Pet-Friendly Apartments: What You Need to Know

What makes a unit—and a community—truly welcoming?

Dogo Argentino Luna. Living in a pet-friendly apartment, she has her own raised bed. Image courtesy of Anca Gagiuc

Estimates show that in the U.S., people own 78 million dogs and 85.8 million cats. Additionally, 6.3 million pets enter U.S. shelters every year, according to ASPCA. Of these, 3.1 million are dogs and 3.2 million are cats. Many of these animals are left there because their owners have issues finding pet-friendly apartments. More so, in 2022, the number of animals that entered shelters surpassed that of those which left shelters by 4 percent, marking the largest gap in the past four years.

Pet-friendly apartments have different levels of “friendliness.” In the best cases, these are properties designed with pets in mind, offering anything a pet requires for a happy life, from custom sleeping and feeding areas to rooms for grooming and parks where they can play unleashed. In other cases, pet-friendly apartments are communities where pets are simply allowed. And this is no small thing either.

But what makes a community truly pet-friendly?

Pet-friendly apartments start with the pet policy

Typically, apartment communities that allow pets on the property have pet policies that residents must abide by. Standard guidelines within apartment pet policies include restrictions for dog breeds, type of pets allowed, number of pets, weight restrictions, pet deposit, pet rent and pet insurance.

An increasing number of property owners are experimenting with looser or even nonexistent pet policies. They started lifting restrictions including weight limits, breed restrictions and pet rent and the effects were astounding. Firstly, their renewal rate among pet-owning residents—which typically account for roughly two-thirds of the resident roster—increased from 50 percent to as much as 80 percent. Then, these pet owners praised their communities, which attracted more pet owners.

A 2015 nationwide study by Anthrozoos looked to determine the factors influencing the availability of pet-friendly rental housing throughout the U.S. titled Companion Animal Renters and Pet-Friendly Housing in the U.S. revealed that just roughly 9 percent of landlords had no restrictions on the types of pets that residents may own. Findings also showed that many of the properties that do allow pets aren’t available to low-income renters. More so, these pet-friendly landlords who chose to place no restrictions on pet ownership enjoyed a rental premium of nearly 12 percent over landlords who do not allow pets.

Types of restrictions

Luna posing for a portrait. Image courtesy of Anca Gagiuc

While at its core, restrictions were imposed to protect the property’s residents, on-site teams and material assets, they also have an empathic facet, which stems out of care for animals and complement existing federal and state laws, filling some gaps where these laws might not address all aspects. For example, resident access to affordable veterinary care. Some communities established funding mechanisms for low-cost or free veterinary care and connected with nonprofit clinics.

Another restriction targets the type of pet allowed on the property, usually only allowing cats and dogs. This means the pet policy restricts other kinds of animals, such as reptiles and birds. Yet, in many cases, this is a measure designed to protect wildlife, because trapping wildlife is still all too common. Residents should always discuss this aspect with the leasing rep.

Most pet-friendly apartments also limit the number of pets to one or two per unit. The restriction is usually used to avoid public nuisance complaints, a hoarding situation, or a puppy mill. Yet, there is no magic number of animals that guarantees humane conditions.

Weight restrictions or pet size restrictions stem from the perception that larger breeds will inherently cause more damage, although substantial evidence to support this notion lacks. In fact, many large breeds are of the low-energy type, which makes them ideal apartment dogs. While it’s true that pets can occasionally cause damage, so could residents—especially when it comes to children.

Breed restrictions are enforced in multifamily housing because property managers and owners don’t wish to be held accountable for dogs that are likely to become aggressive and attack or cause damage to the property. Typically, breed restrictions differ by area. A way around this restriction is for the prospective resident to provide training certificates to the manager. These prove that the dog has undergone behavioral training and is easy to control, while the owner is serious about their responsibility.

Some property operators will require a pet deposit, pet fee, pet rent or pet insurance, or a combination of these. The first one is a one-time, refundable fee that can be used to cover the property damage caused by pets, such as flea infestations, broken appliances, stains, holes in the walls, or scratches on floors and walls. A pet fee is a one-time, non-refundable fee used by the property to help cover associated costs, paid by the resident before moving in. The pet rent is a monthly fee added to the rent price to account for the pet living on the property. Lastly, some operators require pet insurance or at least renters insurance with pet liabilities included. The former covers pretty much everything related to your pet (there are four levels of pet insurance), but, depending on the insurance provider, certain dog breeds and exotic pets may be excluded. The latter covers third-party damage or injury caused by the pet.

Delivering pet-friendly apartments is not always easy, but overall, offering them is both economically viable and can increase the bottom-line profits. Being truly pet-inclusive raises resident satisfaction and having happy residents is good business.

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