A common concern for many landlords is whether to allow pets to reside on a rental property. While it may seem like a daunting decision at first, learn why Capitol Hill landlords should have a pet screening procedure in place, that way you can rest easy knowing that you have made a good decision.
At Real Property Management DC Metro, we are an equal opportunity housing business, so we do not discriminate against potential clients in the selection and screening process. While many landlords understand that they cannot discriminate against potential residents, they often are not aware that many of these same rules go for animals too.
Under the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, assistance and service animals are allowed to be on any property as long as they are registered as a support animal for a disability, which is defined by the FHA as “a physical or mental impairment which significantly limits a person’s major life activities”.
So, before you tell a resident that they are not permitted to have pets, you are still required to give “reasonable accommodation” to residents with support animals. Service animals administered by the ADA are legally allowed anywhere and are defined as a dog or miniature horse that has been trained to do work to perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability.
Don’t confuse a pet with a service or assistance animal as you may find yourself in an unwanted legal situation. By having a thorough pet screening procedure in place, you will be able to determine if the animal is, in fact, an assistance or service animal and act accordingly to law.
Contact Past Landlords
Calling the references is a fairly common practice when screening residents, and this is a tool that can be used to determine if a pet will be a good fit for your rental property. By inquiring about the animal’s behavior, if it ever disturbed the peace and generally how the past landlord liked it, you can gain a lot of valuable information without outright saying no to a resident’s request for a pet.
Don’t be afraid to lease to a resident with a medium or large sized dog due to unfounded fears. The big bully in your mind could really be a big teddy bear that does more to make your residents and neighbors happy than annoyed.
Include Pet Riders in Lease Agreement
Additionally, a vital step to the pet screening process is including a pet rider in your lease agreement. This ensures that the animal’s presence on the property is both known, and accounted for in terms of property damage. Some landlords will add a pet addendum if their current residents want to get a pet after they have moved in, but it is best to have a pet rider in the original document.
Some basic elements that the pet rider should include are:
- Pet details: breed, color, gender, age, and weight
- Pet fee: if it is not an assistance animal you are able to charge a fee for a resident to own a pet on your property
- Damage deposit: this deposit will be returned if the pet does not incur any damages during its stay
- Vaccination list: have resident include type of vaccination and date
By having this legally binding document you are ensured that no additional pets can be added without your consent and that the pet residing on the property is fit to be around other animals and residents of the neighborhood. This legal rider will ensure that if any curve-balls are thrown your way, it is the responsibility of the owner to ensure that the issues are handled properly.
Take Photos of Pet
Another important step in the pet screening process is to take photos of the pet. Imagine the surprise you would have when making an entry on a property to perform maintenance only to discover that the small Chihuahua that your resident signed for is a Great Dane.
By taking a photo you are efficiently recording details such as the type of animal, its general size and markings and any other important information about the pet will help ensure that one pet doesn’t turn into three, and a small dog doesn’t end up being a much larger issue.
Do More Business
Ultimately, having a pet screening policy helps you do more business. While you might initially shy away from allowing non-assistance animals on your property many potential residents look for single-family-homes to rent over apartments based on owning a pet. You can potentially even make more money by charging a fee per month to own a pet.
Pet owners are often more responsible than your average resident. If they have taken the time to train their pet, find appropriate care for their pet when they are gone and are not willing to leave their pet due to rental policies then this might be the type of resident you want in your property. While this is not true for all pet owners, it is something to consider when screening both residents and animals.
When you rely on Real Property Management DC Metro for your property management services, we do more than just respond to repair calls. We assist landlords and investment homeowners alike to put responsible, compatible residents in your rental property and to ensure that all possible liabilities such as pets are properly screened so that the rental experience is a good one for both you and your residents.
We are pledged to the letter and spirit of U.S. policy for the achievement of equal housing opportunity throughout the Nation. See Equal Housing Opportunity Statement for more information.