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Irresponsible Pet Owner Behavior is Unpopular Among All Residents… And Pets

Irresponsible Pet Owner Behavior is Unpopular Among All Residents… And Pets
It isn’t only non-pet owners who can be put off by irresponsible pet owner behavior. According to a multifamily survey conducted by PetScreening and J. Turner Research of nearly 23,000 apartment residents, more than half of respondents support the idea that irresponsible pet owners should be charged more in pet-related fees. Pet owners are liable for any damage or harm caused by their pets. And while there are multiple offenses that can land an irresponsible pet owner in hot water, a few commonly prevalent misdeeds -- including excessive barking, off-leash pets and pet waste -- are generally easier to pinpoint and penalize the culprit for.  But how do you keep track of these irresponsible owners and what types of fees or penalties can be assessed for the bad behavior that can be off-putting to fellow residents? While onsite teams should not go around accusing pet owners of irresponsible behavior and imposing random penalties, they can certainly keep an eye out for signs of bad pet owner behavior, such as increased complaints of barking or pet waste that hasn’t been picked up. Including specific rules in the rental agreement is a good place to start when trying to curb irresponsible owner behavior. It’s best to include a comprehensive pet agreement within the lease that clearly discloses the rules and penalties clearly, ensuring that you’re covered all around. When a pet-owning resident is signing the lease agreement, highlight the appropriate sections referring to pet policies and the owner’s responsibilities, along with the protocol to be fol......
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Our Pet Policies Are Missing Something

Our Pet Policies Are Missing Something
Call it the hidden variable of an apartment community’s pet population—visiting pets. While community teams have steadily gravitated toward crafting pet policies more reflective of the modern resident, these policies oftentimes omit this crucial component. Whether a resident is pet sitting, pet fostering or simply entertaining guests who bring along pets, the visiting pet is often unaccounted for. But these pets are no different than those that live at the community in that they stay in an apartment home, can leave pet waste around the community and present the same risk for liability.  Additionally, these visiting pets are not accounted for when property managers charge pet rent, and they make it nearly impossible for teams to maintain an accurate pet record for the sake of emergency preparedness.  And according to recent research, visiting pets aren’t merely a rare occurrence. According to the Pet Policies and Amenities survey from PetScreening and J Turner Research, 25% of pet-owning residents said that they or someone they know has provided pet sitting services at their apartment community. And 23% said that they have hosted a guest who doesn’t live at the community and who has brought along a pet. While the numbers are slightly higher among pet-free residents who plan to get a pet, and lower for non-pet owners who don’t plan to get one, the primary takeaway is that approximately one-in-four residents are closely associated with pet sitting or visiting pets.  As such, onsite teams should factor this into their pet policies to avoid the prosp......
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Is This Assistance Animal Legit?

Is This Assistance Animal Legit?
As more and more communities allow pets onsite, most operators are seeing an uptick in assistance animal accommodation requests. It’s no secret that there are bad actors trying to pass their pets off as assistance animals to circumvent pet fees and restrictions. This is why having a thorough and consistent review process of each accommodation request is paramount. In over 100,000 reasonable accommodations requests already reviewed by PetScreening, nearly 60% were returned to the animal owner as insufficient. In other words, the accommodation request did not meet HUD’s 2020 Assistance Animal Notice guidelines. This is often due to documentation that is missing or contains incomplete information, is lacking specificity, has out-dated documentation and a variety of less common factors.  It’s important to note that when a request is deemed insufficient, that definitely doesn’t always equate to fraud -- although there are a few tell-tale signs to look for when determining the legitimacy of such requests. For instance: If a healthcare provider questions the validity of his/her signature If the date on the supporting documentation appears to have been altered If a name in the supporting documentation appears to have inconsistencies  In the event that you encounter any of these “ifs” or other indicators that seem questionable during your review of an assistance animal request, additional expertise and diligence during the review process is likely warranted. Fraud is a very serious matter and, if suspected, you should navigate this cautiously and carefully. It is well within your rights to seek additional information during the ......
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Assistance Animals in Rental Housing, Dissecting the key concepts of a complicated topic

Assistance Animals in Rental Housing, Dissecting the key concepts of a complicated topic
Assistance animals qualify as one of the more complicated topics in rental housing. Operators constantly wrestle with the distinctions between service and support animals, what qualifies as legitimate documentation and how to most efficiently manage their verification processes.  Many of those questions were answered and thoroughly dissected in the Assistance Animals in Rental Housing webinar, hosted by PetScreening last week as part of Fair Housing Month. The discussion largely centered around HUD’s 2020 Notice for assistance animals, which serves not as an update to HUD’s long-standing 2013 Memo, but as a full-fledged replacement. The new Notice attempts to clarify some confusing and cumbersome items. Even with the Notice, there are still additional complex issues that require thought leadership and due diligence. “They've broken down definitions to several topics, added text boxes and provided more examples to help with analysis,” said Brad Morris, chief legal counsel for PetScreening. “It’s been helpful in a lot of ways.”  Despite the more straightforward updated version, many of the concepts remain rather complex if legalese isn’t part of your everyday vernacular. As such, experts talked through many of the key topics outlined in the report and answered several inquiries from the audience. Among the topics discussed: Unlike the 2013 Memo, which was silent on animal types, the Notice specifically lists several types of domesticated animals as permissible as support animals, the HUD Notice also specifies that there is just one type of permissible service animal (dogs only). In short, support animals typically help alleviate symptoms simply by being presen......
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Pet Tech State of The Union: What’s Next?

Pet Tech State of The Union: What’s Next?
While pet data has always existed in some capacity, it has seldom been granular enough to be useful for apartment operators. That is starting to shift, as the multifamily world is using newfound data when exploring ways to modify longstanding practices for the benefits of pets, residents and the bottom line. Advances in pet technology have made this possible, and although much territory remains unexplored on the pet-tech front, things are trending in the right direction.  For instance, pet tech wasn’t even a term a few years ago. While it has gained more pronounced traction on the consumer side in the form of pet cameras, automatic feeders, auto-disposable litter boxes and even robotic toys, it is working its way into the apartment sector, as well. Digital screening platforms, centralized pet databases, pet-waste DNA tests and multifamily-specific agencies dedicated to pet research are among the advances currently helping the industry become more intuitive in their decision-making. But untapped potential remains. Here are a few emerging pet-tech concepts that are starting to have a positive effect on the apartment industry and figure to be even more prominent moving forward: Pet-audit platforms Performing a pet audit is typically a manual task. Whether done on a survey basis, by observing pets in homes during service calls or whistling outside a building and seeing which homes offer a bark, it’s hardly a standardized process. Pet audits are increasingly important, because unauthorized pets limit pet-related revenue and can pose a liability risk. Each community seems to take a d......
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You’re Only as Valuable as Your Data

You’re Only as Valuable as Your Data
You most likely have detailed information about the vehicles owned by your residents. It helps your team control your parking garage, parking lot, understand the nuances of lot utilization and add revenue through monthly parking fees. It also helps the community monitor authorized and unauthorized vehicles. Because the majority of your residents have cars, it’s intuitive that you should track and maintain this data. It’s an expectation across the industry, as data pertaining to occupancy numbers, premiums, concessions and ancillary fees is typically the most sought after. Seeing that nearly 70% of residents are pet owners—that's more than two-thirds of a community's population—it makes sense that pet data would be tracked in the same way. Yet this is often an afterthought, and those who do aim to track pet data often do so in haphazard fashion.  This is where a streamlined pet process that requires no in-person contact and is entirely digital can be a significant game changer.  Comprehensive and reliable data isn’t readily accessible through manual and paper-based document gathering, which makes it nearly impossible to track the number of pets actually living at the property as opposed to those actually registered and paying pet rent. To investors scouring community-wide data, the incomplete or ambiguous pet data will stand out. Inaccurate data usually is glaring, and those reviewing it will certainly see red flags.  The integrity and clarity of operations data plays a critical role in driving asset value. The cleaner and more actionable the data, the more value it holds. Th......
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Assessing the Housing-Related Risk of a Pet Owner: The perfect pet resident exists but can be difficult to find

Assessing the Housing-Related Risk of a Pet Owner: The perfect pet resident exists but can be difficult to find
The perfect pet resident properly reports their pets, picks up after them, has them appropriately vaccinated and complies with a rental property’s pet restrictions. They have trained, well-behaved animals and carry pet insurance.  But not everyone is perfect.  While the 100 percent ideal pet owner might be elusive, it can be ambiguous to determine which owners fall into the “very good” category. There is very little general data available to weigh the specific impact that each variable has on the bottom line.  Fortunately, having a pet and pet owner database created from more than one million rental homes nationwide, we were able to do some internal data digging to find out which pet residents are the lowest risk to your rental home. Here are a few individual factors to consider: Unvaccinated pets or pets with expired vaccinations: Our data indicates that 5 percent of all resident-owned animals are unvaccinated, although the percentage climbs to 10 when assessing cats only. Some cat owners believe an indoor cat doesn’t need to be vaccinated. Now imagine if that unvaccinated cat sneaks out of their home or perhaps bites a visiting child while being handled. Now you have an unvaccinated pet bite on your hands. In addition, 20 percent of resident-owned pets have expired vaccinations.  Spayed/neutered animals: Data analysis discovered that 20 percent of all resident-owned animals aren’t spayed or neutered. That variable is even more pronounced among younger animals, as the percentage climbs to 42 for those under the age of 2. This encompasses 21 percen......
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Service Animals vs. Assistance Animals: Know the Difference & Reduce Your Risk

Service Animals vs. Assistance Animals: Know the Difference & Reduce Your Risk
If you’re like most people, you probably use the terms service animal and assistance animal interchangeably especially when discussing the recent media coverage about the person with an emotional support alligator or the peacock trying to board an airplane. If you’re a multifamily professional, not knowing the difference between these two terms could result in costly and risky unintended consequences.  To help prevent such a scenario from happening, you simply need to know the difference between a service animal and an assistance animal. More importantly, knowing when and how to deal with each one is imperative. Understanding the differences can help ensure you don’t ask an inappropriate question that could result in inadvertently discriminating against a person with a disability or help prevent a bad actor from committing animal fraud. Service AnimalsService animals are covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which is applicable to areas of public accommodation where members of the general public are allowed. Areas within multifamily residential communities that qualify as places of public accommodation are covered by the ADA if use of the areas is not limited exclusively to owners, residents, and their guests. That means the main leasing office, which is open to the general public, is covered by ADA requirements for service animals. The ADA, however, does not cover animal-related accommodation requests for private residency such as apartment homes.  The ADA specifically limits a service animal to a dog or a miniature horse and the service animal must be trained to perform a task(......
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