If you know anything about Renters Warehouse DC/NOVA, you know that we’re big fans of protecting the value of your Washington DC rental home via a thorough, unbiased screening process. When you work with us to screen potential tenants for your rental property, you rest easy knowing you’re on the right side of the law—and offering your investment the first line of defense against the nightmare of “Professional Tenants.”
However, as an expert property management company in Washington DC, we’d like to pose a question: Do you screen your potential “pet renters” as well? You may not have even considered this as a possibility before.
Still, screening any pets you plan on allowing into your rental property is just as important as screening the tenant they’re attached to! Neglecting to screen pets can result in the following nightmare scenarios:
- Fido seems friendly at first—at least to you! It turns out they have a history of aggressive behavior with postal workers. A mail carrier is injured delivering mail to your property, and now you’re stuck with a legal headache—and responsibility.
- You consider yourself a forward-thinking landlord, so you allow pets in your Washington DC rental home—but you neglected to outline which pets are okay in the lease! One day you’re performing a routine inspection, and you find dozens of caged ferrets in the living room. The stench is unbelievable—what do you do?
- You outline in your lease that you don’t allow pets—but during an inspection, you find that your tenant has a cat on-premises. The tenant claims the cat is an “Emotional Support Animal” and that they have the paperwork to prove it. What’s your next move?
This is just a small sampling of what you might encounter as a landlord when it comes to pets and your Washington DC rental home. If you have a thorough pet screening process in advance, you can face these encounters head-on—and avoid the appearance of bias if you have to deal with something that violates your lease later. Detailing your pet screening process also points out places in your lease that might need further delineation to protect your investment better.
In today’s blog post, we’re going to walk you through some things all landlords should consider when it comes to the pet screening process for a rental home. Take it from an expert property management company in Washington DC: you do NOT want to be on the wrong side of the law with this one!
Just a quick note before we begin: While this article is going to give you an overview of the crucial elements you need to understand when it comes to screening pets for your rental home, this post is not intended as legal advice. When in doubt, seek out expert legal counsel—or turn to your trusted property manager.
Why Your Pet Screening Process Matters
Ultimately, your pet screening process is a component of your lease, and it serves to protect the health of your Washington DC rental home. Think of your lease like a suit of armor: when there are gaps in your lease, there are gaps in the “armor” that protects your property. When you don’t have a thorough pet screening process, you expose your rental home to unnecessary risks—like some of those we outlined above.
So, how do you build a thorough—and ethical—pet screening process? Here’s a couple of tips to consider to get you started.
Define What’s Acceptable in Your Lease
Your lease is your opportunity to say what is and isn’t allowed when it comes to your investment property. If you don’t want feral ferrets, dangerous dog breeds, or the risk of rabid pet raccoons in your rental home, now’s the time to make it known. You should also clearly define weight and size limitations for acceptable breeds, as well as how many of each type of pet are allowed. Being upfront about these policies in your lease will protect you later in the event of a violation.
Outline Your Pricing Policy
Pet rent is now a national standard when it comes to renting to tenants with pets; to access your share of this income pool, you’ll need to outline how much you intend to charge per month per pet. You should also state how much you charge for your pet deposit, as well.
The Service Animals Exception
This is one of those things you CANNOT afford to get wrong with your rental home! Don’t get on the wrong side of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or the Fair Housing Act (FHA). Under the Fair Housing Act, you can’t deny tenants who have an emotional support animal or service animal from accessing your property. You must provide reasonable accommodation—even if you decide not to allow pets. On the upside, service animals are well trained—they make fantastic “pet renters!”
Emotional support animals require documentation to verify their status, but they are covered under the FHA to the same degree as service animals. You cannot charge tenants with service animals or emotional support animals pet rent or a pet deposit.
With all of these regulations—and more—in mind, this is one of those times when working with a property manager can protect both you and your properties.
What to Include in Your Screening Process
While working with an expert property management company in Washington DC makes this next step easy, you can also draft your own list of questions to investigate when screening pets. Here are some prospects to get you started:
- Ask for the pet’s name, breed, weight, age, and gender. This will make it easy to confirm with their vet in the next step!
- Ask for information relating to the pet’s current vet. Getting a specific name, address, and number can make verifying the above information much more manageable.
- Verify vaccination information with the vet: you don’t want to be the landlord that allows unvaccinated pets in your property.
- Ask for a record of behavior and past rental history, and verify it with the former landlord.
Your mileage may vary with the above questions, of course: it would be tough to apply most of these criteria to a fish or pet millipede (yes, it’s a real thing). Tailor your screening queries to what fits your rental property, or work with a property manager who can help you.
Your Property Manager Makes Pet Policies Easy!
If screening your human tenants isn’t already challenging enough to get right, screening pets takes on another dimension of difficulty. You expose yourself to risk when it comes to bias against pets just as you would with their human counterpart! However, you can make this process easy on yourself when you work with one of the most trusted faces in Rent Estate™.
Renters Warehouse DC/NOVA is your pet screening professional: we’ve been doing this for years, and we know precisely how to handle this delicate process—including lease enforcement, should there be a violation. Renting to tenants with pets can be lucrative, and it opens up your tenant pool tremendously! There’s no reason a landlord should have to fear paws in their pad when they work with us.
If you need some help in crafting your air-tight lease—complete with pet screening policy—reach out to us! Experience the relief and financial freedom that comes from expertly managed rentals.