Ms. Management October
Q. I’m an experienced manager with a high-rise that is now leased-up. I’m not sure I have ever run a property with so many dogs. I don’t want to say that my building is “going to the dogs” because we have been proud to offer a “pet-friendly” policy. I believe it was one of the reasons we enjoyed a successful lease-up.
Here’s my problem in a nut-shell. Dogs in common-areas, lobbies and elevators are becoming a major resident problem. People and especially children intimidated by their presence; problems between dogs that erupt into a situation; and residents avoiding elevators and hallways because of the odor from dog urine and debris. Help! I have followed you enough to remember that you have spent time in major urban cities where high-rise apartments are the norm. You must have encountered these issues and coached teams to solve such situations.
A. First, congratulations on your lease-up and the recognition that a pet-friendly environment helped you get there. My experience is that I love dogs and strongly believe that responsible “pet owners” become settled into their apartment home, making satisfied residents for extended lease periods.
Yes, I have been privileged to be part of high-rise management teams in urban areas. I have been assigned to properties where the dog-resident ratio is key to leasing success. I learned along the way that the idea of “pet friendly” is great in concept but like yours, these communities need a management plan to solve the same issues you’re reporting. What has taken me by surprise are the number of residents that are intimidated/annoyed by uncontrolled dogs “left unattended”, taken to the wrong place or put into the wrong situation. There is little resident tolerance for irresponsible owners.
If possible every “pet-friendly” community should have amenities for these pets. For dogs, this can be “dog-parks”, dog walking and/or doggie day-care. Whether there are special amenities or not, there must certainly be policies in place that are supported by responsible dog owners. You need responsible “alfa dog owners” to consistently be part of the solution; taking the lead because they appreciate what they have and will work to ensure the longevity of “pet-friendly” policies.
A well-crafted Pet Addendum must spell out this common understanding. Likewise, there should be an Assistive Animal Addendum (as needed) that also spells out expected behavior. Having said this, most addendums I have read need re-writing. So, the following represents the reality for most; at least for now.
In a high-rise apartment community, it often requires that the team in place must experience a real situation, come together to solve it, further consider other possible scenarios to expand the policies to incorporate the “what-ifs”. Then you memorialize it into an addendum that is appropriate to the present and preventative going forward.
So, steps to get from where you’re at to this point? Let me lay out suggestions for your consideration. These examples have worked:
1. Post Signage – in Lobbies, Hallways, Elevators and in other common areas. Examples include:
Pets only “on lease” in designated areas. Thank you.
Pets not allowed in this area, Thank you.
2. Establish Periodic Pet-Owner Meetings: Broadly promote throughout community, strongly request attendance using rsvp, spend time and budget to confront issues with demonstratable intent to resolve. Bring in outside experts that establish evidence for supporting your approach as appropriate and sustainable actions. Incorporate fun, full disclosure and discussion. Ask for acceptance, accountability and leadership from every dog owner present. Build consensus for a responsible pet-friendly community.
3. Outline future meeting considerations to include: designated pet floors, pet stairwells, elevators, entryways, and possible amenities. Remember to include the importance of your intent to manage this “pet-friendly” benefit at your community before there is an incident shifting the option of insurers to disallow. Good luck!