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Becoming a Pet-Friendly Community: Good Idea, or Asking for Trouble?

By Steve Boudreault, Buildium, Boston, MA

Ah, pets. What to do about pets?

Pets

There are all sorts of policies out there when it comes to renting to people with pets. Some properties adopt a hardline stance: no pets of any kind. Some properties only allow pets that are in aquariums or cages. Some allow pets up to and including cats, but no dogs. Some allow dogs, but impose a weight limit on the little guys. Properties that allow Great Danes and Russian Wolfhounds are rare, but are out there. Expect a hefty pet deposit, though.

So what's the story? Why so many different approaches to pets? What are some pros and cons? Read on ...

Pros

Having a pet-friendly policy can mean more revenue. Some families treat their pets as full-fledged members of the family, and would sooner live on the street with pet in tow than live someplace that forced them to give the pet up. By advertising a pet-friendly policy, your property can be a shining beacon to those who are finding NO DOGS ALLOWED signs everywhere else they look. And they'll likely spread the word to other pet owners who are looking.

More pets can equal a better community. There are numerous studies out there that show a direct connection between pet ownership and happiness. If you've got happy residents, you'll have a happy property. Everyone wants a happy property. Also, there's a greater likelihood that residents will bond because of their pets, meaning a closer-knit community as well.

Cons

Pets can be annoying or downright destructive. Some dogs head straight for the bed when their owner leaves and sleep until they come home, but some dogs will bark all day, ceaselessly, which can be a real headache for neighbors. Some cats only use the scratching post, and some prefer the unit's lovely wall-to-wall carpeting. Even an unstable fish tank that takes a tumble can cause hundreds or even thousands of dollars' worth of damage. Be sure to have a pet deposit in place, and make owners aware of excessive noise.

Some owners can be disingenuous. A new resident may hand over a pet deposit while showing the property manager an adorable teacup Pomeranian, and then after the paperwork is signed, sneak in their Great Dane under cover of darkness. If you suspect the ol' bait and switch, stop by unexpectedly to see how the tenant is settling in and listen for a tiny yip or a throaty woof.

Whether you choose to allow pets in your property is ultimately up to you. Just as you'll find pet-loving families who won't move in without their beloved pup, similarly you'll find families who prefer a pet-free zone, especially those with allergies.

So what's your policy when it comes to pets?

 

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This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

I love dogs and tolerate cats, on a personal level. What I see happening is on PetFriendly properties, people move in without a pet, adopt one and then are gone all day. They see others with their cute dogs and this inspires them, but they...

I love dogs and tolerate cats, on a personal level. What I see happening is on PetFriendly properties, people move in without a pet, adopt one and then are gone all day. They see others with their cute dogs and this inspires them, but they underestimate the time, energy and cost of owning a pet. They move out and there is almost always damage caused by pets, either minor or major. Pet ownership increases turnover costs. They do also increase revenue from monthly pet rent (and that is a whole other controversy). I would love to see us charging a non-refundable Pet Fee, as well as a large Refundable Pet Deposit. It probably won't happen for me .... But it is so disheartening to see how hard we work to move someone into a beautiful home, only to have that home destroyed in a year by a cute doggie or kitty. Is there a good solution?:p

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  Mindy Sharp
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I really do think it depends on the local market. I previously managed a community in Colorado and I think every other person had a dog in our city! I do believe that to no accept pets in the area would have been foolish for us since pets...

I really do think it depends on the local market. I previously managed a community in Colorado and I think every other person had a dog in our city! I do believe that to no accept pets in the area would have been foolish for us since pets (especially dogs) were such a large part of the area's lifestyle. We even accepted large pets that other communities didn't to give us more of an advantage. We charged an up front non refundable fee but no pet deposit~then monthly pet rent.

Yes, it could be a pain and we spent lots of time picking up waste on the grounds, but I think it was worth it for us. (And maybe because I didn't really have to pick up the pet waste!) Now, if I owned property that I desired to rent out, I wouldn't allow pets.

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  Rommel Anacan
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

As a
a) pet evangelist
b) someone who rents and has had to face some drama because communities don't allow my pooch in
c) someone who works in the business

I have to say that having a pet-friendly policy can only be good for your community no...

As a
a) pet evangelist
b) someone who rents and has had to face some drama because communities don't allow my pooch in
c) someone who works in the business

I have to say that having a pet-friendly policy can only be good for your community no matter how you look at it. I'd go to the extent of saying irrespective of the market/sub-market you're based in. Allow me to explain; if you're in a pet-friendly area like in Rommel's example, you ought to do it only to keep up with competition. If you're in a sub-market where not many apt communities do it, it's your opportunity to distinguish yourself.

What apartment community owners and asset/property managers need to understand is immaterial of where you're based, having a pet-friendly community is just an opportunity of adding revenue as long as you get the math right. Make sure the refundable/non-refundable pet-deposit is significant enough to contribute to the added burden of turnover and perhaps landscaping. I appreciate I'm presenting this in simplistic light but from a strategic or a 30K foot view, it really does boil down to a simple algorithm -

1) Start with assumption that pets will do damage regardless of it's a Goldfish or an Akita
2) Create an appropriate deposit policy (perhaps there's a learning curve here if you're new, wouldn't hurt to consult animal specialist/ a veterinarian or a behavioral specialist)
3) Do some basic secondary research (aka snoop around to see what the going pet-rent is in your area for your kind of product/amenities) and price a fair pet-rent that ways (* I'll come back to how there is room to grow this number by doing and providing simple amenities that any pet person would tremendously admire)
4) Now all you have to make sure is for the larger portion of the bell curve, X is greater than Y where X is the deposit and Y is your average dollars spent on undoing the damage.

Know that it's sunshine and rainbows right now in the rental markets but much like anything else, our industry is also cyclical and there will be a time when we will stop getting those rent bumps, shortly followed by the time when we will have to start declining rents, only to maintain occupancy because people will weigh the benefits of renting vs. owning and it's these seemingly mundane elements like you pet-policy which will end up give you those 7-8-10 yr residents that we all yearn for.

Those are my 2 cents!
KT

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  Kaustubh Thakur (KT)

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