Right now in the US, more people than ever own pets. What might that mean for landlords?  

Well, pet-friendly rental properties are only growing in demand every year. During the pandemic, millions of Americans decided to bring pets into their homes. This means that a pet-friendly rental property may attract more prospective tenants than you thought, which will only generate more income for you.

We understand why you might be hesitant about the idea of letting tenants with pets live in your rental property. The idea can be intimidating, especially when you consider some of the risks associated with pets. 

What happens if you have to handle pet damage, noise complaints from neighbors or other renters, odor, or insurance? Well, you can mitigate these risks by implementing a solid pet screening process.

How do you effectively screen a tenant’s pet? Keep reading to see our foolproof tips for finding responsible pet owners as tenants, increasing your income, and reducing the risk of damage to your rental property. 

Why Should You Rent a Pet-Friendly Property? 

There are three main benefits to allowing pets in your rental property. 

1. Retain Long-Term Tenants

When it comes to finding a place to live, tenants with pets are always considering the best place to settle down. If you have a tenant that feels like their pet is enjoying a high-quality life in your rental property, they are far more likely to renew the lease and stay for longer. 

A couple sitting on a couch with a fluffy grey cat on their laps and a large white poodle sitting in front of the couch

Moving to a new home can be a stressful situation, and this is even more true for any renter who has a pet. 

2. Get an Advantage in a Competitive Market 

Allowing pets to live in your rental property can give you a competitive edge in the rental market. This is especially true if a potential long-term tenant is trying to decide between your property and another one that is similar. 

Having a pet-friendly rental home will attract more tenants, in addition to giving your property a higher market value. This is particularly true in pet-friendly neighborhoods, and it could potentially allow you to charge more for rent. 

3. Good Pet Owners Are Often Good Tenants 

In order to adequately take care of a pet, a tenant must be dedicated and responsible. Usually, a responsible pet owner will be equally reliable with the space they are living in. If you have a renter who is a good pet owner, chances are, they will treat your property as if it is their own. 

They will care about the space that they live in with their pets, and take care of it accordingly. So while allowing pets into your rental property poses a few risks, a good pet owner is likely to actually be better for your rental home. 

A long-haired white chihuahua and a long-haired striped orange cat with their heads on top of each other lying in green grass

How Does Pet Screening Work?

Think of pet screening in a similar way to tenant screening. Essentially, pet screening is a background check that can give a landlord insight into the pet’s behavior, health, age, and overall temperament. 

This can mean setting up an in-person meeting, providing your tenant with a questionnaire about their pet that they can fill out and submit, and health screening documentation. 

Questions to Ask Tenants Who Own Pets Before Signing the Lease

With more US households owning pets, you’ll want to screen pets and you have a few options available. You can either choose to conduct the pet screening process on your own, or you can make use of a third-party service to handle all the details. 

The following questions are a good place to start when you screen a pet:

  • What kind of animal is your pet? What is the breed?
  • What is your pet’s weight?
  • How old is your pet?
  • How long have you owned your pet?
  • Are you able to provide proof of vaccination for your pet?
  • Are you able to provide a letter from your vet that confirms your pet is in good health and up to date on their vaccinations?
  • Has your pet ever harmed another person or animal before?
  • Is your pet house-trained?
  • Are there any behavioral issues present in your pet? This can include growling, aggressive tendencies, or excessive barking.
A sleeping cat wrapped in a white comforter

Here are some questions you can ask that are specific to tenants with dogs:

  • Is your dog spayed or neutered? If not, do you have plans to do so?
  • Have you and your dog ever been in a training class?
  • Do you keep your dog leashed when you go for walks?
  • Do you make a habit of immediately cleaning up after your dog?
  • How much time per day does your dog spend alone?

Here are some questions that you can ask a tenant who owns a cat:

  • Is your cat spayed or neutered? If not, do you have any current plans to do so?
  • Do you keep your cat indoors at all times? 
  • Does your cat reliably use the litter box?
  • Is your cat properly registered and does it have accurate identification?

Meeting the Pet in Person

While a pet screening application form or pet resume with a wide range of relevant questions may be useful in understanding the overall health, size and temperament of the pet, sometimes it may be necessary to conduct an in-person pet interview to make sure that it was accurately described by the applicant. 

However, it is always important to keep in mind that some pets tend to get nervous with people or environments that they are not familiar with. This means that your initial interaction with the pet may not be an accurate representation of their daily behavior or their general temperament. 

A woman sitting on a couch in the background with a cat and two dogs in the foreground

If you don’t have proper experience when it comes to interacting with new animals, we recommend that you hire a licensed professional to conduct an in-person screening of the pet. This will ensure that the evaluation is accurate. 

The Benefits of Using a Pet Screening Service

As you can tell, this whole process tends to take a long time and energy, so it may be worth it to hire the help of a third-party service to do the pet screening work for you.

A pet screening service will help you set up a pet policy for your rental home that will allow you to determine the most accurate fees to charge per pet, in addition to helping you prevent any pet-related problems that many property owners have to deal with. 

Through these services, applicants can directly submit their pet accommodation requests. Then, the service will review the request to evaluate the risks associated with the pet in question, in addition to making sure that you are abiding by all the legal guidelines put in place. 

Pet Clauses That You Can Add to Your Lease Agreement

Now that you are aware of the many benefits that come with allowing pets in your rental property, you can set up general pet policies that can act as protection for you and your property. 

An orange cat sitting on a large white bed

This is called a pet clause, and it goes in your lease agreement. The clause doesn’t need to be too strict or extensive, but make sure you add the following:

  • The types of pets that you are allowing on the rental property.
  • The type of pet screening you have chosen to implement.
  • The fees or pet security deposit that you are charging for pets in the property. 

What Kinds of Pets Should Be Screened, and When?

When it comes to pet screening, it’s important that you are implementing the same screening process for each and every tenant to make sure that you don’t find yourself in a discrimination case. A lot can change in one year, so it is wise to screen pets and request updated documents every time you renew the lease.

Does This Apply to Service Dogs or Emotional Support Animals?

The exception to everything we have already mentioned is if a tenant owns an emotional support animal or service animal. A service dog is defined by the ADA as a “dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks that aid an individual with a disability.” 

Generally, legislation will vary from state to state when it comes to the definition and rights of service animals, so make sure that you are all up to date on your local guidelines. 

A happy couple sitting on a large bed with their small orange dog and a larger white dog in between them (pet interview)

If you have a tenant who requires a service animal, you can simply request a letter from the tenant or medical professional and confirm that this is the case. You may also request the identification of the animal as well as its records. 

However, you may not ask for a tenant’s medical records. Additionally, you can’t charge a pet security deposit or pet fee for service animals as this is considered a violation of the Fair Housing Act. If the animal causes damage to the rental property, the tenant will be responsible for the repairs. 

Pet Screening: Bottom Line

Although you might be reluctant to rent to tenants with pets at first, allowing pets in your rental property can bring many benefits. When you are able to properly screen both your new renters and their furry friends, you can rent out a pet-friendly property and be confident in your decision to do so.