Why Rental Homes In Charleston Need Thorough Pet Screening Policies

February 16, 2023 | By Charleston Property Company
Bad dog property damage

Updated February 16, 2023

With the popularity of policies that ban pets from rental homes in Charleston, you may be surprised that 72% of renters own pets. So, if you were to buy a rental property, then ban all pets — including basset hounds, beagles, and Basenjis — you would automatically eliminate 72% of your potential market or force renters to choose between your rental and their best friend (their pet).

Still, the wrong pet can be an undeniably dangerous factor if allowed to roam freely in and around your property. The best way to meet pet owners in the middle is through thorough pet screening for your rental property. Here are some tips on how to do it right—without unduly upsetting pet-owning tenants or risking your property's value.

Bad dog property damage

Be Clear About Your Criteria

Pet owners spend hours each week grooming, feeding, and simply loving their pets. They are often more than friends; they are members of the family. If you decide to allow your human tenants in but keep their furry friends out, they may feel like you are ostracizing a close companion.

On the other hand, even if you decide to institute a pet screening policy for your Charleston rental property, you must do so tactfully. You may want to mention the following as you speak to pet owners and establish your pet policies:

  • You appreciate that many people own and love pets (even if you don't).

  • The decision to screen pets and people isn't personal (it's simply your policy for all applicants).

  • You have to maintain the value of your property and have had or heard of bad experiences with pets.

  • The pet screening process isn't the only determining factor in your decision to accept the tenant or not.

Property owners must conduct fair screening practices regarding people and pets. Good communication and clear policies during the application process help protect you from discrimination claims when evaluating potential renters.

Bad dog eats garbage

Questions You Should Ask About Pets

You don't have to do a complete background check, but you should gather pertinent information about animals before allowing them into a property. This should include things like:

  • Is the pet a "dangerous breed?" Not only is your property at risk, but so is the health and peace of mind of neighbors. However, property owners must be careful to follow local Charleston regulations about dangerous breeds and whether they can technically "ban" them. Work with a property manager to navigate the rules.

  • Is the pet a service animal? Property owners must be careful when handling a request for a service animal. In most cases, service animals are not "pets" and must be allowed in properties with a tenant that makes a request. Service animals are a crucial part of the tenant's health care and are no different from a pacemaker or wheelchair. There are also HUD laws that pertain to such pets.

  • Is the pet a therapy animal? Your tenant might also refer to them as an emotional support animal. These animals play a vital role in rehabilitating injured or sick tenants. Similar to service animals, some laws may apply to a tenant with a therapy animal as well. Work with a property management company in Charleston to handle these requests appropriately.

Bad dog gets into paint

In addition to these essential questions, you may want to consider gathering information regarding the nature of the pet. For example, a pet application can include requests for information about:

  • The pet's behavior: Ask whether the pet has been aggressive—or shown aggressive tendencies in the past. Also, ask how long ago this occurred and if anything has been done to deal with this issue.

  • The pet's health: Has the pet been well taken care of, given veterinary treatment when needed, received vaccinations, and is properly groomed? In general, pets should be in good health and up to date on all vaccinations to avoid putting other animals or tenants at risk.

  • Housetraining: For many landlords, this is a non-negotiable. However, some feel comfortable making exceptions for new kittens or puppies. Not only does a non-housetrained pet make a stinky mess, they endanger the air quality of the property and may introduce unwanted pests.

As we've mentioned, working with a property manager can help you navigate appropriate questions to ask and establish a fair review process for pet screening.

What About Other Types of Pets?

Not every pet request will be for a cat or dog. From time to time, you will come across a tenant who owns a snake, lizard, turtle, frog, or other species of reptile or amphibian.

Some landlords choose to allow these kinds of pets because the mess they create—if any—is limited to their caged area. True, the smells they can produce emanate far and wide—but with even minimal care, they can be kept clean, and so can the rest of the home.

At the same time, there are some unique dangers when it comes to reptiles—especially snakes. Because they are cold-blooded, many snakes will try to escape their cages and head to the nearest heat source. Once there, they will embed themselves behind, underneath, or on top of it. Once a snake decides to latch on to a warm area, it's tough to change its mind.

Snakes can also escape and feast on rodents behind the walls or even outside the house. Depending on the species, they can grow until large enough to consume a small dog, cat, or even a child. If a potential tenant owns a snake, ask about its feeding patterns. If it's not fed regularly, there is a chance it will try to escape and seek food elsewhere, which could pose a danger to other pets in the area—or worse.

Are Pets Worth the Trouble?

It takes some work to keep your rental properties safe while allowing tenants to have pets. However, knowing that you could be missing out on a significant portion of the renter population (including really good tenants) by excluding all pets, the best property management companies Charleston offers typically recommend allowing pets in rental properties.

With a thorough screening process and clearly-defined criteria, most landlords find that allowing pets brings quality renters, more lease renewals, and better revenue from their homes for rent in Charleston, SC.

Work With a Property Management Company in Charleston to Manage Pets

The sensitive, difficult process of pet screening can be a lot to handle—especially if you're trying to build rapport with a potential tenant. Remove the "fear" factor of housing pets or navigating the approval process, and hire a property management company in Charleston to take care of it for you. We know the right questions to ask to make sure everyone—including the pet—is safe, sound, and happy.

If you'd like to gain access to the 72% of potential renters who own pets, reach out to Charleston Property Company! A comprehensive pet screening policy is just one step in maximizing your property's income-earning potential. The best place to get started is with our Free Rental Analysis!




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