Animal Screening for Landlords: Laws and Best Practices

The screening of pets is an important check for any landlord who allows animals in their rental units. As with screening tenants, a background check on a tenant’s pet can help you know if the dog, cat, or other four-legged resident is a good fit. Screening pets is an excellent way to determine if the animal is not aggressive, house trained, and properly vaccinated.

Another reason to screen pets is to rule out the possibility of fraud. Some pet owners try to pass their pets off as help animals. For fear of discrimination allegations, some landlords hesitate to inquire about the legitimate need of the prospective tenant for an assistance animal. Professional pet screening services can help validate support or service animals.

This article explores the growing trend towards using digital solutions to screen pets. You will also learn how to check-out a pet along with its owner.

What is animal screening?

Pet screening is like a background check of a renter’s dog, cat, or other animals. The screening process should help the landlord get an overall picture of the pet’s behavior, health, and care. Pet screening is required for new tenants and existing tenants making a pet application.

Many landlords carry out the animal screening themselves during the conversation with the tenant. Usually the pet should be present so you can observe the animal’s behavior. The animal screening application should contain the following information:

  • name of the pet
  • Details of the breed, height, weight, gender and age of the pet
  • Previous addresses where the pet owner lived
  • Medical history, including vaccinations, health issues, and veterinarian contact information
  • Behavioral problems such as noise complaints, reported aggression, or biting
  • House workout

It is important to remember that the animal screening process should allow you to confirm the facts provided by the owner. This means turning to previous residences where the owner and pet lived. In addition, you should review the animal’s medical history.

You should make sure that your screening process is impartial. This will help prevent problems where certain breed owners feel bullied or discriminated against because of the type of animal they own.

What about the screening of service animals?

It is against the law to check the service animal or animal for emotional support to a renter. According to the HUD, a service animal helps, performs tasks, or provides emotional support to help a person with a disability. An assistance animal is not considered a pet by law; Therefore, there are no pet deposits or fees. You also cannot refuse housing to someone with a disability who has a service animal.

In 2020, the HUD published guidelines on the rights of people with disabilities to have a service animal. According to the guidelines, housing providers can “request reliable records if a person requesting adequate accommodation has a disabled and accessible need for accommodation that is not apparent or otherwise known”.

In addition, the type of service animal should be “usually kept in households”.“Therefore, animals in the stable, monkeys and other non-domesticated animals are usually not considered service animals.

There are certain circumstances under which landlords can refuse a service animal. For example, if the animal is illegal in your state, the animal poses a threat to other renters, or the owner is not responsible for noise issues or litter.


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Landlords: Should you allow pets in your rental apartments? This is where Advance Guide professionals explain the why and why not.


Why Use a Professional Animal Screening Service?

It can be difficult for landlords to decide whether animals are allowed in rental units. Even if you have a no pets policy, you cannot refuse to house someone with a disability and an animal for emotional support. Additionally, knowing a pet’s behavior from an interview with the owner can be difficult.

Some landlords use online pet screening services when processing rental applications. This is just like performing credit checks or background checks on tenants. As a rule, the cost of examining a pet is billed to the prospective tenant. This will allow the landlord to have accurate information about the breed, behavioral history and medical details.

What if a tenant or prospective tenant submits an appropriate application for an assistance animal to be housed? In this case there are no costs for a screening procedure. The animal testing company confirms the authenticity of the documents submitted. In this way, as a landlord, you can reduce your liability when you bring companion animals into rented apartments.

In many cases, a professional animal screening service can help you avoid fraudulent claims. HUD officials warn that it is easy to obtain service animal license documents for a fee. However, only legitimate licensed healthcare professionals can confirm whether a person with a disability needs a service animal.

How to screen pets

What should you look out for when examining pets with a prospective tenant? Here are a few tips to help you spot the signs of a good pet.

  • Appearance of the pet. Does the animal look healthy and happy? Do you have a good relationship with the owner? A well-fed pet that has a strong bond with its parent is a good sign that the owner is taking good care of them.
  • Behavior. Ask the owner to give the pet a few commands. Does the animal react well? Does the owner seem in control? You can also give a few commands to see how the pet reacts. Does a dog bark excessively? Does the dog behave aggressively when you approach him?

Of course, it may not make sense to personally screen all pets. But dogs are the most common pets and can be the most headache for home owners. In general, landlords prefer to meet a renter’s dog lover before approving the rental application.


Being a landlord can be fun – if you do it right

No matter how good you are at finding great rental property deals, you can lose it all if you don’t manage your property properly. Being a landlord doesn’t mean calling in the middle of the night, doing costly evictions, or bothering with ungrateful tenants on a daily basis.


Rental to pet owners

If you do decide to rent units to renters with pets, your choice is whether to bill for them. This is useful as animals can cause additional wear and tear in an apartment. However, under the Fair Housing Act, you can never charge a service animal fee. Also, be sure to check your country’s laws on pet fee collection.

There are three types of fees that you can apply to renters with pets.

  • Pet fee. A one-time fee to cover possible additional charges for pets living on the property. This fee is non-refundable and can be calculated for any pet. You can also set different fees for different species, sizes, and breeds.
  • Rent a pet. As the term suggests, a monthly fee to cover pet wear and tear on the property. You can have a flat rate or rental price based on the type of pet and size.
  • Deposit for pets. Similar to the deposit. You return the deposit when the tenant leaves the property in an acceptable condition. It is important to remember that not all states allow pet deposit.

Just like screening tenants, screening their pets is also a good idea. Using an online pet screening service can help alleviate the problems with admitting pets to your rental property. The service can perform background checks on the medical and behavioral history of each owner’s pet. In addition, a pet screening service can legally confirm whether a person requesting an animal for emotional support is eligible.

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