Pet Policies

Case Study: Pet-Responsible Communities and Unburdened Onsite Teams

David Stunja
February 2, 2023

    Company

    Fortis Property Management

    Location

    Atlanta

    Units managed

    9,000+/nearly 40 communities in the Southeast

    Portfolio

    Third-party managed

    Website

    www.fortispm.com

    Challenge | Streamlining pet processes to appeal to a wider pool of renters

    Katie Ashley closely scrutinized the pet processes at her communities and arrived at a firm conclusion: there had to be a better way. Ashley, chief operating officer for Fortis Property Management, saw the strain manual pet processes put on her team and also recognized that some existing pet policies weren’t good for business.  

    “We quickly realized that if your pet-friendliness levels are lacking in any way, you’re eliminating an entire portion of your applicants,” Ashley said. “At the same time, we realized screening pets onsite was extremely difficult and put a burden on our site teams.”

    Property teams at Fortis communities throughout North Carolina, South Carolina, Mississippi, Georgia, Tennessee, Florida and Alabama were tasked with managing assistance animal accommodation requests, verifying vaccinations and tracking down pet behavior history—all in manual fashion. 

    “It was a very cumbersome process,” Ashley said. “Our site teams are composed of property management pros, but they aren’t necessarily experts in pet legalities. We were eager to give them their time back by finding a more efficient way to manage our pet processes.” 

    Solution | Adopting the PetScreening Platform 

    Typically, this is when property management companies have to conduct a time-consuming, wide-ranging search for the right solution. In the case of Fortis, Ashley didn’t have to do so. That’s because many of her team members had utilized PetScreening in the past and recommended it. 

    “They’d used the platform in the past and found it to be very helpful,” Ashley said. “It’s rare that a regional or property manager will ask for a product to be implemented, so I paid attention.” 

    Ashley explored the unique offerings of PetScreening, the only platform in the multifamily space to analyze the risk posed by individual pets and their owners. By adopting it, Fortis communities had an innovative way to outsource assistance animal requests, better track onsite pet populations and eschew standard restrictions in favor of a pet-scoring system. The latter capability, dubbed the FIDO Score, scores pets on a 1-to-5 “paw score” based upon numerous factors, including a community’s specific restrictions and behavior history of the pet and its owner. 

    “My favorite thing about PetScreening is that our onsite teams don’t have to process assistance animals, nor do they have to have to do verifications of breeds,” said Lauren Gibson, a regional manager for Fortis. “And the onboarding process was really easy.”

    Results | Pet-Responsible Communities and Unburdened Onsite Teams

    Fortis gradually rolled out PetScreening at existing communities, mostly on renewing residents to start. At new communities, Fortis started with PetScreening on Day 1 and has continued to experience the benefits. 

    Via the platform, Fortis has processed nearly 6,000 residents portfolio-wide. That includes 1,473 with a household pet, 327 with assistance animals and 4,199 pet-free residents who formally acknowledged the community's pet policies whether they acquire, host or sit a pet during their residency. Subsequently, Fortis teams have been relieved of much of the tedious busywork surrounding pet processes. 

    “We have always required our applicants to verify vaccinations for their pets on their own,” said Ashlee Boyer, property manager for Fortis-managed Cape Landing Apartments in Myrtle Beach, S.C. “PetScreening just took that burden off of us.”

    Ashley indicated that she has received more positive feedback from onsite teams about the PetScreening rollout than any other implementation. PetScreening genuinely assisted with liability components, accurate documentation and with following the resident’s pet activity throughout the leasing lifecycle.  

    “I love how PetScreening allows us to process pets in a responsible way, and the onboarding process was very simple,” Ashley said. “We entered all our pet-screening criteria for each property. From there, it was easy to incorporate into our software system, set up training for our teams and then roll it out.”