By Leslie Mathis (MultiFamilyExecutive.com Article) —
In a perfect world, every resident would properly report pets when they move into an apartment community. They would also report any pets they acquire or sit during their stay, and they would never consider trying to sneak a pet into the community under the guise of a service or an assistance animal.
But perfect worlds don’t exist outside of fairy tales. These things happen, and all of them create risks ranging from liability to lost pet revenue for the community.
While there are ways to mitigate these risks, such as undergoing a community pet audit and by utilizing software platforms that erase any gray area at the time a resident applies, here are some of the ways unreported pets can wreak havoc at an apartment community.
Animal Incident Liability
As communities become increasingly pet friendly, more and more pets are entering the apartment world. A spike in pet-related incidents inevitably follows. More often, these incidents—whether pet on pet or pet on resident/visitor—occur in common areas. Urban communities have the added risk of incidents occurring with those passing by or in elevators.
Many on-site teams maintain solid records on whether a resident owns a pet, but lack proper documentation on the type of pet, its size, and whether it has had all its shots. This can become a liability concern when breed, weight, or authorization restrictions are questioned with regard to the incident. The issue becomes more prominent if the community has no record of the pet whatsoever.
Unreported pets can also affect service teams. If a maintenance tech is making a service call and believes no pets are in the apartment, that worker won’t be on guard if an aggressive animal steps into his or her path upon entering the apartment. These types of incidents can heighten a liability for a community, particularly if the pet is unreported.
Lost Pet Revenue
True pet lovers will do virtually anything to have their pets at the property with little pushback. The individuals who cause a ruckus are usually the ones that are trying to get away with something.
Whether it’s attempting to sneak a pet into their home and hoping it goes undetected by management or falsely claiming they do not have a pet but, instead, they qualify for a service/assistance animal, the resident is likely a bad actor trying to skirt around pet fees. While the liability issues surrounding these practices might be more prominent, communities can experience a significant dip in revenue if these pets are not properly reported. Resident discontent might follow if honest-paying renters feel slighted by those slipping under the radar.
This is where a pet audit is extremely valuable, particularly when a new management group takes over an existing community. Some institute an audit by revisiting a resident’s pet situation at the time of renewal. Others do so through service calls and quarterly preventative maintenance. Technicians will mark down whether a pet is in the home and then cross-reference to that resident’s application on file. While a pet audit can be done in numerous ways and is a concept in itself, community teams are wise to consider one.
Burden to On-Site Teams
Leasing associates never want to be the one to tell any applicant they were denied because of poor credit. The same goes for informing them that their dog was denied due to breed, size, or any other factor. Simply put, it should not be an on-site team member’s responsibility to determine whether a pet is a certain breed. Nor should they be the one to determine whether the documentation for an assistance animal, such as an emotional support animal, is real or fabricated.
This is when a screening platform becomes immensely valuable. When a platform can determine whether a pet qualifies for the community or whether it truly is an assistance animal, the on-site team is alleviated from lengthy verification processes and potential awkwardness. The onus is off the on-site team, as are potential confrontations and tedious paperwork, and the community can recover revenue.
Many communities have gray areas within their pet policies. If a resident works for a gig-economy business such as Rover, can they bring the pets they’re sitting into the community? Or if that dog walker is a visitor at your community, is it OK to grant them and a foreign dog an access code that’s only for residents? It’s a security concern on-site teams will have to consider moving forward.
It can be a delicate balance. Maybe someone is genuinely pet sitting for his or her mom, and you don’t want to chastise them. Maybe you extend a grace period, but note that if the animal is going to be there for any significant amount of time it will have to be registered and then it can visit the community at any time. But all of those on-the-fly situations can be avoided if all residents, pet owners or otherwise, acknowledge a pet policy at the time of application.
Pet policies are evolving. More and more, breed and weight restrictions are being lifted in favor of evaluating pets and pet owners on an individual basis. A Great Dane, for instance, has emerged as one of the most pleasant house animals due to the breed’s propensity to sleep and cause little disruptions. Many claim that cats regularly cause more damage in a home than dogs, which also goes against the concept of weight restriction. As a macro trend, many communities have reported fewer pet-related issues since lifting their restrictions.
As pets become more prevalent in the apartment landscape and communities begin to shift the ideal behind their policies, the dangers of the unreported pet have become more prominent. Regular pet audits and screening platforms that relieve the burden from on-site teams are solid ways to combat this trend.