Study Shows Easing Pet Restrictions Could Help Property Owners and Pets

by Paul Willis

More than three-quarters of rental properties allow pets in some fashion, but many have restrictions that can make it difficult for pet owners. Limits on the number of pets may be appropriate for some properties, but if weight, breed and other restrictions could be scaled back, many operators could increase prospect demand and revenue while also helping find a new home for millions of pets. 

That’s according to newly-furnished survey data by Michelson Found Animals Foundation and the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI), which recently released the most comprehensive research to date regarding pets and rental housing in the United States.

“Rental properties have a tremendous opportunity to make positive changes to their pet practices, both from a revenue-generation perspective and by providing residents with the most responsible pet-friendly experience,” said Aimee Gilbreath, executive director for Michelson Found Animals. “We hope to use a data-driven approach and open dialogue with multifamily rental housing providers to make a real difference for residents and their pets.” 

The survey data verifies that pet-friendliness often serves as a resident recruitment and retention tool, with 83% of property managers saying pet-friendly vacancies can be filled faster and that residents stay an average of 4.6 years at a pet-friendly community compared to 3.8 years elsewhere. There is also nearly universal agreement (more than 90%) that pets are valued family members. Including residents without pets, 71% agree that pets bring people together within a rental community. And 66% of pet owners say their pets have brought them closer to their neighbors. 

The study also indicated that many residents have fewer pets than they would like. One-third of pet owners in restricted pet-friendly housing said they would obtain another pet if allowed, and 35% of non-pet owners in rental homes that don’t allow pets indicated they would get one if they could. 

“Pets are good for business, and this data shows there are real opportunities for property owners and operators to achieve higher levels of occupancy and retention,” said Steven Feldman, executive director of HABRI. “We hope to bring housing providers and the pet care community together, so that everyone can learn and benefit from this new data.”

According to the survey, 86% of property managers say they have a positive relationship with most pet-owning residents. Despite that significantly positive perception of animals and their owners, restrictions are often in place. For instance, of the 77% percent of rental properties that allow dogs, 50% restrict the size, with an average weight limit of 45 pounds. That’s despite widespread data that shows little correlation between the size of the animal and propensity for property damage or onsite incidents. 

“Rental properties are always looking for that competitive difference-maker that can make them stand out in their respective submarket,” Gilbreath said. “Our research provides a powerful answer — the more pet-friendly you are, the more appealing you’ll be to a wide variety of potential renters.” 

The research by the two nonprofit organizations accompanied the launch of the Pet-Inclusive Housing Initiative, a collaborative research and resource outreach effort that promotes the joy of pets in every home. The study concluded that as many as 8.75 million pets could find homes over time if rental housing operators modify their pet restrictions.

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