When you consider there are approximately 83 million owned dogs and more than 95.5 million owned cats in the United States – not that most cats would ever admit to being “owned” – it’s likely you have either considered modifying your property pet policy, or wondered if adopting a more welcoming pet policy would help you build long-term relationships with your tenants.

Some multifamily housing communities welcome pets with open arms. These complexes have convenient pet parks located throughout the property furnished with refreshment stations – even if it’s only access to a water hose – and pet waste bags attached to disposal bins installed in smaller green spaces. Along with convenient amenities, the most welcoming communities also offer reasonable fees and low pet rent.

Others refuse occupancy to all varieties of non-human tenants. Or, they simply set their lease and fee schedules so far out of reach that most applicants get the message pets are NOT preferred.

Trulia.com recently published a review of 25 major US rental markets, comparing pet rent rates, deposits and fees to determine which cities are the most, or least, pet-friendly. Their tabulations were based on other considerations, including the number of available pet groomers, local veterinarians, pet stores and other animal services in the area.

How Does Your Property Rate?

Low to moderate pet rent and affordable fees are huge draws for prospects with furry, feathered and scaled family members. Low deposits won’t immediately garner your property a pet-friendly seal of approval. In order to catapult your property to the top of the list with apartment seekers, you have to roll out the red carpet with low fees and affordable pet rent, too.

Are You a Boston-esque Property? That would mean that you are really trying to move toward a more pet-friendly environment, but you haven’t quite gotten there yet. At #14, Boston didn’t even make it into the top half of the Trulia list. True, the average pet rent in Boston is only $9 a month, but a scant one percent of landlords and property managers allow large dogs. Only 20% allow cats.

Did you know that 14% of property managers (or landlords) require a pet interview prior to approving the lease?

Are You Comfortable in the Middle of the Pack? Some apartment managers are okay with allowing tenants to have pets – as long as they are willing to submit their pets to a pre-lease interview and they aren’t looking for rock bottom  fees.

There isn’t any empirical research that definitely confirms a correlation to deposit tiers and pet interviews, but a quick search on Apartment.com revealed properties in Tampa, Florida who require cat and dog pre-leasing interviews tend to charge middle-of-the road deposits and pet fees, around $15 monthly pet rent and $250 non-refundable fees.

Compared to Washington, DC, Tampa’s rates seem modest. Washington imposes the highest pet expenses on tenants:

  • Pet fee – $427
  • Deposit – $366
  • Per rent – Almost $45/month

 More than half of apartment seekers claim they haven’t secured a lease because of pet policies – that is a large audience to ignore.

Here are five steps you can take if you’re ready to make the shift toward a preferred, pet-friendly apartment community.

  1. Use your rent comparison tools to scope out the competition. If necessary, make calls to nearby apartment communities and ask about pet rent fees and deposits so you know what tenants are facing in your area.
  2. Consider arranging discounts for tenants with local vets, pet stores and other area service providers.
  3. Interview animal occupants prior to signing a lease, but keep in mind, like humans, pets may be nervous during an interview with a stranger.
  4. Ask for a vet statement if you’re concerned about pet health or behavior issues.
  5. Compare the costs associated with improvements to make your property more pet friendly and potential revenue increases before proceeding with policy changes.

Do you have experience with pets and pet owners in multifamily housing settings? Please share with our other readers in the comment section below.