Residents love their pets and won’t feel at home unless their pets do. Some residents care more about an apartment community’s pet features than any other amenity it has to offer. Essentially, being pet-friendly is critical in today’s apartment world and serves as more of a differentiator than ever before.
With that differentiation comes the opportunity to generate additional revenue to more than recover the cost of pet amenities and excessive wear and tear on a community. To do so effectively, apartment operators must ensure pet owners are actually paying pet rent, take the appropriate actions to prevent assistance animal fraud and consider a more sophisticated approach to setting pet rents based on past pet behavior.
A more sophisticated approach to pet rent
Not all pets are the same, naturally. But neither are their owners. Standardizing the pet process through a technology platform can help onsite teams assess the risk factor of each pet and their owner.
Tangible data to analyze the risk of a pet at a community can greatly help onsite teams evaluate whether a pet belongs on the property. A scoring system can be used, ranging from zero to five, where the lower score represents the largest risk. The score can be affected by the previous behavior of the owner, such as failure to pick up pet waste, expired vaccinations and off-leash offenses.
The insight allows communities to monetize in data-driven ways by charging higher pet rents for higher-risk animals and lower for low-risk animals. It also allows communities to reclaim some of the property value that has been lost due to pet damages and helps in the quest to capture pet rent for those that have slipped under the radar. The pet-risk scale can also help communities eliminate breed, weight and other restrictions by simply assigning a risk to the specific animal rather than its pre-existing breed characteristics. This could increase demand for your apartment homes, resulting in rent growth.
The benefits of standardization
Standardization of the pet process can ensure pet owning residents are paying the appropriate pet rent, as recently innovated screening platforms now enable onsite teams to streamline everything pet-related. For instance, no standardized way existed to loop non-pet owning residents into compliance with a community’s pet policy.
Screening platforms require non-pet owners to formally acknowledge a community’s pet policies at the time of application, and the legal affidavit holds those residents accountable to report any pets that they acquire—or have as visitors—during their lease. This ensures that pet revenue isn’t lost for any animals acquired after move-in.
Additional advantages of standardizing pet processes include locating unauthorized pets that currently live on the property. If your policy wasn’t standardized previously, odds are that several have slipped through the cracks. While locating all of them immediately isn’t realistic, a standardized platform can start the process by requiring residents who haven’t acknowledged a formal pet policy to do so at renewal or through a digital pet-audit.
Also, as new residents arrive and others leave, the process will begin to correct itself within the first leasing cycle. Communities can encourage residents with unreported pets to properly report them without penalty, perhaps offering grace periods to those who do.
Results are often better when it’s communicated that their pets are still welcome at the property, and the community simply needs more information on the pet. Some residents may remain hesitant to report them in an effort to skirt pet rent or because they believe their animal might fall under the restricted list, so some patience is required in the process.
Standardization also assists with data collection. If the screening platform integrates with a property management system (some have struck recent partnerships), it allows onsite teams to capture pet data immediately because everyone is required to fill out a pet profile. It helps communities keep a formal record of every pet, and that profile will remain intact if that resident moves to a new community.
Preventing Assistance Animal Fraud
In addition, with service and assistance animal fraud increasing in prominence onsite, a standardized process to screen and validate any assistance animal documentation within legal guidelines can be a game-changer. If the resident doesn’t have the appropriate documentation, onsite teams can still allow the pet to live at the property and can capture pet rent. Animals that may have entered a community with insufficient documentation under the guise of an assistance animal could then be charged appropriate pet fees and rents.
Accurate pet screening technology not only makes things easier for onsite teams and creates a better living experience for residents, but it also drives value for investors that must remain competitive in the submarket. Advanced screening and pet policies allow communities to provide a better resident experience by maintaining a responsible pet-friendly environment, which increases the attractiveness of the community to prospective renters.
While it could take a leasing cycle to fully implement policies, locate unauthorized pets and get all residents to comply, prominent results are certainly attainable within 12 to 18 months. Creating a pet-friendly experience not only equates to happy residents, but can help a community reach its revenue goals, as well.
Peter Cowan is a Senior Associate of Strategic and Ancillary Revenue Management for Bridge Property Management.