Money on the Table: Weighing the Cost of Unscooped Pet Waste

by Deb DeRouen

Pet ownership in apartment communities has increased significantly over the past few years and is showing no signs of slowing down. A 2020 Zillow survey indicates that 42% of multifamily residents own a pet, and according to a recent Pet Policies and Amenities Survey of more than 22,000 apartment and student-housing renters, 26% of pet-owning residents obtained their pet at some point during the pandemic. When considering student-housing renters only, that number jumps to a notable 39%. 

Additionally, the most common apartment- dweller demographics consist of Millennials and Generation Z’ers, both of which are more likely to own a pet than the generations before them. In fact, Millennials account for a third of all pet owners in the United States and Gen Z, despite their young ages, represent 14% of U.S. pet owners. With those statistics in mind, operators have been seizing the opportunity to increase the pool of potential renters. 

While there are a few apartment operators who would rather not allow pets onsite, most are modernizing their pet policies and removing pet restrictions altogether because of that broader resident pool and the monetary benefits that come with doing so. Although pet fees may vary from one community to the next, the average pet deposit is between $200 and $500, and the average monthly pet rent ranges from $25 to $100. It’s those channels of revenue that are becoming the catalyst for the change, but as with any progress, it doesn’t come without its challenges.  

Unsurprisingly, unscooped pet waste is one of the biggest challenges operators face in terms of being a pet-inclusive community.

In an effort to address this challenge, many operators take reactive approaches, such opting for services to clean up their communities, and unexpectedly find they have invested money in a service that only encourages the problem. It’s expensive and it trains residents into thinking it’s okay for them to leave their pets’ waste behind because somebody else will come pick it up at a later time. 

The people tasked with the clean up are usually maintenance teams, and the time they spend scooping up pet waste is costing operators precious resources. Furthermore, unscooped pet waste causes operators to lose money by presenting an unkept property that fails to attract new residents and deters existing ones from renewing. 

In an attempt to truly eliminate the amount of unscooped pet waste found onsite, as well as produce an optimal NOI, operators are looking to implement more proactive solutions.

Biotechnology services that perform DNA forensic testing of pets and pet waste have proven one of the most effective methods of proactively fixing the unscooped pet waste challenge. A modest investment in such a platform can make a monumental difference for operators and return a sizable expansion of future revenue channels. 

Operators that have enlisted DNA forensic testing have not only experienced a 95% decrease in unscooped pet waste at their communities, but they’re able to hold residents accountable, and in many instances they also generate additional income. 

By not proactively mitigating pet waste from their communities, operators will see a negative impact to the bottom line. It may be due to low occupancy rates or wasting their already allocated budgets on services that offer minimal results, but either way, when unscooped pet waste is left unaddressed, resident satisfaction diminishes and money is undoubtedly being left on the table.

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