Pet screening can be a difficult subject to talk about, but it's important for property owners to understand the best ways of allowing pets in rentals—and what it can do for your income!
It can be distressing for an applicant to have to answer questions about their dog, cat, or chinchilla and provide paperwork to verify that their pet is safe and worthy of living in your property. However, when marketing your rental, permitting pets in your rental property can broaden your pool of high caliber potential tenants.
As an expert Jacksonville property management company, we know that allowing pets is something that should be handled with just as much care as you take in screening a potential new (human) tenant! Follow these tips to screen pets (the right way).
Set Your Criteria
Depending on the species and personality of individual animals, pets can potentially cause significant damage to your rental or cause disruptions to other tenants.
As a landlord, the types and breeds of pets you allow in your Jacksonville rental property are at your discretion. You are also in charge of your pet screening process, as well as enforcing the guidelines pet owners must comply with to keep a pet during their stay.
Document the Process and Criteria
While it can be a delicate subject, it is worthwhile to have a documented pet screening process in place. Rental properties that allow pets can attract quality renters who stay for more than one lease term (and boost your income). Pet owners often find it challenging to find rental properties that accept pets. When they find one, they work hard to be excellent tenants and will renew the lease to avoid trying to find another pet-friendly home.
Before you screen pets, determine your criteria for an “acceptable” pet and thoroughly document these criteria. Consider things like:
- Maximum size
- Acceptable breeds
Be explicit. If you aren't in the market to deal with 400-pound alligators or ferrets of any age, add that to your criteria for excluding a pet. Don't forget to require a pet screening application fee and an additional pet deposit when a pet is approved (in addition to what the tenant is paying for a security deposit).
Dealing With "Dangerous" Breeds
Take an impartial approach and make it clear that all pets go through the pet screening process. Owners of pets that are considered “dangerous” breeds can feel especially targeted. Make sure to:
- Include a pet application with all tenant applications
- Document pet policies and requirements on your application
- Follow the same pet screening process for current tenants who want to add a pet to the lease
- Document all pet guidelines (and penalties for any violations) in a contract addendum when you accept a tenant with a pet into your property
Work with a property manager to avoid any appearance of discrimination when screening applicants with pets.
How to Screen Pets
Not knowing the history of a pet is much like not knowing the history of your tenant. You need to screen a potential tenant's pets as thoroughly as you are vetting their owners. There are cases where a landlord could be responsible if a tenant’s pet bites or attacks someone. If a pet has a violent history, it is important to know that before allowing the pet to live on your property.
Your pet screening application should include:
- Pet's name
- Pet's breed, gender, weight, and age
- Addresses where the owner has lived with the pet (within the past two years)
- Behavior history (noise complaints, reports of bites, or attacks)
- Vet history (records of exams, vet contact info, vaccinations, and additional health issues)
Make sure that a pet doesn’t bring diseases, fleas, ticks, or other unwanted and potentially dangerous pests or illnesses into your rental. If the property you own is multi-family, it is also your responsibility to protect the other tenants from aggressive or sick pets.
Before approving a pet, make sure to confirm the information provided with their pet’s vet and their prior landlords.
Service and Therapy Animals Are Exceptions
Pet screening criteria do not apply if your potential or current tenant needs a service animal. Landlords are required to accommodate a service animal for tenants. Service animals perform a task for someone with a disability. As such, they receive corresponding training and documentation. You can request a copy of this documentation for your records to verify that the animal is a service animal.
Skip the Hassle and Let Jacksonville Property Management Handle Pets
It's ok to not be a pet-lover, but even if you don’t have an affinity for cats and dogs, it is easy to see the benefit of allowing pets into your Jacksonville rental properties! To avoid the hassle that this extra screening requires, you may find it is easier to hire a professional Jacksonville property management company to handle your pet screening and approval process.
Spectrum Realty Services handles pets of all shapes and sizes! We'll work with you to create pet screening criteria unique to you, manage applications, and approve only the best pets. Contact us today to see how we can put our skills to work for you!