October 31, 2019
Dogs and cats are becoming more prevalent within apartment communities. However, residents don’t always report pets when they move into a unit, or when they acquire more four-legged critters during their stay. The issue, however, is that unreported pets can increase risk and liability in an apartment complex.
For example, pet-related incidents (bites and scratches) can increase in a pet-friendly complex whose residents aren’t always forthcoming. Such incidents, more often than not, occur in common areas. According to Leslie Mathis with Woodfield Development, urban apartment properties have an added risk of incidents taking place in elevators.
Additionally, unreported pets impact a complex’s service team. If, for example, a maintenance worker makes a service call and doesn’t know a pet is in the apartment, that individual is in danger if an aggressive pet takes action. Noted Mathis: “These types of incidents can heighten a liability for a community, particularly if the pet is unreported.”
Furthermore, there is more to this than simply reporting a pet or pets in a unit. While on-site teams do have records on whether a pet is, or is not, in an apartment, proper documentation as to the type of pet, its size and vaccine status might be missing. Mathis said that this information lack could be another liability issue.
Furthermore, if a tenant attempts to sneak a pet in (in hopes of, perhaps, skirting fees or circumventing a “no-pets” policy), the property can face a significant dip in revenue, due to uncollected pet fees. And residents, who are paying those pet fees won’t be too happy, and could feel slighted by those who are slipping under the radar. Furthermore, googling “pets” and “apartments” yields a plethora of articles about steps tenants can take to hide their four-legged friends from landlords and property managers.
Mathis’ suggestion is initiation and maintenance of a pet audit, especially when a new management group takes over an existing apartment complex. Some owners/managers will initiate an audit by re-examining a resident’s pet situation at the time of that resident’s lease renewal. Others might take a more hands-on approach, through service calls and quarterly preventative maintenance. A screening platform can also be helpful, and can determine whether a pet qualifies for a particular community, or whether it is an assistant animal.
One such platform, appropriately named PetScreening.com, said that what an owner or manager finds in such an audit can come as a shock. “Your pet audit might uncover several residents housing pets that don’t comply with a communities breed, weight or other restrictions, whether by innocent mistake or an intentional attempt to bypass community policies,” one blog on the website explained.
The blog went on to say that pet audits can be a large undertaking, involving consuming door-to-door checks, but can be simplified by initiating a pet-screening process for all residents. “Communities shouldn’t shy away from them, just because they are afraid of what they’ll find out,” the blog said.
Woodfield Development’s Mathis agreed, pointing out that, as a trend, pets are making more inroads into apartment communities, with dangers of unreported pets on the rise. “Regular pet audits and screening platforms that relieve the burden from on-site teams are solid ways to combat this trend,” she added.
For comments, questions or concerns, please contact Amy Sorter
Tags: Apartments & Multifamily