Pet screening: guide for residential rental property managers

See how pet screenings can help you manage property damage, prevent noise complaints, and find the right tenants for your residential rental.
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June 12, 2024
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Pet screening: guide for residential rental property managers

Property Managers

To drive successful long-term rentals, you might find yourself re-evaluating the pet policy for your residential properties. This is because, as of 2024, 66% of US households own a pet, so being pet-friendly can significantly enhance your tenant appeal. However, much like disruptive tenants, not every pet is suitable for your property.

That's where pet screening comes in: It's a way to get to know your tenant's animals without risking potential neighbor complaints or property damage. Pet screenings can help you quickly attract the right tenant while maintaining peace of mind.

In this article, we'll walk you through everything you need to know as a landlord or property manager about pet screenings. We'll cover what they are, the benefits, and how to manage an effective screening process. We also explore exceptions to the rule, helping you create a better experience for both your tenants and their pets.

Pet screenings assess the suitability of pets staying in rental properties—like a tenant background check for animals. These screenings help make sure pets don't cause damage, disturb neighbors, or violate house rules. Here are some key considerations for landlords while conducting a pet screening: 

  • Breed and size. The breed and size of the pet are checked to determine if they fit within any breed or size restrictions set by the property owner or local regulations.
  • Vaccination records. Verification that the pet is up-to-date on vaccinations, including rabies, distemper, and other required immunizations.
  • Health status. General health of the pet, including any medical history like chronic conditions or illnesses that might require special attention or care.
  • Behavioral history. Information about the pet’s behavior, including any history of aggression, biting, excessive barking, or destructive behavior.
  • Flea and tick prevention. Confirmation that the pet is on a flea and tick prevention program to prevent infestations.
  • Spaying/neutering. Whether the pet has been spayed or neutered, as this can affect behavior and reduce the likelihood of certain health issues.
  • Age of the pet. The pet’s age, as younger pets (e.g., puppies and kittens) might require more supervision and training.
  • Microchip and identification. Whether the pet is microchipped and has proper identification tags in case it gets lost.

Key benefits of conducting pet screenings

Pet screenings give you the ability to ensure the safety, cleanliness, and peacefulness of your properties—while appealing to a larger rental market. Here's how: 

  • Property protection. Screenings let landlords enforce size and breed restrictions, which can be crucial in maintaining the structural integrity of the property and minimizing wear and tear. They can also help identify pets with destructive tendencies, reducing the risk of damage to furniture, flooring, and other property elements.
  • Neighbor management. Screening for behavioral issues such as excessive barking, aggression, or nervousness can make sure pets are less likely to disturb neighbors. This helps you manage expectations and maintain a harmonious living environment. 
  • Risk mitigation. Ensuring pets are vaccinated, protected against fleas and ticks, and housebroken can reduce the risk of property damage and keep properties and people safe.
  • Transparent landlord-tenant relationship. A thorough screening process establishes clear rules and expectations regarding pet behavior and care, preventing misunderstandings and disputes. This can foster trust and open communication with tenants.

Service and emotional support animals: What you need to know

Under the Fair Housing Act, tenants can submit a reasonable accommodation request like housing their service animals. This might involve waiving your no-pet policy or making an exception to house rules or pet guidelines.

Additionally, under the Americans with Disabilities Act, service animals are allowed in public spaces and housing.* Therefore, landlords are required to house pets and cannot charge fees or deposits for service animals. 

In these cases, you can ask if the animal is required because of a disability and what tasks it has been trained to perform. You can't, however, request documentation of the disability or require the animal to demonstrate its tasks.

* Similar acts are in force in other regions. For example:

  • Canada: The Canadian Human Rights Act and provincial human rights codes protect individuals with disabilities, ensuring they have the right to live with their service animals. Landlords cannot deny housing or charge additional fees for service animals.
  • European Union: Various countries within the EU have implemented disability discrimination laws. For example, the German Equal Opportunities for Disabled Persons Act and similar legislation in other EU countries protect the rights of individuals with disabilities, including the right to have service animals in their homes without additional charges.
  • United Kingdom: The Equality Act 2010 ensures that individuals with disabilities have the right to reasonable accommodations, including the presence of service animals. Landlords must make reasonable adjustments and cannot impose additional charges.

How to manage a pet screening: 4 steps

We've explored what pet screenings are, their benefits, and specific regulations that might bypass pet screenings. Now let's take a closer look at how to conduct a screening that lets you make an informed decision about your next tenant applications—and sustain pet-friendly properties.

1. Explain your policies and processes

Make sure potential tenants understand your pet policies upfront. Include information about allowed pet types, breeds, sizes, and any restrictions. You'll also need to specify the documents needed, such as vaccination records, health certificates, and proof of flea/tick prevention. 

With a clear picture of what's required, it's easier to move through the screening process and set expectations. This also involves sharing any pet-related fees, pet deposits, or additional pet rent charges the tenant should be aware of. 

Pro tip:
Use Minut’s Guest Connect to schedule templated messages, which allows you to automate how you share key information, like pet requirements, access credentials, and house rules.
Minut’s Guest Connect, mobile app view
Minut’s Guest Connect is a scalable solution to messaging and party prevention.

2. Know what to look for 

Allowing pets can pose a risk to landlords and property managers, especially when it comes to the wellbeing of other renters on the property. When screening a pet, it's important to look for signs of aggression or things that would cause noise and neighbor complaints—like incessant barking. 

Here are the top three red flags landlords should be aware of: 

  • Pet size. Confirm that the pet’s breed and size are appropriate for your property, especially if there are specific restrictions or space considerations.
  • Aggressive breeds or behavior. Any history or signs of aggression, such as growling, snapping, or biting, are major deal breakers. Aggressive pets can pose a significant risk to other tenants, visitors, and property staff.

Lack of basic training. Pets that are too young or haven't undergone basic training like housebreaking can cause damage to the property and create disturbances for neighbors.

Pro tip: Install Minut’s noise monitoring sensor to determine if tenants and their pets are respecting noise levels. Then, send automated messages to ensure they keep the noise down, so you can prevent neighbor complaints before they happen.
Minut’s automated guest messaging feature with the mobile app
Automate noise detection and messaging to quickly handle issues at any unit at any time.
Source

3. Ask these pet screening application questions 

To help you get a better idea of your prospective tenant's pet, run through a series of probing questions during the pet screening process. These questions can paint a clearer picture of the pet/owner dynamic and whether they're a good fit for your property. Here are some questions to get you started: 

  1. What type of pet do you have?
  2. How many pets do you have?
  3. How long have you been the owner of your pet?
  4. How many hours a day does your pet spend alone?
  5. Can you provide a letter from your veterinarian confirming your pet's health?
  6. Are you able to provide a written reference for your pet from your current landlord?
  7. Does your pet have any behavioral or medical issues? If yes, what training or treatment are you using?
  8. Who takes care of your pet when you are on vacation or in case of a medical emergency?
  9. Are you willing to pay a pet security deposit if required?
  10. Is your pet trained to use the toilet indoors?

These questions can help you feel more comfortable throughout the screening process by drawing attention to any red flags. Plus, it ensures the owner and pet can adapt well to the rules of a rental environment. 

4. Meet the pet in person

If you do happen upon some red flags along the application process, you might need to take this last and crucial step. Meeting the pet in person is a good opportunity to observe their behavior, ask any follow-up questions, and verify the information provided during the screening. 

It might also be helpful to hold the meeting at the rental property. This lets you assess whether the pet appears comfortable and manageable in a new environment similar to or the same as your rental property.

If you're managing your vacation rental remotely, consider setting up a video call with the owner and meeting the pet virtually. This can still be a great way to screen for signs of aggression, nervousness, or hyperactivity—and find the right tenants. 

Keep the peace with pet screenings

You may have suffered from unruly pets or neighbor complaints in the past, but permanent residents simply want a peaceful existence.

In most cases, you can put everyone's concerns at rest by ensuring the pets you do host match your house rules and pet regulations. 

Communicate your expectations to tenants by establishing house rules in your listings and sending scheduled messages during their stay. Also, include pet screening as part of your booking process to better understand the pets that will be living on your property. 

In addition, consider installing noise monitoring, crowd control, and home protection sensors to maintain a peaceful environment, and automate messages to ensure tenants and their pets keep the noise down.

By taking advantage of STR technology like Minut, you can keep your residential rental properties in line with noise ordinances and preemptively manage the issues that upset neighbors.