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Pets Are Welcome: Resources and Tips for Property Owners and Managers

Learn how to make a pet-friendly policy work for you

  • If you're not welcoming pets, you're missing out on great residents. istockphoto

The Humane Society of the United States can help you grow your business with rental policies that will give you access to a wider pool of great residents.  

According to a 2014 survey by Apartments.com, 72 percent of renters have pets.

That’s a huge share of the rental market, and most people with pets consider those animals to be part of their families. They'd never move somewhere that wouldn't allow those family members to come, too.

If you're a property manager, the policies you have in place are either encouraging pet owners to move into your units—or discouraging them from even applying.

Six facts to guide your approach to pets and pet owners »

Becoming a Pets Are Welcome property »

Happy together: Tips to help you welcome cats and dogs »

Welcoming pet owners brings in money by greatly expanding the pool of potential residents, filling complexes with high-quality, high-commitment renters.

Renters with pets make great residents—so why not make them part of your business plan? The data shows it is possible and profitable to be a Pets Are Welcome property.

Six Facts To Guide Your Approach to Pets and Pet Owners

1. Companies that do not adapt to the growing number of families with pets will be left behind. Fifty years ago, pets in apartments and condos were somewhat rare, but the market has changed. Pets are now welcomed in most properties. Staying ahead of the competition means having policies that are affordable, fair and welcoming to all pet families; very soon it will take more than Scooby snacks in the lobby to be a successful pet property. Learn how other property managers are thriving with pet-welcoming policies.

2. Research shows that pet-owning residents do not cause more damage or other financial concerns than residents who don’t own pets. Holding pet owners responsible for their pets and any damage caused by them through a pet deposit or slightly increasing the rent also offsets costs. 

  • Pets Are Welcome policies are good for families, pets and your bottom line. istockphoto

3. Size is not indicative of a pet’s behavior or potential to cause damage. Some large dogs are couch potatoes, while some small dogs are high-energy. This makes rental policies that set size restrictions arbitrary and counterproductive. It’s smarter to meet pets in person and make a decision about each pet individually.

4. There’s no such thing as “a dangerous dog breed.” Breed is not predictive of an individual dog’s behavior or suitability for rental housing living. Evidence suggests the opposite: Banning specific breeds does not reduce risk, leading hundreds of cities and nearly half of US states to ban breed-specific policymaking. Restricting by breed does not prevent undesired dog behaviors, but it most certainly prevents some great residents from living in your community. 

5. Federal and state laws recognize the value of the human/animal bond and include legal protections that may apply to some of your pet-owning residents. Be familiar with laws such as the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act to ensure your pet policies aren’t violating them. 

6. Setting clear and enforceable standards of care is more effective in avoiding pet problems than setting arbitrary limits on the number of animals a renter may own. For example, one person may be unable to adequately care for one pet, while another might be able to provide exceptional care for multiple animals. Sixty-two percent of renting pet owners have more than one pet, and are a large share of the market. 

Becoming a Pets Are Welcome Property

How can your property set policies that make this a reality, gaining you good residents and keeping pet-loving families together? Start by following these guidelines.

1) Make it clear that you welcome pets as valued members of the family! While this may seem obvious, it might be the first step you need to take. Are your leases clear that pets are allowed and what conditions apply? Is your sales team familiar with all the pet policies, amenities and rules of the company and individual complex? Welcoming pets is an action item: Make it clear in your advertising that you welcome dogs, cats and other small family pets. (Read how pet-welcoming properties promote their policies.) Provide tips and guidance to your renters about how they and their pets can succeed as residents.

  • Set policies that treat pets as part of families. That's how your residents see them! Rosemarie Gearhart/Artistic Captures

2) Eliminate inhumane policies and set smart ones. Never require devocalization of pets or declawing of cats; these practices hurt animals. Breed restrictions are also inhumane, as they can separate good dogs from their families.

Pet policies should support good pet-keeping habits and protect the property. Consider providing pet owners with information about low-cost vaccinations and local training resources. Unaltered pets are more likely to spray urine or mark territory, so providing spay/neuter information is a win-win for you and your residents.

3) Make compliance with your policies easy! Offer dog-walking stations with waste bags and a disposal bin, recommend cleaning products that safely remove stains from carpets and reserve units near exit doors or elevators for dog-walking families.

4) Enforce your pet policies uniformly, fairly and equitably. Enforce policies across the board so residents are clear on expectations, and avoid sending mixed messages caused by selective enforcement. Your policy should contain a grievance procedure that is resolution-oriented to keep the pet and family together.

5) Charge a fair, affordable, data-driven pet fee and/or fully refundable deposit to support the amenities you provide. Excessive pet deposits can discourage good renters from applying to live in your community. Pets Are Welcome does not mean losing property value or providing low-quality services to your residents.

Print and share our brochure of tips and guidelines for success with your pet-owning residents!

Happy together: Tips to help you welcome cats and dogs

Tips for welcoming cats and their owners

Tips for welcoming dogs and their owners

Some apartment complex managers occasionally see cats who don't belong to residents roaming the property. These may be outdoor, unowned, "community" cats. Here’s how to handle them.


Want to be a Pets are Welcome property? Need more info? Contact us.