by John Bradford
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 prospect of several unaccounted pets at the property in any given timeframe. Here are a few ideas of how:
- Factor into the pet policy the requirement that visiting pets must be registered each time they visit. Consider charging a small fee for overnight stays.
- Make the registration process simple and quick. A resident will be less likely to properly register a visiting pet if they have to jump through hoops to make it happen.
- Require all residents—pet owners or otherwise—to formally acknowledge pet-related policies, like addressing pet visitation and fostering, upon move-in. That way they are on formal record of being aware of any rules regarding pets, whether it’s acquiring their own pet or allowing visiting pets. After all, it’s not uncommon for a non-pet owning resident to get a pet sometime during their lease term, unbeknownst to their property manager.
- Conduct periodic pet audits. These can be tricky and the methods can vary, but audits help teams uncover unauthorized pets and more accurately track the pet population. Utilizing your onsite maintenance teams as an extra set of eyes during maintenance service visits can be a great way to constantly audit for pets. Their safety should be paramount, too, before entering a unit.
Onsite teams can simply add a digital profile link to the maintenance work order that can be accessed by maintenance teams in real time, before entry, to show the resident’s status of “No Pet” or “Household Pet.” A digital household pet profile can include basic pet information such as photos, name, sex, color, breed and weight, and allows maintenance teams to verify the accuracy of the listed pet status at each residence.
For clarity, this is not to discourage residents from opening their homes to visiting pets. Just like the pets that already live at the community, authorized visiting pets can be pleasant companions and bring joy to the stay.
But residents should be trained to think of a visiting pet much like a friend they are bringing along to a concert or ballgame. They will undoubtedly boost the experience—they just need a ticket to get in.