Pet Policies

The Value of a Pet Audit in Rental Housing

    As the community manager at a 322-unit midrise in Atlanta, Jenny had a hunch that a few pets had come in to the property under their radar.

    What Jenny and her team discovered was a definite eye-opener. Their door-to-door audit revealed residents had accumulated 36 unauthorized pets, meaning those that weren’t properly registered with the community. That underscored her management company’s desire for a more comprehensive platform to keep tabs on pet activity.
    During the audit, many of the residents noted they were only pet sitting, or that a friend or family member only brought their pet to the community on weekends. Other residents had moved into the community without a pet then acquired one sometime during their stay. They didn’t know they had to report it, they’d claim.

    Similar results happened at a 197 unit midrise in Charlotte. Community manager Carol noted that one resident who didn’t have a pet admitted that her friend would visit with a pet and even pet-sit while they traveled. Undoubtedly, many communities across the country would experience similar results by undertaking a pet audit of their own.

    Reducing property liability is a key reason to perform a pet audit in order to find unauthorized pets and animals.

    Reducing property liability is a key reason to perform a pet audit in order to find unauthorized pets and animals. Both of the above apartment operators have since transitioned to a comprehensive pet screening platform that requires residents, whether or not they have a pet, to acknowledge a community’s pet policies upon move-in or during their audit process. While an increasing number of companies are going that route, here’s a look at why conducting an initial pet audit is so valuable:You might be surprised

    No matter the size of your community, one could assume that a few pets have sneaked in under the radar. But like the communities mentioned above, what you discover in your audit might be a much higher number than expected. Once you’ve determined just how many unauthorized pets are at the community, you can then take appropriate action.

    Liability reasons

    If a resident acquires or pet-sits an aggressive dog that ends up injuring someone, the victim can come after the community. Your pet audit might uncover several residents housing pets that don’t comply with a community’s breed, weight or other restrictions, whether by innocent mistake or an intentional attempt to bypass community policies. Residents at communities with a pet screening processes in place at move-in can’t claim ignorance of the policies and can be held accountable – rather than the community – for the actions of an unauthorized pet.

    Stop the side-hustle

    Residents are often looking for ways to make a few extra bucks on the side. There are several Uber-like pet walking and pet sitting services where residents can enroll as independent contractors for hire. While the resident might not have his or her own pet, the act of bringing someone else’s pet into the apartment home can lead to serious unintended consequences. The resident is motivated to earn an extra $30 per day or $60 per weekend while unlikely realizing that it’s an unauthorized pet. Despite the resident’s unintended lease violation, the housing provider is not necessarily absolved from liability in the instance the specific pet being cared for causes an incident such as a bite or property damage.

    Lost pet revenue

    The two Italian Greyhounds in unit 208 would never hurt a fly, nonetheless another resident. But if the owner obtained the pups three months into her lease and never let the community know, those greyhounds are unauthorized pets. Most communities charge a nominal pet-rent fee, so if the dogs are living free of pet-rent (and several other pets throughout the community have a similar story), the community is losing out on pet revenue. An audit will help uncover similar scenarios, potentially adding thousands of dollars to your property income.

    Discover assistance animal fraud

    Some residents will falsely claim that a pet is an assistance animal in order to avoid paying pet rent or a pet deposit. During an audit, you might find an unauthorized pet that a resident will immediately claim is an assistant animal. One property in Raleigh asked an owner for documentation of their disability, ran a check on the pet and discovered the pet had bitten another dog and its owner in the past.

    Pet audits can be a large undertaking with time-consuming door-to-door checks, but the process is simplified by rolling-out a pet screening service for all residents. Communities shouldn’t shy away from them just because they are afraid of what they’ll find out. While the results can be surprising, they can ultimately mitigate liability, recover pet revenue and spur a community to find a more innovative way to manage their pet policies.