Building the Right Pet Policy for Your Apartment Community
photo of many pets

By Victoria Cowart |

4 minute read

Crafting the ideal pet policy for your portfolio can be a challenging undertaking. On one hand, you have today’s renters, who are more passionate about their pets than ever. According to a 2023 survey by Cortland, pet policies are the top consideration for dog-owning apartment residents when they’re looking for their next rental home. So, to remain competitive in today’s marketplace, operators should seek to be as pet inclusive as possible. 

On the other hand, property owners and managers still need to manage risk in a way that’s right for their organizations and communities. In the end, there is no one-size-fits-all policy for the entire industry; however, the following are some elements to consider when building a pet policy. 

Breed restrictions

Given how much pets mean to today’s residents, operators may want to consider reducing or even eliminating breed restrictions to appeal to as many prospective residents as possible and bolster pet-related revenue. Reducing breed restrictions can also reduce fraudulent assistance animal accommodation requests, as residents will sometimes try to get their dog, if it’s a member of a banned breed, into a community under the guise of it being an assistance animal. (Breed restrictions don’t apply to assistance animals.)

Apartment owners and operators often say that their property insurance provider requires breed restrictions, but many carriers don’t. Of course, any reduction or elimination of breed and other pet-related restrictions should be done in a diligent and thoughtful manner, and communities should have methods in place to evaluate the risks posed by individual pets and pet owners. 

Weight restrictions

As is the case with breed restrictions, many operators are contemplating moving on from weight restrictions. For years, the standard weight limit at rental communities was between 45 and 50 pounds, based on the mistaken idea that larger pets cause more damage. Again, eliminating these restrictions can increase the pool of prospective renters. 

Some operators may want to maintain weight restrictions on upper floors because of noise concerns for downstairs neighbors. If fish are allowed, a size limit on aquariums is important, because a filled 75-gallon tank can weigh up to 1,000 pounds. 

Exotic pets

Consider whether birds, snakes or any other type of nontraditional pet will be allowed on your premises. A property may specify the types of pets allowed. 

Number of pets per unit

Operators will need to determine what limit they want to place on the number of pets allowed in each home. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, the average dog-owning household has 1.6 dogs—the average number of pets is slightly higher among cat and bird owners—so restricting a unit to one pet risks driving away a sizable number of renters. Many communities limit each unit to two pets. 

Age limit

Some communities prohibit dogs younger than one year old due to an increased risk of damage from chewing and not being housebroken. One option could be to allow younger pets but charge the appropriate pet deposit or fee to cover the risk, thereby delivering a risk-appropriate pricing structure. 

Pet charges

Operators need to determine whether they want to charge residents pet-specific fees (initial and/or monthly) or deposits. Initial pet fees can range from $200 to $500 per pet; monthly pet fees can vary from $20 to $50 per month per pet. A pet deposit is refundable while a pet fee is a fixed, non-refundable charge. Operators should be thoughtful and perhaps even conservative with these charges to increase their chances of attracting and retaining pet-loving residents. 

Assistance animals

Pet fees or deposits of any kind and rules such as breed and weight restrictions do not apply to assistance animals, and the policy should state that reasonable accommodations will be made for assistance animals in accordance with the Fair Housing Act. Given the complexity surrounding assistance animal accommodation requests, an operator should have a fair and consistent evaluation process in place. Communities may also want to take the onsite team out of the evaluation process and turn it over to experts in this arena. 


Among other items to consider: Make any resident-facing pet policies easy to find and keep them concise enough to communicate only the key points to renters and prospective residents. Clarifying details about rules, exceptions and enforcement procedures can be left to the lease. 

Also, if need be, an attorney can help ensure the pet policy and lease terms comply with all state and local laws. 


Victoria Cowart is Director of Education and Outreach at PetScreening. 


For more on fair housing laws, emotional support animals and other operational resources, visit NAA’s operational resource library.