In the pet policies of the past, breed and weight restrictions were just as common as collision insurance within an automobile policy. Essentially, all rental communities had them, and it was part of the landscape.
Slowly, that mindset has begun to shift—and those on the forefront of eliminating these pet restrictions have reaped the benefits. The more inclusive approach creates a wider pool of potential residents and happier pet owners who are more likely to renew.
Before delving too far into the nuances of how to effectively shed the restrictions, it is important to note that the approach should not be done haphazardly. Simply eradicating the restrictions and hoping for the best won’t generally work out favorably. Operators should unequivocally maintain their right to disallow certain pets—it just doesn’t have to be based on preexisting characteristics like breed and weight.
Here's a look at some of the factors apartment owners and operators should keep in mind regarding these traditional restrictions:
Wait on Weight Restrictions
This is the easy one because the topic isn’t nearly as polarizing as breed restrictions. While conventional wisdom might suggest that larger pets cause more damage, no reputable studies support that notion. In fact, many larger pets, such as the Great Dane, Labrador, and Bernese Mountain Dog, are fantastic home dwellers. Realizing the myth, many operators have started eliminating weight restrictions—most of which are set in the 45- to 50-pound range. Most famously, apartment operator Camden was a pioneer of sorts when it lifted weight restrictions in 2019. Many additional operators have since followed suit: The Management Group, Oculus Realty, and Milhaus are among the apartment managers who have eliminated weight—as well as breed—restrictions.
Get a Better Read—Don’t Judge on Breed
The mere thought of scrapping breed restrictions might cause some anxiety for some operators. And, indeed, permitting all breeds onto a property without background checks would be daunting. That’s why the process must be done in a diligent, thoughtful manner. The key component in this undertaking is to evaluate each case on an individual basis. Tools are now available to help operators evaluate the history of the pet and its owner, and operators should maintain the right to deny any pet if red flags are present. But a well-behaved German Shepherd doesn’t have to be denied just because its breed is part of some anachronistic list. Additionally, a headline-grabbing 2022 study showed that a dog’s breed is not a good predictor of its behavior.
Another reason operators are hesitant to eliminate breed restrictions is because of the feared renter sentiment. But according to data from the Pet Policies and Amenities in Multifamily report by PetScreening and J Turner Research, renters aren’t as gung-ho about these rules as operators might think. Only 24% of residents (pet owners or otherwise) are in support of breed restrictions, while 54% are against them and 23% fall into the “don’t care” category. The sentiment was similar for weight restrictions, with only 20% of residents in favor of them. MAA and RPM Living are among the additional operators that have dropped breed restrictions to create more welcoming environments for renters and their pets.
Additional Restrictions to Shed
In addition to breed and weight, some rental communities have restrictions on the age and the number of pets.
Many times, these can be eased or eliminated entirely, as well. Age restrictions often pertain to puppies or kittens—pets that haven’t yet matured and ostensibly aren’t trained as well. As with the weight issue, no concrete wide-scale evidence suggests that younger pets cause greater damage than full-grown pets. While this restriction is not as common, it’s certainly antiquated and worth eradicating.
Pet limits are more common and certainly make sense to some extent. While no one is advising operators to expand their limits to 15 pets—with warthogs and rhinoceroses allowed—properties that allow only one pet per unit should consider raising that limit to two (or from two to three if it makes sense at a particular community or within homes with larger floor plans). Property teams can check with local jurisdictions on pet-limit guidelines to help make informed decisions.
When a property restricts pets, it also restricts opportunities for potential residents and potential revenue. Thoughtfully shedding these outdated restrictions enables teams to create a pet-friendly atmosphere while remaining pet-responsible—all while increasing the bottom line.
This is the second installment of a monthly series by John Bradford. Read the first article on the state of pets in multifamily in 2023.