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Rental Housing Owners Can Attract and Retain More Residents by Adopting Pet-Inclusive Policies, According to a New Report

Rental Housing Owners Adopting Pet Inclusive Policies

The vast majority of pet-owning residents and property owners and managers agree that pets are important members of the family, but progress is still needed when it comes to extending that sentiment to pet-inclusive policies for rental housing, according to a new data-rich report from the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) and Michelson Found Animals Foundation.

pet-inclusive housing 2021 report

Owners and operators can reap significant financial benefits through better retention with updated pet-friendly regulations, especially as Millennials and Gen Z—most of whom will continue renting instead of buying a home—grow older. Millennials already comprise the majority of residents in the rental housing market, and 80% of Millennials and Gen Z own a pet. Progressive owners/operators are reevaluating their property’s pet policies to meet the evolving priorities of younger generations.  

Brett Yates Pet-Inclusive Housing Initiative
Brett Yates, CEO of MFA

“Michelson Found Animals and HABRI developed this report to provide clear and detailed market-based strategies that benefit all—housing owners/operators, residents, and our beloved pets, who have been so important to us during the pandemic,” said Brett Yates, CEO of Michelson Found Animals (pictured). “We look forward to sharing this report to create more pet-inclusive housing for healthier, more connected communities.”

The recently published Pet Inclusive Housing Initiative (PIHI) report highlights data from a comprehensive survey of residents and property owners/operators, offering a roadmap for positive, forward-thinking, and mutually beneficial changes to pet rental policies that will increase the availability of pet-inclusive housing and benefit everyone—housing owners/operators, residents, and pets.

“This report is grounded in data that will spur common-sense changes to increase the availability of pet-inclusive housing,” said Steven Feldman, HABRI president. “Our message to housing providers is that they can do good and capture an economic opportunity by easing restrictions on pets in rental housing communities.”

There are considerable financial benefits that owners and operators can reap by being truly pet-inclusive. The report found that it will boost the bottom line of a multifamily portfolio because residents in pet-friendly housing stay 21% longer than those in non-pet-friendly housing, by up to 10 months. Pet-friendly vacancies fill faster than non-pet-friendly vacancies, according to 83% of owners/operators, and are easier to fill, according to 79%.

Additionally, 72% of residents say pet-friendly housing is hard to find, 59% of residents say pet-friendly housing is too expensive, and 24% of residents say their pet has been a reason for needing to move. Housing with pet-inclusive policies is simply more attractive to a wider pool of potential residents.

That’s because more than two-thirds of U.S. households (about 85 million families) own a pet. An overwhelming 95% of residents reported that their property owner/operator has a positive relationship with their pet, representing a basis for common ground. Yet just 76% of property owners/operators identify their properties as allowing some pets, and only 8% are free of all restrictions. While this represents a willingness to accommodate pets by a large majority of property owners/operators, further pet-inclusivity can be achieved.

Some restrictions are common-sense, such as a limitation on the total number of pets, but many current pet-related restrictions are barriers-to-entry for pet owners. With the appropriate process and education, the vast majority of restrictions could be relaxed without detriment to the community. For example, even among housing that allows dogs, half include restrictions on either breed or weight, presumably due to the perception of an increased chance of aggression—despite a lack of evidence that such restrictions are justified.

Research from a University of Bristol School of Veterinary Sciences report published in Applied Animal Behaviour Science found that general characteristics, such as breed type, explain “only a small amount of the overall difference between aggressive and non-aggressive dogs,” and thus “it is not appropriate to evaluate the risk of aggressive behavior in an individual dog using characteristics such as breed type.” The American Veterinary Medical Association came out against breed-specific legislation because such bans “are a simplistic answer to a far more complex social problem.”

Already, some rental housing companies that eased or removed pet weight and breed restrictions while reducing limits on the number of pets per household have seen increased demand and stronger renewal rates.

When James Skvor and his family were looking at apartments and condos, their options were limited because of their 190-pound Great Dane Mastiff mix. 

James Skvor and his Great Dane Mastiff

“That cut down on the number of places that we could move into,” Skvor said. “It was difficult to find one that would let us have a dog that size. But then we found The Crest and really liked it and have been happy with everything so far.”

The Crest is a development of luxury apartments located in Naples, Florida, and managed by The Management Group LLC (TMG), which recently changed their long-standing policies regarding breed and weight restrictions and lifted them completely.

“We asked ourselves: ‘Why do we have these limits?’” Jamin Harkness, executive vice president of TMG, told PetScreening in a client spotlight. “Do heavier dogs do more damage? Where did the breed restrictions come from? We always thought our general liability insurance had put these restrictions in place, but on review we learned they did not. Where our competitors are rejecting pets based on weight and breed, our community warmly welcomes all pets.”

He added that this policy change led to increased renewals and happier pet owners, thus giving TMG a competitive edge. And they’re not alone.

“We’ve experienced an uptick in revenue since easing breed restrictions,” said Crystal Martin, director of multifamily operations at Leon Capital Group in Dallas, Texas. “And we’ve discovered that pet-owning residents have become more transparent about their pets with no need to try to work around these restrictions to live with their companions.”

Even beyond current pet-owners, 35% of residents without pets said they would get a pet if current restrictions were lifted—and a third of pet-owning residents said they’d get another pet—which would result in creating new homes for pets who would otherwise be homeless. More than 8 million more animals could find homes if there were more pet-inclusive housing options. Increasing the availability of pet-inclusive housing can help families and pets find the homes they need and deserve.

It also helps foster stronger communities. Two-thirds of pet owners said their pet brought them closer to their neighbors, even if those neighbors didn’t own a pet themselves. Alternatively, 14% of residents have had to surrender a pet due to their housing situation, a tragic scenario for any animal-lover. Keeping pets and people together can make a difference in the health, well-being, and quality of life of individuals, families, and their pets. 

Through the implementation of new pet-inclusive policies, rental housing operators can boost their leasing and resident retention efforts while also promoting animal welfare and keeping families and their pets together. The report offers a number of market-based solutions for owners/operators to consider, such as attracting pet owners by offering a free month of pet rent or waiving pet deposits; creating an easy-to-follow screening process and pet agreement that focuses on well-behaved pets and responsible owners, formalizing the types of pets allowed in the community with a forward-thinking, positive pet policy; increasing the number of pets that can live in a unit from one to two; coordinating with shelters and pet adoption agencies to organize virtual meetings with pets; and more.

The data for this report was collected in the United States prior to the pandemic by analytics consultancy LRW, on behalf of Michelson Found Animals and HABRI, to explore the current housing circumstances of residents with and without pets in non-rural settings, and the perceptions of property owners and managers towards pet-friendly housing and pet owners. The research was conducted online among a nationally-representative sample of 1,049 residents (749 pet owners and 300 non-pet owners) and by telephone with 500 property owners and managers.

Michelson Found Animals, a leading animal welfare non-profit, and HABRI, a not-for-profit organization that maintains the world’s largest online library of human-animal bond research and funds innovative research projects to scientifically document the health benefits of companion animals, launched PIHI to raise awareness of the benefits of pet-inclusive rental housing for all. Read the full Pet-Inclusive Housing Initiative report here.

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