Your apartment community's pet policy is one of the first qualifiers an apartment seeker has when searching for a new home. Whether you accept their furry friend or not is a dealbreaker—59 percent of renters said it was an important part of their online search, and 33 percent said the pet policy affected their decision to even visit a community.
This means you must have a clear, visible pet policy—even if you don't allow pets. In this blog, we'll offer recommendations on developing and marketing your community's policy.
To state the obvious, the first action to take in developing a pet policy is deciding whether or not your community is willing to accept pets. Ideally, this choice should be made early in the construction process, as it affects how you build your property.
For example, should you choose to accept pets, interior design options for your units could include hard surfaces for floors. Or, to appease the needs of renters in today's market, you may be inclined to construct pet friendly add-ons such as a private, fenced-in dog park, a wash station, and a waste station.
If you're an existing apartment community looking to change your policy to allow pets, you're not alone. Just a decade ago, most multifamily residences banned pets. 82 percent of apartment seekers said they struggled to find a pet-friendly property.
But now, Americans are owning pets at rates higher than ever before. According to the U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook, 71 million households have at least one pet. That has caused a shift in the multifamily industry, as more communities are taking advantage of changing demographics, in which there are more empty nesters and more young people getting married later in life. With that delay in having children, pets are filling the voids of companionship.
Research indicates that pet-friendly apartments achieve higher levels of occupancy and retention. 79 percent of property managers say that pet-friendly vacancies are easier to fill, and residents stay in pet-friendly units for an average of 4.6 years, compared to 3.8 years for non-pet-friendly residences. There's also a case to be made for how accepting pets can impact revenue streams, as pet-friendly apartments charge 20-30 percent more in rent.
With all that said, communities have the right to refuse any pets, if that is their discretion. There is a segment of apartment seekers who desire a pet-free residence due to allergies and other concerns. 59 percent of renters who didn’t want to live in a pet-friendly community cited noise as their reason. Understanding that the audience for non-pet-friendly apartments is small, the marketing efforts at these communities are even more critical. We'll get to that later.
Once you've made the decision about pets, the next step is laying out the actual policy. The Humane Society has recommended pet policies for condominiums and apartment buildings. The suggestions for pet-friendly communities include, but are not limited to:
- Require potential residents to fill out a pet application form with a photo attached.
- Determine what pets species are acceptable. (Dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, small caged animals, etc.)
- Determine how many pets per resident is appropriate, and whether there needs to be a weight restriction.
- Require residents to leash and clean up after their animals in all public spaces.
- Make tenants responsible for any damage caused by their pet.
- Provide clear enforcement procedures should tenants fail to adhere to your pet policy.
Note: even if you plan to not allow pets, you still must allow service animals in your community, as they're protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and therefore, they are not legally considered pets. Emotional support animals, however, are not protected under the ADA.
No matter what your policy is, you have to market it. Period!
Pet policies have the same impact in a potential resident's apartment search as ratings and reviews. In the past five years, the search term "pet friendly apartments near me" in Google has steadily climbed to peak status—another indicator of why it's so important to feature your pet policy in your marketing plan.
Seekers should be able to quickly identify communities that fit their pet preference in an online search engine, so that's the first place to start. Optimizing your search engine presence can be accomplished by bidding for Google Adwords such as "pet-friendly", "dog-friendly", "cat-friendly", "all breeds", "dog park", etc. You could even take it a step further by targeting broader keywords like "apartments that allow labs" or "apartments that accept kittens".
This step is even more critical for communities who choose to be pet-free. If a potential resident is looking for a pet-free apartment in your area, your community should absolutely be near the top of the search engine results page. This can be done by paying for Google Ads that include specific keywords like "pet-free" or "no pets allowed".
Other options for paid search marketing include featuring images of pets, as well as pet amenities, in your digital advertisements.
You can also optimize your search presence organically by using specific keywords in your marketing message. It should be easy for seekers to find information about your pet policy on your website, including what breeds are allowed, weight restrictions, pricing and more.
Taking it a step further, you can organically grow your pet-friendly image by placing a bowl of treats inside your leasing office, or have a waste station near the front entrance. Visitors can immediately recognize that their furry friends are going to be well taken care of when presented with these features.
For pet-free residences, knowing that you're targeting a very segmented audience is key. You should own your pet-free branding, and make it a part of every conversation with leads: "Hello, this is Michael from Salt Lake Flats, a pet-free community."
Developing and marketing your pet policy are important steps for apartment communities, especially since it can be a dealbreaker for apartment seekers when they search for their new home.
Understanding how important it is to make your pet policy clear and easy to find, we at RentVision have recently redesigned the pet section on community sites. Potential residents can discover details about what pets are allowed, deposit and rent prices, weight limits, breed restrictions, and more. There's also a field for you to enter more specific details about your policy.