By Judy Bellack, Industry Principal, The Pet-Inclusive Housing Initiative
Over the past decade or so, the multifamily industry has undeniably become more pet-friendly.
Go to industry conferences, and you’ll see pet-focused sessions with panelists who have reaped the benefits of relaxing or even eliminating weight and breed restrictions. Visit apartment communities, and you’ll likely see an array of amenities – such as fenced dog parks and pet-washing stations – designed to attract and retain pet-owning residents.
New data validates these general observations. According to the 2021 Pet-Inclusive Housing Initiative Report, 76% of owner/operators identify their properties as allowing some pets, which reflects a willingness to accommodate pets by a large majority of property owners and operators.
But the same report also shows that residents often don’t find rental housing as pet-inclusive as they’d like it to be. For example, according to the PIHI report:
- 72% of surveyed residents say pet-friendly housing is hard to find.
- 59% say pet-friendly housing is too expensive.
- 24% say their pet has been a reason for needing to move.
- 14% have surrendered their pet as a result of their housing situation.
Clearly, apartment owners and operators have to be careful and strategic when crafting their pet policies. They have to strike the right balance of welcoming pet-owning residents with helping non pet-owners feel comfortable, as well as protecting the community’s assets.
However, the PIHI report provides a solid general blueprint for how multifamily communities can become more pet inclusive in ways that drive good business results. Among its recommendations for operators:
- Consider reducing or eliminating dog weight and breed restrictions.
- Create an easy-to-follow screening process and pet agreement that focuses on well-behaved pets and well-behaved owners.
- Check with your insurance company and secure a policy without pet-related restrictions.
- Consider eliminating pet deposits and fees, and instead rely on regular security deposits to cover the minimal damage that pets may cause. If this is not possible, incentivize pet owners to apply by offering a free month of pet rent or waiving pet deposits for new residents.
- Formalize the number and types of pets allowed in the community with a forward-thinking, positive pet policy. If you allow one pet per unit, consider allowing two.
The benefits of implementing these types of policies show up in your bottom line. According to the PIHI report, residents in pet-friendly housing stay 21% longer than those in non-pet-friendly housing, which reduces turn costs and marketing spends because units aren’t being vacated as frequently. Also, 83% of owner/operators say pet-friendly vacancies are filled faster, and 79% say the vacancies are easier to fill.
To summarize the experience of one operator, The Management Group in Atlanta has eliminated breed and weight restrictions and does not charge pet rent. It does screen individual pets and pet owners during the lease application process with the assistance of a third-party pet screening service. The company also has extensively outfitted its communities with amenities such as dog parks, water bowls and pet-waste stations, among other features. As a result of its pet-inclusiveness, TMG has seen resident satisfaction levels rise and has an 80% renewal rate among pet-owning residents.
Now is a great time to ask yourself if your portfolio is as pet-friendly — and pet-inclusive — as it could be and to make changes when and where you can. Because moving forward, the apartment communities experiencing the strongest demand and the healthiest bottom lines will be the ones that are the most welcoming to residents and their furry friends.