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The Fight for Pet-Friendly Housing

By Christy True
published: November 30, 2021 • 4 min. read
happy pet and owner

Key Takeaways

  • Pet parents who rent often struggle to find housing that allows pets and doesn’t have a lot of restrictions on the types of pets.
  • It’s not only pet parents who benefit from pet-friendly housing – landlords and millions of homeless pets could also reap the rewards.
  • A recent study outlines how pet-friendly policies can help all parties and offers property owners and managers suggestions.
Man and cat

Any pet parent who has rented housing has probably run into challenges. Landlords either don’t allow pets at all or only small dogs, certain breeds, or only cats. Or if they do allow them, they charge exorbitant deposits or a monthly “pet rent,” making housing less affordable.

These barriers are exacerbated when housing is in short supply, and the costs rise rapidly, as they have in recent years.

To address this problem, the Human-Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI), along with Michelson Found Animals Foundation, has researched the issue and offers some solutions in its 2021 Pet-Inclusive Housing Report.

The report’s authors conclude that it’s not just renters who benefit from pet-friendly housing – it’s also the property owners, the larger community, and the millions of pets in shelters who are still looking for a home. The report is based on surveys completed in 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic up-ended most people’s lives, but the pandemic has likely made housing more challenging for pet parents, the study says.

Pet parents face housing hurdles

dog playing in apartment

The research showed that restrictions on pets in rental housing presented hurdles to pet parents but that most rental property owners also love pets. The reasons given by landlords for banning or restricting pets range from concerns about property damage to a perception that larger dogs might hurt people or other pets.

“Bridging the gap by increasing the availability of pet-inclusive housing can help families find the homes they need, provide economic benefits to owners/operators, and help up to 8.2 million animals find new homes over time,” the report concludes.

Among the key findings:

  • 98% of Americans consider their pets to be family.
  • 72% of residents report that pet-friendly housing is hard to find. The need is especially acute in lower-income communities.
  • Both pet-owning and non-pet-owning residents prefer to have people with pets as neighbors.
  • 95% of residents with pets said that their property owner/operator has a positive relationship with their pet.
  • 24% say their pet has required them to move, and 14% have been forced to surrender a pet because of their housing situation.
  • 76% of property owners/managers identify their properties as allowing some pets, yet only 8% of rental housing is free of all pet restrictions. The average dog weight restriction is 45 pounds or less.

Despite the difficulty in finding pet-friendly housing, doing so is a high priority for pet parents. Pet policies were the second most important factor, after budget when pet parents choose where to rent. Pet parents are also willing to compromise on budget, outdoor space, neighborhood, distance from work, and more to accommodate their pet.

Protect your pet

Property owner-operators benefit from pet-friendly policies too

Woman and pet
While the advantages of pet-friendly housing to pet parents are clear, the report also makes the case that embracing pets also benefit the owner-operators and the greater community.

The report found:

  • On average, residents in pet-friendly housing stay 21% longer than those in non-pet-friendly housing. This translates to residents staying about 10 additional months.
  • 83% of owner/operators say pet-friendly vacancies fill faster.
  • The average pet deposits and fees more than cover any damages pets might cause. Pet-owning residents are paying an average of $864 in deposits (security, pet, and one-time fees) as well as an average of $600 over a year in monthly pet fees.
  • Fewer than 10% of all pets cause damage of any kind.
  • The average dollar amount for repairing damages caused by pets is $210. Many residents choose to pay for these damages out of their pockets rather than rely on deposits paid to property owners/operators.
  • Among pet and non-pet owners, 71% of residents surveyed said that pets help bring people together within a community, as people with their pets tend to interact more with other people. This contributes to resident satisfaction and retention.
  • Pet inclusivity is a minor factor on rental property insurance pricing, as pet-owning residents bear primary responsibility for damage or injury caused by their pets.
  • Finally, landlords may be missing out on financial benefits if they don’t allow pets. Some 11% of renters admitted they have an unapproved pet, avoiding pet deposits and fees.

Pet-friendly housing could save millions of pets

Sadly, not all renters can move to keep their pets; residents’ fear of eviction has resulted in as many as 700,000 pets being surrendered, more than those given up for cost reasons.

Pet restrictions in housing also result in many people who want pets not adopting (33%) or not having as many pets as they would like (35%). This means more pets sitting in shelters or euthanized for lack of space. The report says that with common-sense easing of restrictions, up to 8.2 million more animals could find homes in pet-inclusive rental housing.

Report offers solutions to make housing more pet-friendly

Couple and dog at home

The report concludes by providing suggestions to property owners and managers to welcome pets on their properties:

  • Eliminate pet deposits and fees and instead rely on regular security deposits to cover the minimal damage that pets may cause.
  • Create an easy-to-follow screening process and pet agreement that focuses on well-behaved pets and well-behaved owners.
  • Formalize the number and types of pets allowed in the community with a forward-thinking, positive pet policy. If you allow one pet per unit, consider letting two. Consider removing dog weight and breed restrictions, instead focusing on good behavior.
  • Consider allowing residents to foster animals without charging pet fees temporarily.
  • Check with your insurance company and secure a policy without pet-related restrictions.
  • Reduce liability/risk by requiring proof of renters insurance, which covers animal-related claims in addition to protecting the resident’s belongings.
  • Create a welcoming environment with pet-friendly amenities—pet washing stations, designated pet exercise areas, and pet waste bags.

Researchers polled 1,300 renters (both pet-owners and non-owners) and 550 property owners online and by phone in 2019.

Christy True and Tomas
By Christy True

Christy has been writing about pets for Healthy Paws for 28 dog years. She also coordinates media requests. A background in journalism may be why she enjoys writing about offbeat animal studies and the latest viral pet trends. She has been owned by several dogs, and she volunteers with a local dog rescue. Outside of work, she can usually be found sliding down a mountain near her home in Bend, Ore.

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