Pet Screening Guide for Landlords and Tenants

Just a cat

Published on Jan 25, 2023


In an ideal world, there is no need to compromise. For property owners and property management, this might mean no applicants have pets, and every landlord allows pets for tenants. Unfortunately, businesses operate in reality, which means companies and customers need to find suitable accommodations and compromises to get what they are looking for.

Roughly 90 million American households own household pets which means for landlords to fill vacancies quickly, they likely can’t hold out for pet-free tenants. While households with pets may not be the most desirable for landlords, security deposits and pet screenings can mitigate the risks associated with pet ownership for landlords. 

There are several reasons landlords could be hesitant to rent a unit to tenants with pets. Depending on the type of pet, they can cause various problems. For example, dogs may chew up walls and scratch wood floors. They may go to the bathroom or vomit on the carpet, leaving odors and stains that are difficult to get out. Cats may scratch and claw at various surfaces and ruin window screens. Birds and dogs may be loud and disturb neighbors. There’s also the risk that a pet can harm another tenant or neighbor, which creates liability issues. 

These issues are why some landlords choose not to rent to renters with pets. Finding a place to live in a desired location can already be tricky and finding a place when you have pets can be even more difficult. This isn’t only because tenants can choose to ban pets altogether, but because some landlords will limit the kind of pets that are allowed. For example, they may not allow specific breeds of dogs like Rottweilers or Pitbulls. They may not allow pets over a specific size or weight. Some pets can make finding a place to live uniquely difficult. 

What Is Pet Screening?

Pet screening is similar to a background check used when screening human tenants. It is a way to mitigate risks for landlords and simplify the process for tenants is to use a pet screening process as part of the rental application. There are several reasons why this can benefit both landlords and tenants. It can streamline the process, create clear standards for both parties, and create some level of comfort for landlords to broaden the pets they allow in their rental units. This is all done through a pet profile. 

What Is A Pet Profile?

A pet profile is a digital record of pets that can be accessed by both owners and landlords. This allows landlords to access some information about the area of concerns they have regarding allowing tenants to have pets. For example, it’ll contain photos, vet history, vaccination records, and behavioral traits. This will allow landlords to accurately assess the risks and determine not just the kind of pet a tenant has but how responsible the pet owner is. 

Why Pet Screening Is Important To Landlords and Tenants

For landlords, most of the business is assessing risks and managing costs. There are expected costs when turning over an apartment for a new tenant. This can be as simple as repairing walls and deep cleaning a carpet. Landlords want to avoid additional costs that may exceed a security deposit and pets have the potential to create that kind of damage. For example, a dog or a cat may chew on the wall creating drywall damage. They may claw at a window screen that requires screens to be replaced. They may scratch wood floors and need them to be refinished or replaced. 

This leads some landlords to refuse to allow pets altogether. Unfortunately, this limits the number of potential tenants for landlords,decreasing the demand and possibly the amount they can charge for rent. Pet screening allows landlords to increase the pool of prospective tenants by allowing pets they believe are unlikely to cause excessive damage to the rental property. It also decreases the likelihood of a tenant keeping a pet secretly to rent the unit or avoid any extra security deposit.

Finding a place to live based on your needs and preferences is hard, especially in a housing shortage, even before you consider the limiting options for pet owners. Pet screening can help expand the number of potential rental units by allowing for more landlords to allow pets as well as helping landlords confidently allow a more broad range of pets and breeds. Responsibly pet owners will have a clear understanding of where they stand when applying for a place to live, especially if they have a breed or type of pet landlords may be reluctant to allow like a Pitbull.

What To Know About The Landlord’s Pet Policy

When it comes to the rights of pets for tenants, there are very few laws. Federal Fair Housing laws (see the fair housing act) require landlords to allow official service animals. This means a service dog that is trained to help a tenant who suffers from seizures must be permitted by law. This doesn’t mean a landlord is required to enable a dog to just because it makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside every time he does a big stretch. Because there aren’t many federal laws, landlords need to consider any state or municipal laws and ordinances when it comes to their pet policies. Mostly, landlords just use common practices when it comes to their pet screening criteria.  

Common pet policies include: 

  • Additional security deposit

  • Pet fees

  • Pet screening

  • Limits on weight

  • Limits on breeds

  • Limits on the type of pet (dog, bird, etc.)

Like tenants, landlords can also evict pets for any behavior that causes problems with neighboring properties as well as other tenants on the property. This means a landlord can evict a pet (at which point a tenant has to decide whether to give the pet to a caretaker or move out) for barking excessively or showing aggressive behavior with people or other pets. For these reasons, pet screening for apartments can be especially important because of the proximity to others and shared walls. 

How To Prepare For A Pet Screening

The first thing you will want to do is gather any necessary documents to help with the process. This will include any vet records, vaccination records, and any training school certificates. You may want to include information like how long you have owned the pet, how old it is, the breed, size, and weight. Before bringing your pet to meet the landlord in person, you may want to run through any basic pet screening test with commands like “sit”, “stay”, and “lay down” in case the landlord wants to test how responsive they are. 

If you have an overly energetic dog, you may want to take it for a long walk before meeting the landlord to make sure it’s a little calmer and more responsive instead of being overly stimulated by a new place. At this point, landlords will also be looking for potential red flags (especially for dog screening).

Red flags include: 

  • Baring teeth

  • Raised fur on the back

  • Excessive barking

Pro tip: Spend time socializing with your dog with other dogs and people regularly. This will increase the likelihood of your dog having a positive response when meeting a potential landlord.

The pet screening checklist

As part of the tenant screening, a landlord will likely have a checklist to answer any additional pet screening questions that may not be included in any vet records. You’ll want to be prepared to answer any of these questions on the spot so be prepared. Some landlords will use a third-party service as a pet screener so ask the landlord about their pet screening policies first. Landlords may use a pet screening application.

Some questions include: 

  • What time of pet do you have?

  • How long have you owned your pet?

  • Are you able to provide the necessary documents from your vet?

  • Does your pet have medical conditions?

  • Does your pet have behavioral problems?

  • If so, are you seeking treatment/training for these problems?

  • Do you have caretakers for pets for when you’re on vacation or during a medical procedure?

  • Can you pay an additional security deposit?

  • Is your pet house-trained?

  • How much time does your pet spend alone each day?


Pet screening is a win-win policy for landlords and tenants. When done correctly, it can expand the number of potential homes for tenants and the number of potential tenants for landlords. It also creates clear guidelines of what pet records tenants should keep and what is expected of tent owners from landlords. The simple process of pet screening can streamline the process so tenants no longer have to scramble to gather necessary documents and landlords can confidently rent to responsible pet-owning tenants. 

Without any national laws regarding tenants’ rights around pets, everyday practices like pet screenings can do the job and eliminate confusion. Creating clear expectations for landlords and tenants allows for less mess in the application process.

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