As the property owner, you have the last word when it comes to the pets that are allowed inside your Florida rental property. You’re also responsible for enforcing the rules that pet owners must follow throughout their lease.
Screening pets can be challenging, but by allowing tenants with pets to occupy your property, you are expanding your pool of applicants. Your consideration of their situation, especially if they have service dogs, will increase your chances of attracting grateful renters who will become long-term tenants.
Why Do You Need to Screen Pets?
Allowing pets inside your rental property brings a certain degree of risk. Dogs, cats, and other animals are likely to damage your property and disturb the neighbors. Dogs will bark endlessly in the middle of the night, cats will scratch furniture and many more. However, a survey by Apartments.com has shown that over 70% of American apartment renters have pets. Banning pets from your rental unit means that you’re also saying no to a vast pool of potential tenants.
If you’re hesitant to lease your rental property to tenants with pets, there are ways that you can minimize the risk involved. The main purpose of pet screening is to avoid leasing the property to a tenant with an animal that is undisciplined, dangerous, not vaccinated, or otherwise problematic. Essentially, pet screening is similar to tenant screening. You are ensuring that your property is rented by the most qualified residents. In this case, that includes pets.
Pet screening allows you to determine whether the applicant’s pet would be a liability. It also allows you to create guidelines for all pet owners. If rules are not enough to put your mind at ease, you can even impose an additional fee for pet owners — much like a security deposit.
What Happens During a Pet Screening?
Prospective tenants should submit their application along with their pet’s application whenever they plan to rent one of your properties. A pet application is also called a pet resume. It includes information such as:
- Number of pets
- Name, age, and breed of each pet
- Photos of each pet
- Veterinary records or health summary
- History of aggression (if any)
- Training certifications and awards
What you’re doing is gathering information about each pet to determine whether allowing them in your property won’t be a liability to your investment and the neighbors. Keep in mind that you should keep the documents on file should there be an issue with your tenant’s pets in the future.
Some cities have strict regulations concerning the breeds of dogs that can be considered pets. Be sure to familiarize yourself with these laws or hire a property management company to verify these rules for you.
Once the applicant has submitted the necessary documents, you can meet with him/her and their pet. Go through basic commands such as “sit” and “stay” to give you an idea of the pet’s obedience, and whether or not they will respond to commands from other residents in the building or neighborhood. Then, walk the pet around the property to see how they react to their new environment. Consider walking them off-leash to see if they are aggressive to other residents, especially to kids and other animals.
What Questions Do You Need to Ask During Pet Screenings?
Most Florida property management firms follow the same procedure for pet screenings. In general, the following questions should be asked to help property owners determine whether a pet should be allowed in the property:
General Questions for Pet Owners
- What breed of pet do you have?
- How long have you had your pet?
- Are your pets in good health?
- Are their vaccinations up-to-date? Can your veterinarian verify this?
- Does your pet have medical conditions or behavioral issues?
- Who will take care of your pet while you’re away or during an emergency?
- Do you agree to pay a pet security deposit as a contingency fee?
- Is your pet used to being left alone in the house?
Questions for Cat Owners
- Is your cat spayed or neutered?
- Do you allow your cat to go outdoors?
- Is the cat litter-trained?
- Does your cat have an identification tag? Is your cat microchipped?
- How do you deal with fleas and ticks?
Questions for Dog Owners
- Has your dog completed training classes?
- Is your dog spayed or neutered?
- Does your dog wear an identification tag at all times?
- Do you walk your dog on-leash or off-leash?
- Do you commit to cleaning up after your dog?
- How do you deal with fleas and ticks?
- Is your dog used to spending time alone indoors?
There are other questions that you might ask during the pet screening process. However, you must handle the matter gently. Overwhelming pet owners with questions may make them feel uncomfortable.
Pet owners with “dangerous” breeds may feel targeted and discriminated against. Make it clear that the requirements for all pets are the same across all breeds. This will assure pet owners that you are taking an impartial approach and that you aren’t favoring nor targeting specific breeds.
What About Service and Emotional Support Animals?
Service animals help persons with disabilities, whether intellectual, physical, sensory, psychiatric and others, perform specific tasks. Under the Fair Housing Act (FHA), service animals cannot be banned unless they threaten the health and safety of others. If a tenant requires a service animal for any type of disability, you cannot require him/her to prove that they are disabled. In other words, pet screening doesn’t apply to service animals.
On the other hand, emotional support animals do not perform specific tasks to assist persons with disabilities but instead offer emotional stability. Under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), emotional support animals are not service animals. Hence, it is up to you to determine whether the emotional support animal should be allowed inside the property, as long as you stay within local and state laws. However, do keep in mind that some people keep snakes, miniature horses, and other uncommon pets as emotional support animals.
Need a Hand?
Luxury Property Care follows a thorough pet screening process for all types of animals. If you need help conducting pet screenings for your Florida rental property, give us a call at (561) – 944 2992 or complete the contact form. Our property managers would be delighted to assist you.