When you allow pets in your rental property, you broaden your pool of quality potential tenants. However, permitting pets in your rental property requires handling the situation with just as much care as you would a potential tenant!
As the landlord, you have discretion with respect to the types of pets you allow in your Orlando rental property. You’re also in charge of how you screen pets, and enforcing the guidelines pet owners must follow to keep a pet during their stay.
It can be a tricky subject, but also worthwhile if you have a documented pet screening process. When you have more options available for applicants to see your property as appealing, you expand the likelihood of attracting excellent tenants who turn into long-term renters.
Is It Even Necessary to Screen Pets?
In short, yes!
Much like a tenant, you don’t know the history of a pet: you need to screen pets as thoroughly as you vet their owners. In some cases, a landlord could be responsible if a tenant’s pet bites or attacks someone! If a pet has a violent history, you need to know that information before you allow the pet to live on your property.
You also want to make sure a pet doesn’t bring diseases, fleas, ticks, or other unwanted and potentially dangerous conditions into your investment. If you own a multi-family property, it’s your responsibility to protect other tenants from aggressive or sick pets.
The best way to protect your property and tenants from a terrible pet situation is a thorough pet screening process.
Before Screening, Determine Your "Pet Criteria"
Before you screen pets, determine your criteria for an “acceptable” pet; be sure to thoroughly document your criteria as well. Consider things like:
- Maximum size
- Acceptable breeds
If you don’t want to deal with 500 pound Florida alligators, puppies younger than six months old, or snakes of any age, add that to your criteria when excluding a pet.
Be Sensitive When Screening
Are you a pet owner? If you own a pet, you probably think yours is the most fantastic creature ever to grace the Earth! Chances are, your potential tenant feels the same way about their pet. It can be upsetting for an applicant to have to answer questions about their dog, cat, or alligator and provide paperwork to verify that the pet is safe and worthy to live in your property.
When it comes to owners of certain “dangerous” breeds, they can feel especially targeted—as a landlord, you need to avoid any appearance of discrimination when screening applicants.
Take an impartial approach during your pet screening process. Make it clear that all pets must go through this process, or the owner can't live in your property.
- Include a pet application with every tenant application.
- Document pet policies and requirements on the application.
- For current tenants who want to add a pet to the lease, they must follow the same pet screening process.
- Make sure you document all pet guidelines (and penalties for violation) in a contract addendum when you accept a tenant and pet into your property.
By making it clear that all pets go through this process, you let a pet owner know that you aren’t targeting any specific breed.
Remember to require a pet screening/application fee, and an additional pet deposit when you approve a pet. This amount is in addition to what the tenant pays for a security deposit.
Be Specific When Screening
Your potential tenants must provide plenty of documentation to make sure they qualify to live in your property—pets are no exception! You need details and documentation about every pet. Be sure your pet screening application includes:
- The pet’s name
- The pet's breed, gender, and age
- All addresses where the owner has lived with the pet (for the past two years)
- The pet's weight
- Behavior history (any noise complaints, reports of bites or attacks)
- Vet history (records of exams, vet contact information, vaccinations or additional health issues)
- House training
Before approving a pet, confirm this information with the pet’s vet and prior landlords.
Be Aware of Exceptions for Service Animals
If your applicant has a service animal—or a current tenant now requires one—your pet screening criteria doesn’t (and can’t) apply.
Landlords must accommodate a service animal for tenants. However, with caution, you can request documentation to verify the animal as a service animal: service animals perform a task for someone with a disability, and they receive commensurate training and documentation.
Let the Professionals Help with Pets
If you’re not a pet-lover, that’s okay—you don’t have to love dogs or cats to see the benefit of allowing pets into your Orlando rental properties.
Let a professional property manager handle your pet screening and approval process: they'll work with you to create your unique pet screening criteria, manage applications, and approve only the best pets. Verandah Properties is your secret to pet-proofing your screening process. Start with a FREE Rental Analysis for your property and see how we can put our skills to work for you!