Most landlords know that a generous pet policy that accepts virtually any animal without limitations is a recipe for disaster. While accommodating residents and their furry friends is important, safety and avoiding unnecessary risks should also be a priority.

This blog post discusses the different factors to consider when developing a pet policy, including enacting specific restrictions and enforcement tools that can help with consistent policy implementation. By following these guidelines and utilizing a comprehensive pet management software, property managers can create a pet-friendly environment that is also safe and secure for all residents.

How to properly screen pets for apartments

Breed Restrictions

During the early 1980s, pet ownership in the United States saw a considerable increase, leading to more animals being permitted in apartments and rental properties. As a result, the number of pet-related incidents increased as well. Property managers began to identify patterns with certain breeds, and thus breed restrictions began in earnest. Although controversial, breed restrictions are commonplace among apartment complexes across the United States.  

The most common dog breeds that you will find on the restricted list include Pit Bulls, German Shepherds, Akitas, Doberman Pinschers, and Rottweilers. Although not all dogs in these breed categories are considered aggressive, these breeds are thought to potentially cause more harm than others. When implementing your pet policy, it may be worthwhile to consider the behavior of the animal rather than the explicit breed.

Some landlords find that temperament tests, training certificates, or behavior evaluations can be useful tools to identify which individual pets are aggressive rather than excluding entire breeds altogether.

Whatever your approach, just be sure to be consistent in your enforcement.

Weight Limits

Alongside restrictions based on breed, many residential complexes enforce weight limits as well. Although they are not necessarily more aggressive, larger animals can pose a greater risk to other pets and residents, especially children. When setting weight limits, it’s important to consider the typical size of your units and how much space the animal has to move around in. Weights should also not be set arbitrarily; accounting for the average weights of permitted breeds is a better approach than setting a random number.

Like every aspect of your pet policy, it’s important to consistently enforce weight limits so that residents don’t cry foul over unfair implementation. The only exception should be service animals. Guide dogs and other assistance animals trained to perform specific tasks are not subject to weight limits under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The good news is you can require documentation to verify the status of these animals to ensure that they are appropriately classified and therefore not as liable to cause harm to tenants or property. 

Behavioral Evaluations

Before an animal comes onto the property, it’s wise to understand if it would be a good fit for their new living environment. While you can use objective measures such as breed and weight to enforce limits, behavior is not something that can always be easily observed. That’s where behavioral evaluations come into play. These assessments can help determine the temperament of the animal and if they require any additional training or socialization to act appropriately in a multi-unit property where there are other pets and people nearby. 

A professional evaluation typically includes observing the animal in different situations. Simulating an apartment-type environment is important to see how the animal responds. If possible, try to introduce other dogs during the evaluation as well to see if they naturally react with a friendly approach or with aggression or fear. When possible, it’s best to contract with an experienced evaluator for these tests. Someone who understands different breeds and your property’s unique needs can make more objective and accurate assessments of each animal’s behavior. 

Emotional Support Animal (ESA) Letters

The number of emotional support animals has risen considerably in recent years, meaning it’s likely that your property has had to contend with these pets at some point. It’s important to understand that ESAs are not technically service animals. The latter are trained to perform specific tasks, such as guiding individuals with visual or hearing impairments. ESAs do not have specific training; they solely provide comfort and support to their owners as determined by a health professional.

In any case, emotional support animals are still protected under the Fair Housing Act. You can (and should) still require documentation to ensure that ESA claims are legitimate.

Landlords can also require that ESAs meet certain behavioral and cleanliness standards and charge fees due to damage caused by these animals. The best way to verify documentation is to use an ESA verification service such as OurPetPolicy. Once documentation is uploaded, these providers can recognize fraudulent letters in compliance with state and federal law, ensuring that you are only accepting legitimate animals and turning away truly falsified claims.

Pet Management Software

Perhaps the best tool in the toolkit for properly screening pets on properties is a sound pet management software. These solutions help property managers automatically screen pets among any set parameters, including breed, weight, and other restrictions. When new pet applications are accepted, the software can instantly confirm if they are approved based on existing policy.

Robust pet management tools can automate the collection of fees and deposits and verify ESA status and health records.

Above all, software takes the human element out of the equation. This helps ensure that any set policies are implemented accurately and consistently and legal guidelines are appropriately followed. While staff members can access pet profiles, make updates, and publish reports and analytics, the software helps ultimately prevent pet-related incidents and disputes with consistent enforcement.

Bottom Line

Implementing a pet policy in a residential complex is a balancing act that requires careful consideration of various factors such as breed restrictions, weight limits, and behavioral evaluations. While residents should be accommodated, safety and avoiding unnecessary risk should be a big part of the equation. Verifying ESA letters and using pet management software can streamline the screening process, ensure accuracy and consistency in pet management, and help with compliance and reporting. By following these guidelines, property managers can create a pet-friendly environment that is also safe and secure for all residents.

If you’re looking for a way to consistently implement and enforce your property’s pet policy, look no further than a comprehensive pet management software. Solutions such as OurPetPolicy by Landlord Tech allow property managers to develop policies, track pets on the property, verify service animals, and communicate directly with residents as needed all in one easy-to-use platform. No matter how you choose to screen animals, just be sure it’s done the right way with compliance in mind. Try OurPetPolicy today.


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