To be truly pet-friendly, apartment owners and operators should consider reducing or even entirely eliminating their breed and weight restrictions.
That was one of the major takeaways of How Do Your Residents Feel about Pets … and What Does that Mean for Ancillary Revenue?, a presentation by PetScreening CEO and Founder John Bradford during the recent AIM Reinvent digital conference.
To start with, prospects and residents aren't demanding these restrictions. Citing a joint PetScreening-J Turner Research study, Bradford noted only one in four apartment residents supports breed restrictions while just one in five is in favor of weight restrictions. In addition, many insurance companies have removed pet breed restrictions from their general liability policies.
Add it all up, and "it’s clear that old-school pet policies with breed or weight restrictions could benefit from some fine-tuning," Bradford said. "Reconsider your blanket pet-related restrictions."
Reviewing individual pets and their owners on a case-by-case basis during the screening process will allow apartment communities to boost revenue and demand because they are opening their doors to more pet owners.
Atlanta-based apartment operator The Management Group has dropped all breed and weight restrictions across its portfolio and seen striking results.
"After this policy change, 80% of their pet-owning residents have renewed their lease," Bradford explained. "While their competitors reject pets based on weight and breed, their communities warmly welcome all pets, attract more applicants, increase resident satisfaction and improve their bottom lines."
To attract and retain pet-owning renters, it's also important to have the right amenities in place. The good news, according to Bradford, is that the most in-demand amenities are relatively easy and affordable to install.
"Some new multifamily housing developments feature dog-washing stations, cat cafes and onsite boarding facilities," he said. "But not all communities have the budget or space for these amenities. While lavish pet amenities look great in marketing, they may be less important to driving resident satisfaction than more basic features."
According to the PetScreening-J Turner Research study, the three most important pet amenities to residents are pet waste stations, outdoor pet parks and fenced dog-runs.
"It’s interesting to note that these same amenities help alleviate concerns voiced by non-pet owners. In this same survey, non-pet owners were asked what their concerns are when living among other peoples' pets," Bradford added. "You know what’s at the top of the list? Pet waste, excessive barking and unleashed dogs."
While apartment operators need to be as pet-friendly as they can be, they must also make sure they're prepared to properly vet accommodation requests for assistance animals. Unfortunately, some residents will submit insufficient requests to try and get around breed and weight restrictions.
"It's interesting to note that the breeds associated most frequently with these accommodation requests are those most likely to be restricted under blanket pet restrictions," Bradford said. "Looking at the top five breeds, three out of the five are typically categorized as an 'aggressive' breed, and four out of the five are considered large breed dogs. Relaxing pet-related restrictions could lead to fewer reasonable accommodation requests for animals that fit the restricted criteria like weight, breed and age. By generally being more acceptable, there are fewer hurdles for pet owners to circumvent and more revenue opportunities for operators."