Residents say pet-friendly rentals are hard to find so here are some ideas on how to help during leasing season to attract pet lovers to your community.
By David Stunja
It may be hard to believe, but summer is almost here. And in the apartment industry, that means it’s leasing season.
Forward-thinking operators are always thinking about how they can maximize the appeal of their communities to new residents. Innovative marketing campaigns, self-guided and virtual tours, and cutting-edge onsite amenities are just a few of the ways that today’s apartment owners and managers are trying to lure new renters.
But operators shouldn’t overlook the impact that their pet policies and amenities can have on their efforts to attract new residents. After all, we are a nation of pet lovers: 70 percent of U.S. households own a pet, according to the American Pet Products Association.
The 2021 Pet-Inclusive Housing Report, from Michelson Found Animals and the Human Animal Bond Research Institute, hints at some of the business opportunities and benefits of rolling out the welcome mat to pet owners. According to the report, 72 percent of rental-housing residents say pet-friendly housing is hard to find, pointing to the competitive advantage of offering communities that pet-owning residents find appealing. In addition, 83 percent of owner/operators say pet-friendly vacancies are filled faster, and the report also found that residents in pet-friendly housing stay 21 percent longer than those in non-pet-friendly housing.
So how can operators best position their communities to attract pet lovers? Below are some steps to consider.
- Relax breed and weight restrictions. A reduction or elimination of these restrictions results in a larger pool of potential residents who will now consider your communities. Scaling back creates the opportunity for other operational and financial benefits, as well.
For example, with more pets onsite, operators can collect more pet rent. Reduced restrictions also make it less likely that a resident will try to hide a pet or 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.
Operators that are considering reducing or eliminating their pet restrictions shouldn’t worry too much that these changes will be met with stiff opposition from residents. 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.
Operators should also know that these restrictions often have their basis in the myth of the dangerous breed. However, a 2022 study published in the journal Science showed that a dog’s breed is not a good predictor of its behavior.
MAA and RPM Living are among the operators that have dropped breed restrictions to create more welcoming environments for pet-owning residents. The Management Group, Oculus Realty and Milhaus have eliminated both breed and weight restrictions.
Despite the host of potential benefits offered by reducing or eliminating restrictions, this article is not advocating that operators immediately eliminate breed and weight restrictions and just accept all pets with no questions asked. Apartment communities should thoroughly screen pets and pet owners on an individual basis to determine if they pose any risk and make data-driven decisions accordingly.
- Have the right pet amenities in place. It’s not enough to simply allow more pets than your competitors. Prospective residents will want to know that they and their pets will have a high quality of life after they move in. And that’s where amenities come in. Across the industry, operators are equipping their communities with shady pet parks, pet-washing stations, pet-sitting services and pet concierges.
The good news is that residents’ needs in this area are fairly straightforward and easy to meet. According to the PetScreening-J Turner report, the two pet-related amenities most desired by residents are waste-bag stations and onsite dog parks, both of which can be relatively affordable to install.
Additionally, when you have progressive pet policies and appealing pet amenities, be sure to feature them prominently in your marketing campaigns, community websites, ILSs and social media outlets. Be assertive in spreading the good word that your communities want to provide pet owners and their pets with a best-in-class living experience. After all, it creates a meaningful and relevantl competitive advantage for your communities.
Apartment residents – just like the rest of the U.S. population – are simply crazy about their pets. And when apartment owners and operators lean into this fact, they’re bound to find that their leasing seasons will be extremely busy with pet-friendly rentals.
David Stunja is chief operating officer at PetScreening.