What’s the Score? Leveling Up the Rental Housing Pet Game

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


Is your property pet-friendly?

If you’re one of the 70-80% of market rate rental housing operators who accept pets, you’ve probably just answered that question with a resounding ‘yes.’ But from whose perspective? Yours? The family with a 95-pound golden retriever? The single parent with two kids and a cat, struggling to make ends meet? 

A seemingly innocuous question – ‘is your property pet-friendly?’ – becomes quite provocative viewed through the lens of a pet owner who is challenged to secure housing that accepts their large dog, welcomes their ‘restricted’ breed, or embraces pets without additional fees. The Pet-Inclusive Housing Initiative (PIHI) has developed a scorecard to help operators have more insight when answering this question; but more on that in just a bit.

It’s all about perspective.

The definition ‘pet-friendly’ all comes down to perspective. In a recent 2022 renter survey conducted by Zumper, a segment on the most pet-friendly cities for renters had some interesting takeaways. Factors like the number of pet-friendly units, median rent among pet-friendly units, pet-focused amenities, availability of green spaces and veterinary care, as well as the cost of veterinary services, were key metrics in determining cities offering the “best environment for pets.” What wasn’t taken into consideration? Restrictive pet policies and pet fees. 

You know what the owner of a pet that is restricted in most rental housing could care less about? A grooming station, bark park, or the convenience of waste stations. 

Yes, these amenities are all nice-to-haves, and it’s wonderful to see the industry acknowledge that pets are a big part of renters’ lives. But – and it’s a big but – when policies don’t allow a particular pet at all, that’s a deal breaker. There’s an enormous gap between ‘your pet is welcome regardless of size or breed’ and ‘we have great pet amenities.’ Allowing a pet is a must-have, and that is the bottom-line between ‘pet-friendly’ and ‘pet-inclusive’ housing.

The PIHI Scorecard – Coming Soon!

That brings us back to the PIHI scorecard tool, which is currently in beta development and will be released in the coming months. The scorecard asks questions through the lens of the typical pet-owning renter, using a 100-point scale to rate a property based on how pet-inclusive their policies are. Factors impacting the score include breed and size restrictions and pet-related fees, as well as basic amenities such as outside spaces for dogs and waste stations.

When applied to an initial sample of properties, early observations aren’t surprising; generally, scores are abysmally low with an average of 49 out of 100 points.. Again, not surprising when only 9% of rental housing units are free from restrictions, and pet rent as a source of ancillary revenue has become vogue. Let me say that again . . . only 9% of rental housing units are free from restrictions (like an average 35-pound weight limit and 10-15 breed restrictions). Viewed from that perspective, rental housing doesn’t have good game when it comes to being truly pet-inclusive.

The good news is that the scorecard tool provides valuable insight for housing providers, as well as access to additional resources that help evaluate and revise pet policies toward more inclusivity. Leveling up a property’s inclusivity is truly pet-friendly, and offers impactful benefits including higher retention, increased customer satisfaction, and more connected communities. To see how other operators have upped their pet game by becoming more pet-inclusive, be sure to visit the Pet-Inclusive Housing Initiative.