by Paul Willis
For decades, pet policies were something of a cookie-cutter concept at apartment communities: Only certain breeds, only certain sizes and a limit of one or two pets per household.
Those standard policies, however, have become antiquated as pet owners constitute one of the fastest growing segments in rental housing. Pre-pandemic metrics indicated that 62% of rental units had pets at the rate of 1.3 pets per household, and those numbers are sure to be on the rise due to the influx of pet adoption during the pandemic.
Additionally, reasonable accommodation requests for assistance animals are perpetually on the rise—internal data shows a 45% increase in reasonable accommodation requests during the pandemic compared to the same period—and most property managers would concur that the validation process is often difficult and confusing to navigate. Pet policy trends, HUD guidelines and state-specific legislation are ever evolving, as well.
Add up the multitude of factors and it becomes apparent why more intuitive pet policies are needed. One prevailing sentiment is that allowing pets in a responsible manner is usually worth the effort. Communities that restrict pets are missing out on a large segment of potential renters, and many communities that do allow them are losing out on revenue maximization due to outdated practices and policies.
Thankfully, tech tools and industry metrics can help communities steer their pet policies in a more modern direction. Here are some of the ways:
Limit pet breed restrictions
On the surface, this one seems a bit touchier than other restrictions. But reducing or eliminating pet breed restrictions can be done responsibly when each pet is evaluated on an individual basis rather than any preexisting characteristics. Pet profiles are becoming more and more common in the industry, in which property managers can track and record the behavior of the pet and its owner. Like renters, pets can be evaluated on their past behavior and propensity for damage. Property teams can still restrict certain pets, but it won’t be based on breed characteristics alone. Rich Properties, for instance, was able to increase revenue by eliminating pet breed restrictions in a responsible manner.
Eradicate weight restrictions
Scores of data show no correlation between the weight of a pet and potential damage to property. Great Danes, for instance, are stellar house pets that typically put less wear and tear on a property than their smaller counterparts. Apartment operator Camden broke the cookie-cutter policy mold in 2019 by eradicating pet weight restrictions and noted increased resident satisfaction without any significant negative sentiment among residents. Other apartment operators have since followed suit.
Outsource reasonable accommodation animal requests
Onsite teams have enough to navigate with regard to current and prospective residents, particularly with overburdened onsite teams during the pandemic. Managing reasonable accommodation animal requests can often be a complex process and shouldn’t be another task added to the pile. A reasonable accommodation request for an assistance animal should be treated in a consistent manner, much like a credit check, when the leasing team can recommend a third-party resource that specializes in evaluating them per the FHAct and HUD guidelines. The screening service, such as PetScreening, verifies whether the accommodation request is valid and whether the submitted support animal documentation is authentic and legitimate. Just like with the credit check, the leasing team can rely on the determination without harboring any personal connection to the screening process.
Cookie-cutter pet policies are a thing of the past. They no longer work in the modern apartment landscape. Organizations that shift to forward-thinking policies will create the most pet-friendly and pet-responsible experience, all while increasing their opportunities for pet-related revenue.
Note: This blog is based upon an accepted session for the Florida Apartment Association Conference, which has since been postponed.