by John Bradford
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 followed should any rules or regulations be broken. Consider having non-pet owners acknowledge the pet policies, as well, so they are formally aware of the rules if they acquire a pet or have visiting pets. Since many leases are signed electronically there is a high probability that the lease language is never actually read by your future resident. Utilizing an additional layer of liability protection such as a digital pet policy and pet screening process is becoming an industry standard.
Furthermore, create a policy that requires pet owning residents to purchase renter’s liability insurance to cover expenses like property damage that occurs due to irresponsible behavior.
Make screening and registration of all pets an initial part of the move-in process. Consider gathering a DNA sample of all pets to make sure locating any offending owners is a simple task. For instance, should a pet owner repeatedly neglect to pick up their pet’s waste, a doggie DNA service can trace the pet waste to the guilty party.
If offenses occur regularly, financial penalties can be imposed. In certain instances, high-cost fees should be assessed to help deter future rebels from repeating such behavior. If a pet owner is caught once for not picking up waste, give them a written warning, and if it happens a second time, impose a nominal fine. A third offense would require a steeper fine and anything beyond that may result in an eviction.
While they may not be as hefty, the same formula can be applied to excessive barking and off-leash pets. Everybody gets a written warning for any initial offense, and fees gradually increase with the second and third offenses. After that, eviction is a possible course of action.
Certain states have what’s known as an ‘irresponsible dog owner law’ intended to identify and penalize chronically irresponsible dog owners, and by creating this as a community policy per your lease agreement, all residents will be aware of the consequences associated with bad pet owner behavior.
By taking the time to craft the appropriate policies to best make communities both pet-friendly and pet-responsible, operators ensure a safe, healthy and happy community for all residents, pet owners or not.