These are the questions successful apartment owners and operators never stop asking themselves: how can I maximize the appeal of my communities to today’s renters? What amenities and features give my portfolio the best chance of attracting reliable residents who will be good citizens and fulfill their lease obligations?
Increasingly, multifamily companies are discovering that embracing pet inclusivity by reducing or even eliminating breed and weight restrictions can be a powerful way to boost demand, sign new residents and retain current ones.
MAA and RPM Living are among the operators that have dropped breed restrictions to create more welcoming environments for renters and their pets. Meanwhile, The Management Group (TMG), Oculus Realty and Milhaus have eliminated both breed and weight restrictions.
Reports and statistics demonstrate the opportunity owners and operators have to boost their communities’ appeal by being more welcoming to pets.
For starters, there’s the simple fact that 70% of U.S. households own a pet, according to the American Pet Products Association. Also, a 2022 study published in the journal Science showed that a dog’s breed is not a good predictor of its behavior.
In addition, pet owners don’t seem to find the apartment industry overwhelmingly hospitable. More specifically, 72% of residents say pet-friendly housing is hard to find, according to the 2021 Pet-Inclusive Housing Report. This is likely because, while many communities do allow pets to some degree, they also have restrictions in place limiting the type and size of dogs.
The same report also found that a pet-welcoming environment can have powerful business benefits. For example, residents in pet-friendly housing stay 21% longer than those in non-pet-friendly housing. That translates into reduced marketing and unit turn costs, which can have a seriously beneficial impact on the bottom line. TMG has said it has an 80% renewal rate among pet-owning residents.
Operators considering relaxing their pet restrictions need not worry too much about resident blowback. According to the Pet Policies and Amenities in Multifamily report by PetScreening and J. Turner Research, 53% of residents are against breed restrictions and 23% are indifferent. Only 24% are in favor. Similarly, 56% of residents are against weight-related restrictions, while 24% are indifferent. Only 20% support these restrictions.
I briefly touched on this above, but a reduction or elimination of pet-related restrictions can provide significant operational and financial benefits. For instance, fewer restrictions equate to a larger pool of potential residents who will now consider your communities.
In addition, with more pets onsite, operators can collect more pet rent. Reduced restrictions also make it less likely that a resident will try to sneak a pet into the community under the guise of it being an assistance animal. Operators lose out on pet-related revenue when this happens because HUD and the Fair Housing Act prohibit charging pet rent or other pet fees for legitimate service or support animals.
All of this is not to say that apartment companies should immediately drop what they’re doing, instantly eliminate breed and weight restrictions and accept all pets with no questions asked. This undertaking requires a measured approach.
Apartment communities should screen pets and pet owners on an individual basis to determine if they pose any risk and make decisions accordingly. This constitutes a much more innovative evaluation process compared to blanket restrictions based on a pet’s preexisting characteristics.
Communities that are embracing pet inclusivity should also make sure they have the kinds of amenities - such as pet parks and dog-waste-bag dispensers - that will enrich the living experiences of pet owners and their furry companions. And not only should they implement rules mandating that owners pick up their pets’ waste, but they should also avail themselves of solutions that can identify the pets who left unattended waste behind. Implementing such a solution will motivate pet owners to do their part to keep your communities looking great; otherwise, they face being held accountable.
In the end, relaxing or eliminating breed and weight restrictions is a great way for owners and operators to gain a competitive advantage in today’s apartment market and drive powerful business results.