Creating Pet Policies that Work- Key Elements of Effective Pet Screening in Jackson, Mississippi

Allowing pets in your Jackson rental property is one of the sure ways to expand your pool of applicants. Since pet ownership in the United States is at an all-time high, the demand for pet-friendly rental properties is continuously rising. 

According to the survey conducted by Apartments.com, over 70% of American renters prefer to have pets in their homes. As a result, allowing pets can help you attract more prospective renters and ensure maximum revenue. 

However, opening up your rentals to pets can be intimidating. Sometimes, the pets may pose risks to your property and cause damage to furniture and landscaping, reducing your property’s market value. 

The solution is to find the right balance. You can allow pets and service animals on your property but set certain limitations by screening pets and crafting a comprehensive pet policy. 

Here is a comprehensive guide on creating pet policies and screening pets before allowing them in your Jackson rental home.

 

Creating an Effective Pet Policy

Pets have the potential to display aggression and engage in destructive behavior, leading to significant financial losses, often amounting to thousands of dollars. Moreover, they might expose property owners to legal liabilities.

For instance, if a tenant’s pet attacks a neighbor, the affected neighbor could charge negligence on the landlord’s part, resulting in a possible lawsuit. However, implementing a complete pet ban might impact the property occupancy rate unfavorably.

To mitigate these challenges, landlords can establish a well-thought-out pet policy that safeguards both their interests and the well-being of their tenants. Creating a comprehensive pet policy involves several steps, as follows.

 

Incorporate a Pet Lease Agreement

Incorporating a pet agreement into the lease is of paramount importance. While verbal communication can provide tenants with an understanding of the property’s pet regulations, it is imperative to translate these guidelines into written form. 

This documentation is tangible evidence that upon affixing their signature, tenants have consented to adhere to the stipulated pet regulations and protocols outlined in the lease agreement.

Notably, even in cases where tenants presently do not possess pets, the inclusion of this pet agreement remains crucial. Ensure you include all restrictions, associated fees, and penalties for violations within the pet agreement to ensure comprehensive coverage. 

 

Apply Pet Restrictions

While fair housing laws prohibit discrimination against tenants, it’s important to note that these laws do not extend to pets. When formulating a pet policy for rental properties, it’s advisable to establish limitations on animal types.

Property managers and landlords typically grant permission exclusively for conventional domestic pets, including dogs, cats, fish, birds, hamsters, and similar animals. It’s essential also to be mindful of state-specific regulations.

In certain states, like Florida, landlords are prohibited from discriminating against service 

animals. Nonetheless, they might still opt to regulate pets based on size and breed, although these restrictions might not apply to service animals.

 

Impose Pet Requirements

It is equally important to set clear pet requirements. Every dog and cat on the property should wear collars with ID tags. They also need to have their vaccinations and licenses up to date.

These rules can differ depending on where you’re located, so it’s essential to check your local and state laws for guidance. To ensure your tenant follows these rules, ask them to provide proof, like current vaccination records and a copy of the municipal license receipt. 

 

Ask to Meet the Pet Beforehand

Arranging a meeting with your tenant’s pet before finalizing the lease is crucial. It’s different from just looking at papers – meeting the pet lets you gauge its behavior firsthand. During this meeting, you can obtain a preliminary sense of the pet’s demeanor, whether amicable or aggressive.

It’s also essential to pose these crucial questions to your potential tenant:

  • Where did you acquire your pet?
  • Has your pet caused property damage or harmed individuals or other animals?
  • How long have you been a pet owner?
  • Who is responsible for pet care when you’re not home?

Engaging in this process will contribute to a well-informed decision-making process and foster transparency between you and your tenant regarding their pet.

 

Charge Pet Fee, Deposit and Rent

Some landlords are hesitant about pet deposits or fees but offer protection against property damage. Consider a refundable pet deposit, separate from the security deposit, if allowed in your state.

Set deposit amounts according to pet type, breed, and size. For example, a large dog might need a higher deposit than a small cat. Harmless pets like goldfish might not need a deposit.

If damage occurs, use the deposit for repairs. Document the wear and tear during inspections, with pictures, and provide repair cost details.

Pet fees cover extra wear on the unit and surroundings, but legality varies by state. For instance, landlords and property owners commonly charge pet deposits ranging from $200 to $500 in Florida. 

Often, this fee is non-refundable. Thus, it’s crucial to explicitly outline the payment amount within the lease agreement and detail these funds’ disposition at the rental term’s conclusion. Alternatively, landlords might charge pet rent monthly instead of a one-time fee.

 

Define Tenant Responsibilities 

Incorporating your pet agreement should outline the various obligations expected of your tenant. Specifically, they must assume the responsibility of cleaning up after their pet.

Furthermore, they should consistently ensure that their pet remains under their supervision and never leave them unattended. 

Landlords should take preventive measures to prevent their pets from escaping their designated area. For instance, suitable enclosures should be employed if a pet includes a hamster or lizard. It’s worth considering the prevailing regulations within your state. Depending on these legal considerations, you might also stipulate the necessity for renters’ liability insurance to cover potential pet-related incidents, damages, and associated liabilities.

 

Have a Different Policy Regarding Animal or Emotional Support Animals

Service animals aid individuals with various disabilities, encompassing intellectual, physical, sensory, psychiatric, and more, by performing specific tasks. The Fair Housing Act (FHA) mandates that service animals cannot be prohibited except if they pose a threat to the well-being of others.

When a tenant says they need a service animal due to any disability, you cannot demand disability verification. In essence, the usual pet screening rules do not apply to service animals. Emotional support animals do not do specific tasks for disability assistance but provide emotional comfort. As per ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) guidelines, emotional support animals are distinct from service animals. 

Consequently, the decision to permit an emotional support animal within the property is within your purview, provided it aligns with local and state regulations. It’s worth noting that emotional support animals can encompass unconventional pets like snakes or miniature horses.

 

Critical Elements of Effective Pet Screening in Jackson, MS

Pet screening prevents leasing the property to tenants with undisciplined, dangerous, unvaccinated, or troublesome animals. The process lets you evaluate if the applicant’s pet could pose a liability and helps establish consistent pet owner guidelines. Here are the key elements to consider while performing pet screening in Jackson:

 

Pet application

When intending to rent one of your properties, potential tenants should submit both their and their pet’s applications, often referred to as a pet resume. This document includes essential details like:

  • Quantity of pets
  • Names, ages, and breeds of each pet
  • Photographs of each pet
  • Veterinary records or health synopses
  • Past instances of aggression (if applicable)
  • Training certifications and accolades

Retaining these records for future reference is crucial in case any complications arise concerning the tenant’s pets.

 

Questionnaire

Most Florida property management firms adhere to a consistent procedure for pet screenings. In general, the ensuing questions are posed to assist property owners in determining the suitability of permitting a pet on the premises:

 

General Queries for Pet Owners

  • What is the breed of your pet?
  • How long have you been a pet owner?
  • Are your pets in good health?
  • Are their vaccinations current and verifiable by your veterinarian?
  • Does your pet have any medical conditions or behavioral concerns?
  • Who will attend to your pet during your absence or in emergencies?
  • Are you agreeable to a pet security deposit as a contingency measure?
  • Is your pet accustomed to being home alone?

 

Queries for Cat Owners

  • Is your cat spayed or neutered?
  • Do you permit your cat to venture outdoors?
  • Is your cat proficient in using the litter box?
  • Does your cat possess identification tags or a microchip?
  • How do you address issues related to fleas and ticks?

 

Queries for Dog Owners

  • Has your dog undergone formal training?
  • Is your dog spayed or neutered?
  • Does your dog wear identification tags consistently?
  • Do you walk your dog on or off-leash?
  • Are you committed to cleaning up after your dog?
  • How do you manage concerns regarding fleas and ticks?
  • Is your dog accustomed to spending time alone indoors?

 

While you can include additional questions in a pet screening, a diplomatic approach is essential. Excessive questioning may make pet owners uncomfortable. Ensuring fairness across all breeds is crucial to avoid targeting or discriminating against specific breeds. Emphasize uniform pet requirements, reinforcing an impartial approach that neither favors nor singles out particular species.

 

Notice to Tenant to Remove Pets

Occasionally, renters might breach your pet policy. Ensure your actions align with local laws and verify the violation before taking steps. Often, neighbor complaints lack the full context. If a breach occurs, initiate transparent and empathetic communication with the tenant as a first step. 

Confirm their awareness of the pet policy, aided by an explicit clause in the lease, and grant a reasonable window to address the matter. If the issue persists, send an unauthorized pet lease violation form or similar notice to the tenant, reiterating the policy and specifying the compliance timeframe.

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Work With Professional Property Managers While Screening Pets

At Lucroy Residential, we understand that pets are an integral part of your tenants’ family and home life. That’s why we’ve honed our expertise in pet screening and management to ensure a harmonious living environment for all residents – both two-legged and four-legged. 

Our comprehensive pet screening process evaluates not just the pet’s behavior and health, but also considers the compatibility with the residential space. We even offer ongoing pet management services, including pet-friendly community events and spaces that cater to the unique needs of pet owners. 

Trust the experts at Lucroy Residential for top-notch pet screening services that benefit you as well as your tenant, across Jackson, MS. Contact us today to find out how we can make life easier for you, your tenant, and their furry friends!

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