Pet Policies

We Screen Our Residents, Why Not Our Pets?

    When a prospective resident submits an application at an apartment community, on-site teams want to know virtually everything about that resident before allowing them to sign a lease. Credit history, criminal background, rent history, current finances, that minor traffic ticket for failure to yield in 2004, and so on.

    Yet, when it comes to the pets that accompany residents to their new home, little—if anything—is known about them. A detailed history of a pet’s behavior, the owner’s behavior with the pet, vaccinations, damages, excessive noise disruptions and other nuisances can prove just as relevant for apartment operators as the background of their residents.

    Currently, on-site teams have little success learning about the swaggy wolfhound who regularly threw overnight rooftop parties for all the canines in the area at his last apartment. But thanks to new innovative screening platforms, pet background checks are becoming a reality and allow apartment communities to ask pets and their owners questions to assess their housing-related risk and document information.

    “In order to reduce your liability with pets, you should ask a lot of questions about the pet and its behavior,” said J. Mike Williams, Esq., an Atlanta-based managing attorney lawyer. “Additionally, make sure you document incidents regarding unauthorized pets, bites, damages as well as off-leash, barking and waste violations.”

    Just as with human background checks, screening solutions create a score based on various factors that help assess a pet’s potential housing-related risk to a property, including information on how well the owner takes care of their pet. And after the pet is registered in the screening platform, data can be added and updated over the course of the pets’ residency. Even if the pet has no prior screening history, the benefits of adding them to the system are numerous for apartment operators.

    Points of reference

    If the resident in B-219 complains that the pet living above him has barked all day, a community manager can take a quick look at the history of the pet. In rapid fashion, the associate might see reference to a tussle at the dog park on Jan. 5, aggressive behavior toward a maintenance person on Feb. 11 and the pet owner failing to pick up pet waste on March 29. Or maybe the pet has a squeaky clean record. All the data is relevant in determining the next step with the resident.

    Building a record

    It’s very likely an 8-year old pooch has not previously been screened. But when your community requires new residents to create a pet profile upon move-in, that pet is entered into the system. As the screening trend continues to catch on, future communities will have access to that dog or cat’s behavioral activity while living at your property. Odds are, future residents who move to your community will more regularly have existing pet profiles, as well.

    Adjust on-site policies

    While bites and animal scuffles do occur, they are far from the most prevalent pet-related complaints at an apartment community. Noise complaints, particularly those pertaining to barking, are a clear No.1, with pet/animal waste a close No. 2! When an apartment community has accurate subsets of data to analyze, they can work to adjust their policies in an effort to curtail some of the ruckus and make life more comfortable for every resident – pet owners or non-pet owners.

    It makes perfect sense that apartment operators want to fully vet any resident before he or she moves into their community. But after putting forth such effort to analyze their background, it’s only fitting that the behavior of their pets and how they manage them also factor into the equation. Now that such a platform exists, expect to see this concept utilized more and more until it becomes a standard in the industry.