Set Your Apartments Apart by Allowing Pets

While owners might see too much risk in allowing pets, these fears are usually based on myth, not fact. And the rewards commonly outweigh the costs.

By Meeghan Fuhr

Cat_Dog_679x533Pet owners sometimes find it difficult to rent an apartment. Many small-balance multifamily owners do not allow pets, so people end up having to choose between keeping their pet or having a place to live. However, while apartment owners might be concerned that allowing pets is risky, often, these fears are usually based on myths, not facts. And the rewards commonly outweigh the costs.

What’s to Fear?

According to the 2017-2018 American Pet Products Association (APPA) National Pet Ownership Survey, 68 percent of U.S. households own a pet, with approximately 60.2 million households owning a dog and 47.1 households owning a cat. Yet, with approximately 84.5 million homes owning some type of pet, about 6.1 million households have to re-home or surrender their pet every five years, according to the ASPCA.

With such a significant portion of the country’s population owning a pet, why is it that most multifamily owners and managers don’t accept pets in their rental properties?

Landlords may fear that pets will cause noise, mess or dirtiness, property damage and conflict between renters. But that isn’t necessarily the case.

We haven’t seen empirical evidence that these concerns are warranted,” Deborah Dubow Press, ASPCA director of Regulatory Affairs, said. “We’ve never been able to find data that says the turnover costs are actually higher for people with pets versus people with families or children.”

Mitigate Your Risks

The common worries that property owners and managers have can often be reduced by simple policies and procedures. “The ASPCA supports reasonable, refundable pet deposits. We think those are a really great tool for landlords,” said Press. This is also beneficial for renters, because if there is no damage at the end of their lease term, they get their deposit back.

Another common reason landlords don’t allow pets in rental properties is due to fear of conflict between renters, whether it be noise issues or liability if a pet were to hurt a resident on the property. Landlords often think they are alleviating this risk by having breed or size restrictions in place; however, pet height and breed have no indication of a pet’s behavior. “Studies show that pet height and weight have no relationship to safety, sanitation or the protection of property. And with breed restrictions, there is a lot of research that shows that they just don’t make people safer,” said Press.

She continued, “Instead, we suggest a policy that allows all sizes and breeds, and requires the individual pets to be safe and socially appropriate. The ideal policy recognizes the animal as an individual and not part of an amorphous breed or size that people might have preconceived notions about.”

Having a policy that requires management to meet each pet ahead of time is a great way to ensure that it is evaluated on an individual basis based on their behavior.

A benefit to allowing pets in rental properties is that you have control over what policies and procedures to implement, so you can ensure safety and cleanliness in your properties. Allowing pets eliminates residents from sneaking them in without your knowledge, making the community safer. “We recommend pet policies that ask for certification of required vaccines and licenses that are required by the law, and then you know that all of the animals in your building have had their rabies vaccine,” Press said. You can also require that pet waste be cleaned up immediately by the owner.

Consider the Benefits, Not Just the Risks

Pet-friendly rental housing can come with its risks, but it can also differentiate you from your competition and come with great rewards. According to the APPA, 56 percent of U.S. households owned a pet in 1988, and that percentage has increased to 68 percent as of this year.

According to Press, studies have shown that roughly 20 percent of rental properties are open to cats, 18 percent are open to small dogs and 4 percent are open to big dogs. Since majority of rental properties in the country don’t allow pets, having a pet-friendly apartment could work in your advantage. As pet ownership becomes more common, particularly among Millennials, landlords who allow pets can choose from a much larger pool of residents.

“In our experience, [allowing pets] draws in more residents,” said Amanda Young with Cornerstone Apartments in Denver. “Prospects tend to have pets, or be OK with living in a building that accepts them.” Not only that, but rental properties that allow pets typically have less turnover.

It should be no surprise that pet ownership is on the increase, and if you are smart about mitigating risks, pet-friendly rentals can prove to put you at a significant advantage, both for your reputation among renters, and ultimately, your bottom-line.

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