Are You Capturing the Right Data to Optimize Your Pet Strategies?

Pet data in rental housing communities

By Judy Bellack, Industry Principal, The Pet-Inclusive Housing Initiative

In today’s increasingly interconnected world, rental housing communities are recognizing the profound impact that pets have on the lives of their residents. From companionship to mental well-being, the presence of pets and support animals enriches our neighborhoods in myriad ways. 

Yet, amidst this appreciation for our furry companions, many rental housing operators may overlook the importance of systematically tracking and utilizing relevant pet data. The truth is, insights derived from comprehensive pet data can be transformative, shaping everything from resource allocation to community engagement strategies and targeted marketing campaigns. By understanding and harnessing the power of pet-related information, leaders can make more informed strategic decisions about supporting pets in housing. 

Let’s explore the profound impacts of tracking relevant pet data and how it can propel rental housing communities towards greater success and inclusivity.

The basics

Many of these data points you may already be capturing, but it’s worth reiterating:

  • Number and species of pets. Not only will this establish a record of pets on site, it will also inform decisions related to pet amenities and services. Having a photo of the pet on file is great in case a pet ever becomes lost.
  • Pet ownership information. Primarily contact information, but also relevant demographic information will help facilitate communication and targeted outreach information. This information will also aid in enforcing community rules, ensuring compliance, and accountability.
  • Behavioral data. Capturing incidents or complaints will enable community managers to address potential issues promptly and identify any problematic patterns of behavior. It may also help identify policy issues or communication gaps for improvement of responsible pet ownership and harmony among residents.
  • Emergency contact information. Collecting emergency contact information for pet owners ensures prompt assistance in case of emergencies or natural disasters. This data is essential for coordinating rescue efforts and reuniting lost or displaced pets with their owners during challenging circumstances.

The deeper dive

These are data points you may not be tracking currently but that may provide deep insights into the strategic direction of pet policies. And they are important — especially given that 2 out of 3 households in the U.S. have a pet:

  • Pet occupancy. Just as overall occupancy is tracked, recording the percentage of units with a pet (or pets) is important. Knowing the proportion of rental units occupied by pets is the basis for additional data-point tracking. And having this information will help with resource allocation for pet amenities and event planning that caters to pet parents.
  • Retention among pet-occupied units vs. non-pet-occupied units. Once you know your pet occupancy, you will be able to track the retention rate of your pet units. Research shows that pet-owners typically stay 21% longer than non-pet-owners, which dramatically impacts turnover costs and vacancy loss.
  • Turnover costs and vacancy losses for pet-occupied units vs. non-pet-occupied units. Tracking this information will allow you to quantify changes over time and highlight NOI lift from your pet-occupied units. This information may also inform decisions to welcome more pets by easing pet restrictions.
  • Real damages in pet-occupied units. Tracking actual damages, or lack thereof, in pet-occupied units can establish appropriate deposits and/or reasonable fees for pet owners. While there are always exceptions, research shows that only 9% of units report pet damage, and the average cost for repairs is only $210.
  • Pet revenue. Breaking out and tracking this ancillary revenue stream is necessary to analyze the cost/benefit of welcoming more pets on site. (Note: multiple pet deposits and fees may become burdensome for residents and difficult to justify based on actual damages or resource implementation. Reasonable pet fees that support companion animal amenities and services and/or cover typical damage costs may be justified/appropriate).
  • Market comps. Having insight into comparable community pet-policies and fees is also important. This insight will help you craft more competitive policies and marketing campaigns to attract pet owners. For example, if you are seeing greater retention among pet owners, then easing size and breed restrictions (which are increasingly less relevant based on a variety of research and science) will allow you to capture a greater percentage of the pet-owning market.
  • Pet owners who are declined. Keeping track of the number of prospective renters who are declined because of size or breed restrictions is important to understand the size of the market your property is unable to serve. Over time, this may reveal an opportunity to reevaluate pet restrictions.

The takeaway

Overall, tracking relevant pet data provides valuable insights into rental housing market dynamics, resident preferences, NOI impacts and community planning considerations. It also allows stakeholders to make informed decisions that enhance the livability of rental properties, foster positive relationships between managers and residents, and may well lead to greater pet-inclusivity of a property. For more information and resources on pet-inclusive housing, please visit the Pet-Inclusive Housing Initiative or email