like with the deposit. You return the deposit if the tenant leaves the house in an acceptable condition. It is important to remember that not all states allow the landfill of pets.

Just as you screen tenants, it’s also a good idea to screen their pets. Using an online pet screening service can help alleviate the problems of allowing pets into your rental home. The service can perform background checks on a pet’s medical and behavioral history. In addition, a pet screening service can legally confirm whether a person requesting an emotional support animal is eligible for an animal.

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