Boosting both the resident experience and bottom line for apartment communities.
Innovation in the rental housing industry typically refers to property technology: The tools that streamline leasing, increase resident satisfaction and create efficiencies for onsite teams. But with the innovation of proptech off to the races, operators are turning to new areas that position them as the innovators to residents. Many of these areas are all about pets.
Pet ownership has skyrocketed during the past few decades, increasing from 56% to 70% of households from 1988 to 2022, according to the American Pet Products Association. Just as many renters have welcomed new pets into their households, and many are also looking for more pet-inclusive communities. Michelson Found Animals’ “2021 Pet-Inclusive Housing Initiative Report” (PIHI) found that 72% of multifamily residents note that pet-friendly housing is difficult to find.
Operators are taking note of these trends and modern resident needs by welcoming pets into their communities to cast a wider net for prospective residents and increase renewal rates. The PIHI Report also found that residents in pet-friendly housing stay 21% longer than those in non-pet-friendly housing.
As more communities continue to become pet friendly, there’s also a growing need to innovate the entire pet experience, from catering to pet-owning residents to streamlining pet management processes for onsite teams. Operators are finding pet innovations can improve the overall living experience for residents, their pets, onsite teams and the community as a whole while creating additional revenue streams.
Here are some of the pet-related innovations within rental housing and what they can do for communities:
Loopholes have always existed within the onsite pet management process. Residents may move in without a pet and get one later without reporting it to management. Others may try to fly under the radar with a pet that isn’t allowed at a community due to weight and breed restrictions.
“When these scenarios play out, we can’t effectively manage pets within a community,” said Stephanie Graves, CEO of Q10 Property Advisors. “This increases our liability risks and we also miss out on
To better manage pets within communities and reduce liability, some operators are lifting weight and breed restrictions and tapping screening database partners to evaluate pets on an individual basis. This gives operators a more comprehensive picture of pets within a community and previous behavior patterns of the pet and owner to mitigate liability while equipping onsite teams with a more robust management platform.
“Blue Ridge is choosing to eliminate breed restrictions altogether and move to a spay/neuter requirement instead,” said Susan Passmore, Executive Vice President of Blue Ridge Companies. “We are very progressive with our pet programs and want to use solutions that create better living experiences for all our residents, whether they have a pet or not, as well as our onsite teams. A proper screening process is essential to maximizing pet-inclusive communities, from pet rent and fees to liability.”
While creating more pet-inclusive communities does create benefits, like casting a wide net for potential residents and better accommodating pet owners, it does bring another consideration for operators: Pet waste. More pets onsite mean more pet waste, and although it’s the owner’s responsibility to pick up after their pet, it doesn’t always play out that way.
According to a “Pet Policies and Amenities in Multifamily” report conducted by PetScreening and J Turner Research, 84% of respondents ranked pet waste as their number one pet-related concern. Pet waste is harmful to the environment and carries many bacteria and pathogens that can cause illnesses if transmitted to both pets and humans.
Some of the most impactful and proactive pet waste mitigation strategies operators are utilizing include the use of biotechnology, such as forensic DNA services, for a tech-based approach. DNA testing allows operators to identify which residents don’t pick up after their pets; when unscooped pet waste is located onsite, onsite teams have the ability to pinpoint and fine the offending pet owners.
“DNA testing is another layer of our progressive pet program, and all it takes is a cheek swab to get that pet in the database,” Passmore said. “It’s a much more thorough pet waste management strategy that has significantly reduced the amount of onsite pet waste while holding pet owners accountable. DNA doesn’t lie. If we find a resident hasn’t been picking up after their pet and they receive a fine, they’re likely not going to make the same mistake twice.”
There is also significant cost savings involved with proactive pet waste management strategies. Some operators choose the reactive approach – hiring someone to come out and pick up all the unscooped pet waste or tasking maintenance teams to it. But that gets expensive and doesn’t hold pet owners accountable. It also inundates maintenance teams when they could be using their time to complete residents’ work orders.
“Having maintenance or a third-party come out and pick up pet waste every week may alleviate the problem in the short term, but it’s not sustainable and it certainly makes the problem worse in the long term,” Graves said. “It actually encourages the problem since residents know someone else will come out and pick it up for them.”
Operators that utilize DNA testing at their communities have an additional perk for residents: The DNA database can be tapped in the case of a lost or stolen pet. If a pet registered in the DNA database is lost and found, that DNA match is all it takes to get the pet back home to its owner. Since DNA cannot be tampered with or altered, it’s an even more protective measure than microchipping.
To cater more to pet owners, many operators are extending additional benefits to residents, like discounts and directories for local pet stores, grooming services, training, dog walkers and more. These are unique perks for pet owners and they also promote responsible pet ownership.
“We want to create exceptional living experiences for all our residents, and part of that experience at pet-inclusive communities is fostering a community culture of responsible pet ownership,” Passmore said. “We’ve found a lot of success creating that culture by extending more resources to pet owners and providing them with access to different services.”
Many facets of rental housing have already become modernized with the help of technology. With pet ownership on the rise, more operators are looking for different ways to leverage technology in the pet experience and optimize pet-friendly communities, from community culture and cleanliness to onsite efficiencies and revenue.
Morgan Dzak is an Account Manager for LinnellTaylor Marketing.