Why Welcoming Pets Makes Good Business Sense

Making communities more pet-inclusive will attract and retain residents while enhancing your bottom line, says Crystal Martin of Leon Capital Group.

Crystal Martin

Multifamily owners and operators are always on the lookout for ways to improve the financial and operational performance of their communities.

A recent report from Michelson Found Animals and the Human Animal Bond Research Institute shows that providing a welcoming environment for pet owners is a highly effective way to do just that.

According to the 2021 Pet-Inclusive Housing Initiative (PIHI) Report, residents in pet-friendly rental housing stay 21 percent longer than those in non-pet-friendly housing (the report defined pet-friendly housing as any housing that allows residents to have at least one pet, regardless of other restrictions).

Think about what that means for your bottom line: you’re able to reduce marketing and unit turn costs because residents aren’t moving out as frequently. Along those same lines, 83 percent of owner/operators surveyed say pet-friendly vacancies are filled faster. That translates into fewer days in which a unit is not producing revenue.

Also, as the report details, prohibiting pets in a unit or restricting dogs based on breed or weight doesn’t necessarily mean a resident won’t have a prohibited pet in their unit. It just means that if they do, they won’t report it and that means operators won’t collect pet fees and rent for the animal. According to the study, 11 percent of all renters have a pet they’re not allowed to. In all, operators could collect $1.5 billion more in pet revenue each year by allowing those pets and collecting fees and pet rent on them.

A Definite Disconnect

Owners and operators may think they’re already plenty accommodating to pet-owning residents, but the PIHI report reveals residents feel differently.

Among those surveyed by the PIHI report, 76 percent of owner/operators say their properties allow some pets. However, 72 percent of residents say pet-friendly housing is hard to find, and 59 percent say it’s too expensive. In addition, 24 percent of residents report their pet has been a reason for needing to move. Heartbreakingly, 14 percent have surrendered a pet as a result of their housing situation.

Clearly, room exists for multifamily to safely and sensibly be more welcoming to pet owners and their pets and to reap more financial benefits from doing so.

Putting Out the Welcome Mat

What does a modern, progressive pet policy look like? The PIHI report offers a number of specific recommendations for how apartment communities can attract and retain pet owners looking for a high quality of life for themselves and their animals.

Among the suggestions:

  • Eliminate pet deposits and fees. Instead, apartment communities can use regular security deposits to cover the minimal damage pets typically cause. If such a broad change is not possible, incentivize pet owners to apply by offering a free month of pet rent or waiving pet deposits for new residents.
  • Ease or entirely remove dog weight and breed restrictions. Property insurance requirements are often cited as a reason for such restrictions, but apartment owners and operators should check to make sure their policies actually require these restrictions; increasingly, carriers are offering policies that don’t.

It’s important to note that reducing or eliminating breed and weight restrictions doesn’t mean apartment operators should just blindly accept any pet and pet owner. Rather, they should carefully screen individual pets and their owners to flag any potential behavioral issues. Furthermore, residents should be required to sign a pet agreement that outlines owners’ responsibilities and details the consequences of irresponsible ownership, such as fines for allowing a dog to roam the community unleashed and for not picking up dog waste. The agreement should also spell out what steps will be taken if a dog bites another resident or pet.

  • Expand the number of pets permitted in each apartment home. If you allow one pet per unit, consider allowing two. For context, consult with local jurisdictions to determine the amount of pets permitted per home in the area.
  • Offer an array of pet-focused amenities. Features like pet-washing stations, designated pet parks and exercise areas and regularly stocked pet-waste bag stations contribute to the long-term satisfaction of residents and will support marketing efforts to pet-owning prospects.

The Big Picture

Today’s apartment renters—like so many in the U.S.—are simply crazy about their pets. They consider them full-fledged members of the family.

The numbers bear out our (understandable and totally justified!) obsession with pets. According to the American Pet Products Association, 70 percent of U.S. households own a pet, and Americans spent $99 billion on pets in 2020.

In such an environment, making apartment communities more pet-inclusive will attract and retain more residents and significantly enhance a portfolio’s bottom line.

Crystal Martin serves as managing director of asset management for Leon Capital Group. She is responsible for property operations across Leon Capital’s national portfolio. Martin has over 15 years of experience building, implementing and executing marketing and management strategies.

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