According to PetFinder.com, one of the most significant issues facing renters that have pets is finding a home to rent in the first place. Many property owners choose not to rent to tenants with animals due to the increased cost in repairs after the tenant moves out, damages to the property during the rental term, and possible issues that may arise like animal bites or noise complaints. However, by immediately taking pet owners out of your potential tenant pool, you could be missing out on excellent renters or increased rental income. Property owners are finding that screening pets before their owners are approved for a lease helps to avoid potential issues regarding that pet, and gives a landlord a better idea of what to expect concerning the pet in the future.
Pet screening can be a very controversial topic: pet owners are very sensitive about their animals (they are a part of the family after all) and property owners are very protective of their properties! Pet owners might attempt to alter facts about their pets or bend the truth a bit when it comes to Fido in favor of finding a good place to call home. Pet screening—whether you screen the pet yourself or you reach out to a third party service—is something that should be handled delicately and with sensitivity. If someone has a pet that is not a good fit for your property, make sure that you have a professional way to address that with the owner; the goal is to protect your property, not offend potential tenants.
Tip: Keep in mind that some animals that are labeled as "dangerous breeds" may not be aggressive or dangerous—just like some animals that are typically not aggressive or dangerous may very well be!
Ask the Right Questions
Most property owners that choose to allow pets in their rental property include a very minimal questionnaire in their applications about the pet in question. Typical questions asked include breed, gender, and weight. Usually, this information is just filled out by the renter with no further thought from the property owner than reviewing the gender and weight of the animal and approving the animal based on these two answers. Consider instead inviting the potential renter to bring their pet in when they turn in their application or pay their application fee: this gives you a chance to meet the animal and see its temperament first-hand. It also allows you to see if their dog's breed is genuinely the breed the renter is disclosing on the application and will give you as the property owner a better idea of the animal's size and weight. If you have small hallways and a galley kitchen with short counters, approving Great Danes might become an issue!
Tip: As a landlord, don't be afraid to contact previous properties to verify the animal's behavior.
Consider a Third-Party Screening Service
Some property owners are choosing to use third-party companies to screen pets for them, like PetScreening.com. PetScreening is an online service that caters to both property owners and potential renters: interested tenants pay a nominal fee and fill out an "application" for their animal. They can upload photos of their pet, veterinary records, and microchip information—there is even a place for questions about bite history, vaccination history, and the option to complete an affidavit before they move in. Property owners can then read through potential renter applications and learn more about the pets of their applicants. The PetScreening site in particular also has an algorithm that determines a "FIDO" score—a pet rating system—for each pet, and will provide that rating to the property owner. Third party screening also allows property owners to focus more on approving the human applicant, while the third party company will handle their animal counterpart.
Service Animals Are an Exception
All rental properties are required under the Fair Housing Act and Americans With Disabilities Act to provide reasonable accommodation for service animals. In Richmond, VA, property owners are required to allow full and equal access to their properties and may not charge "pet rent" for their tenant's service animal; if your lease typically has a "no pets clause," this does not apply according to the ADA. Screening these pets is a little more difficult because you are required to allow the renter to have their pet, but it is still possible to successfully screen the animal prior to move in.
With Proper Screening, Pets Can Be a Plus!
Renting to pet owners can be a paws-itive move for property owners: Richmond renters with pets are willing to pay additional "pet rent," adding to the amount of rental income property owners are already making. Renters with pets also tend to be more responsible, given that pet ownership demands it. Choosing whether or not to screen your tenants' pets can be a challenging undertaking: skip the hassle and let an expert property manager handle it for you. For more assistance with finding ways to properly screen pets from your applicants, contact us for a free consultation!