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Apartment Owners Happily Go to the Dogs to Retain and Attract Renters


May 31, 2023
An apartment property in the Atlanta area held a dog prom for residents in April. (Cortland)

Dogs have a big say in where their owners decide to rent, even more so than other factors like cost and location.

That’s according to a new survey from Cortland, which owns and manages more than 250 apartment properties around the country. Most respondents said they would move or stay at a property based on the landlord’s pet policies, notably regarding dogs.

Pet ownership ballooned in the pandemic as people stuck at home sought companionship. Spending on pet food and treats increased 16.2% to $58.1 billion last year from 2021, according to the American Pet Products Association, which expects spending this year to be strong as well.

Demand from pet-owning renters has pushed apartment owners to add pet-related amenities and to ease some pet policies. Memphis, Tennessee-based MAA, the nation’s largest apartment owner, eliminated breed restrictions on pets in the past two years while others have also struck weight restrictions.

But some apartment owners have had to deal with legal issues along the way, including disputes between tenants over pet damage or disruptions.

Even so, policies regarding pet ownership topped the list of considerations made by renters when deciding where to sign a lease, according to Atlanta-based Cortland’s survey. About 86% of respondents said they care about pet policies, compared to 82% saying cost and 77% who picked location as the most important factors.

The influence of dogs extends even further. Of the responses Cortland received, 70% said they would more than likely do business with a company that supports dog causes and charities. And three-quarters said they think it’s important that their dogs have friends close by when considering where to live.

“What was intriguing to us is that dogs aren’t just an extension of the family but really a part of the family,” Tim Hermeling, Cortland’s executive vice president for marketing and communications, told CoStar News.

Hermeling said renters want “things their pets can be engaged in as well.”

A potential renter will choose a place based on how comfortable their dog feels with the apartment and surroundings, he said.

So, in addition to social activities for adults, apartment managers have been creating social events just for dogs.

Cortland holds “yappy hours” for residents at its apartments across the country. And the property manager at the Cortland at the Village in an Atlanta suburb held a dog prom in April.

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