Pets are an increasingly common sight in houses and apartments across the United States. As remote work has taken hold, more of us want furry companions nearby to keep us company. Millennials are also having smaller families and delaying parenthood, allowing dogs and cats to occupy a more important part of their family units.
These structural changes in US culture and society will only continue in 2023. As a landlord or property owner, it’ll behoove you to understand the current pet-ownership trends and market opportunities that exist when it comes to pet rental policies. Here’s what you need to keep in mind in 2023 and why now’s the time to reconsider your pet rental policies.
Overview of Pet Ownership in the USA
Yes, it’s true that Americans love their cats and dogs. In fact, the USA ranks first for pet ownership in the world. So, whether it’s a studio apartment in New York City or a suburban estate in Los Angeles, there’s more than likely a pet being housed at that address.
Dogs are, by far, the most popular option when Americans look for furry companions. More than 75% of pet-owning households own at least one dog. While less popular, cats are still very common as well — half of pet owners have cats at home. From there, horses are the third most-popular pet followed by fish. And there are still millions of birds, reptiles, chickens, rabbits, ferrets, and exotic animals living in bedrooms, backyards, and living rooms across the country.
The reality is that pet ownership is only becoming more popular. In 1988, nearly half of US households owned a pet. Today, that number has climbed to a staggering 70%. The pandemic only grew Americans’ desire for pet companionship. As lockdowns took hold, approximately 20% of US residents acquired a cat or dog between March 2020 and May 2021. Pet ownership is only growing, and there’s no sign that it’s slowing down.
ESA/Service Animal Laws by State
As pet ownership has grown, so has the number of service animals in the United States. Emotional support animals (ESAs) have become particularly popular. The staggering growth of ESAs is observed in the airline industry as the number of passengers flying with emotional support animals has nearly doubled since 2016. It was estimated that more than one million ESAs were onboard aircrafts in 2019 alone according to Airlines for America.
As they are classified as service animals, ESAs are governed under federal fair housing laws managed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). While blanket federal laws apply to all states, some jurisdictions have implemented even tighter rules to ensure fair accommodation on the part of both residents and landlords. California, for example, requires individuals to have a 30-day working relationship with a health professional before an ESA can be assigned.
As a landlord, you are legally required to allow ESAs and service animals on your properties regardless of what pet restrictions you may have in place. It’s important that you review the laws that apply to these animals both on a federal and local level to ensure you’re in full compliance. ESA verification services can also help to curb fraudulent service animal requests, which are becoming increasingly common.
The Most Pet-Friendly States for Rentals
Many rental communities have come to understand that “pet friendly” isn’t just a nice thing to have; it’s good for business too. As the number of pet owners continues to climb, pet-friendly policies are becoming more popular. Currently, North Carolina ranks first in the number of pet-friendly rental listings. Nearly 59% of rentals in the Tar Heel State permit large dogs. Georgia ranks second at 56.7% with Mississippi coming in third at 50.5%.
These statistics can help property managers better understand the expectations of renters and capitalize on market opportunities. If you manage rental properties in North Carolina, for example, you’d be in the minority if you implement more restrictive pet policies. Renters with large dogs can easily take their business elsewhere. On the other hand, in Hawaii, where less than 7% of rentals permit large dogs, landlords would be wise to adopt pet-friendly policies in order to attract those with limited options.
Don’t Miss the Boat on Pet-Friendly Policies
Pets aren’t going anywhere in the United States. The number of households caring for an animal continues to rise, and renters have come to expect that landlords adopt policies that allow them to keep their furry friends when they look for new homes.
In the year 2023, it’s better to have a sound pet policy than to have a haphazard one or nothing at all. As the housing market fizzles out from its pandemic highs, competition is heating up to attract tenants. Accepting pets can help not only boost demand for your units, but it can also add more to your bottom line from the collection of pet fees and deposits.
Just be sure you’re going about your pet policies the right way. ESA verification can be especially helpful to ensure you’re only accepting real service animals in accordance with HUD guidelines. Tools like OurPetPolicy can help with this process. Don’t miss the boat on the opportunities that await in 2023. Consider whether rethinking your pet policy would be advantageous to your business.