By John Triplett
Rental Housing Journal
If you do a search online for apartments and pet poop problems, there is no shortage of negative reviews from tenants about pet waste in apartment communities.
The growing millennial generation is becoming the largest group of renters in the country. And guess what, more than 70 percent of them are pet owners. The trend toward pet ownership in rental housing is only going to grow.
One California apartment owner and his property manager have taken the problem head-on in their pet-friendly apartment complexes. Not only have they solved their pet poop issues in their complexes with their tenants, but they started a doggie DNA testing program for apartment managers. Now they are working with other property managers to try and help those managers solve their pet poop issues.
However they have run into issues they did not anticipate with some other property managers.
Some property managers deny they have a pet poop problem
Emily Lee, a property manager for Orloff Property Management, Inc. which began the doggie DNA testing program said, “When I went out into the field, a lot of the property managers would say that – just actually deny that they had any issues at all on their property.
“But before I spoke to them I had gone on Google and Yelp to look at some properties in the area that were pet friendly to see what the reviews had to say. Basically I wanted to see if their residents had complained that they had pet poop problems – and they did have pet poop problems,” Lee said.
“But then the property managers – I am unsure of what their reasoning was – they would say, ‘We’re not really interested. We don’t have a pet poop problem.’ And that was pretty much across the board,” said Lee, a 10-year property management veteran.
“It is our belief that there are not bad dogs, there are bad dog owners,” said Cliff Orloff, owner of Orloff Property Management Inc., which owns approximately 800 units in Sacramento and Berkeley, California, and Indianapolis, Indiana.
“We have had some bad dogs, but they have been bad dogs because their owners were bad – they didn’t know how to deal with their dogs,” Orloff said.
Tesla here won "Dog of the Month" in a photo contest at one pet-friendly apartment complex.
Orloff took the pet poop issue to the veterinary school at the University of California-Davis. The school developed a state-of- the-art program to DNA-sample dogs at a reasonable cost and to DNA-match dog poop to dogs. At one of his complexes, Orloff set up a mandatory registration for dog DNA screening, data management and resident incentive systems to organize this effort efficiently.
“We started a business that is meant to be something like a credit bureau for pet owners,” Orloff said, called NPR4Dogs.com, designed to help pet-friendly apartment complexes.
“The result was dramatic. The dog poop problem went away overnight. Responsible dog owners who lived on the property hailed the new program. Most of the irresponsible dog owners changed their behavior and became responsible dog owners,” Orloff said.
So now Emily Lee and Orloff are trying to help get pet poop problems solved at other apartment complexes.
“As a property manager I am aware of what is going on around me in my community,” Lee said. “We are a little different here and I think in the minority of property managers. We’re not just here to collect rent. We actually enforce all of our policies and we really strive to make our properties a nice place to live.
“So I noticed a lot of larger property management companies have a lot of overhead and they have to jump through hoops to get things approved. So it seems like it was more work for them to implement the DNA program than it was for them to just let the pet poop problem continue.” She said it seemed there was a lot of bureaucracy and it was just too much trouble to work the issue up the chain of command.
“I only ran into one property manager who did say they do have a problem and she would be interested in the DNA program, but they would have to put it in the budget and get it approved by their regional manager,” Lee said.
“Here Cliff owns and manages these properties so I feel it is just a little different than investors and investment companies who are more about the bottom dollar. We are all concerned about the business, but we want to make sure the properties are a nice place to live too.”
A pet DNA program could help apartment marketing
“I do not think many of these folks think about how this type of program could help their marketing. They do not realize they are blocking out a number of prospects when you do not accept pets. So for them, 10 people come in and eight have pets, so their only prospects are two out of the 10. But if you accept pets, then they are all your prospects.
“So that would actually help their occupancy but then I don’t think people think about that. They just think about ‘Oh it’s going to create a lot of work for us now,’ “Lee said.
“I do believe there are some apartment management companies that are anti-pet and just do not want to deal with it. We do have some properties around here that do not accept pets across the board and it is because it is a lot of work. But like I said, if 10 people walk in to rent an apartment and eight of them have pets we have apartments available for all 10 prospects not just two.
“In the Sacramento region, we are one of two properties that accept all pets and all breeds of dogs. The other property is actually full with a wait list and their rents are significantly higher than ours.
“We changed our policies slightly when we were implementing the DNA program because we were only accepting one pet. And so that actually turned a lot of people away also who had more than one pet.
“I received a phone call from a gal yesterday who was interested in a two-bedroom and she had two pets, and they were larger breeds, so her only option was that one complex and us. And we were not an option because we only take one pet,” Lee said explaining they are now changing to a two-pet option.
Bandit here was another "Dog of the Month" winner at his apartment complex.
Pet friendly can lead to higher rents and income for apartments
“I have been working at Riverfront for six years and in property management for 10 years, and 9 times out of 10 people are not going to give up their pets to move to a place. They are looking for a place that accommodates them and their pets.
“So I do believe you can charge more for rent when you have a pet policy where you are giving something that nobody else is offering.
“We have actually changed our pet policies and now we are accepting two. We made the monthly pet fee higher so that is a little experiment for us to see how much people are willing to pay. It is not an extreme amount but there are some expenses when you have to clean up sometimes in certain areas,” Lee said.
Our current pet policy?
“As of today, two-pet maximum, no weight or breed restrictions, $400 deposit for each pet. Then it is a $25 monthly pet fee for the first pet and then if you have two it is a total of $100 a month. So having that second one will jump that monthly premium up $75,” Lee said.
The Humane Society of the U.S. recommends
- Your property needs a clear set of rules and consequences for violations. Make rules available at the resident portal and in the office so residents see them frequently. This frees your staff to offer great customer service and answer questions.
- Be consistent in fining residents who are witnessed not cleaning up after their dog. Strict enforcement supports the community norm that dog waste is picked up by residents. However, false accusations or non-eyewitness accounts should be handled judiciously; consider sending a gentle note that lets people know management cares who scoops their poop.
- Show residents you’re serious about pet pickup. Many housing companies use services (such as professional poop-scooping or, in the case of ongoing problems, collecting dog DNA so that they can match a sample to its source dog and owner). This is the gold standard for properties with high expectations of their residents, and it’s been shown to work: No one wants to get busted, so people remove the “forensic evidence.” Costs can be absorbed by pet fees you’re already collecting.
You can get in touch with Emily Lee to learn more about NPR4dogs at National Pet Registries Inc.,5953 Riverside Blvd. #330, Sacramento, CA 95831, (916) 529-6072 or email at NPR4dogs@gmail.com.