Tips for Running Background Checks on Tenants With Pets

For many landlords, choosing not to rent to tenants with pets (cats and dogs) is choosing not to deal with the issues that come with our furry companions: property damage, noise issues, excess wear and tear, liability, etc. But according to a national survey of pet owners conducted by the American Pet Product Association (APPA), nearly 50% of homeowners also own a dog and at least 45% own a cat. That’s a huge percentage of the population and representative of a whole lot of potential business.

Some landlords opt to lend to pet owners on a case by case basis, incorporating added fees to compensate for additional wear and tear on the property. Landlords should put into effect these and other safeguards to safely and conscientiously lend to pet owners while protecting their investment property.

How to Properly Screen Tenants with Pets

  • First, confirm with your insurance company how your coverage extends to pet-owning tenants in terms of liability protection.
  • Second, meet the pet. Get as much information about the pet(s) in question as you can and make an in-person introduction. Assess the pet’s behavior and determine if you it on the property. If the tenant intends to get a pet in the future, consider a weight limit and request to be informed of the selection beforehand.
  • Third, conduct a thorough background check of the tenant that includes interviews with former landlords and even neighbors. What kind of pet owner was the prospective tenant? Did they pick up after the pet? Was the pet given exercise or was it kenneled for long periods of time? Were there barking issues or biting incidents? Ask targeted questions to get workable answers.
  • Fourth, make sure the pet clause in your lease agreement is iron tight. There may be fines for neglecting to pick up waste. The pet may be required to be spayed or neutered. There may be a weight limit, restrictions on multiple animals. Whatever you decide, make sure you are familiar with fair housing laws concerning service animals.
  • Fifth, while it can be argued that some animals do less property damage than their humans, in general, housing an animal means the occasional accident on the carpet, chewed molding, scratched flooring, or holes dug in the lawn. Because of this, it is normal and fair to increase the base rent and/or make a larger portion of the deposit nonrefundable.

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