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Thursday, October 23, 2014         

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Rental complexes learning it pays to be kind to animals

Pet-friendly amenities are a growing trend in the competition to draw good tenants

By McClatchy News Services

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More than 70 percent of apartment renters reported owning pets, with cats and dogs as the most popular types, according to a recent survey.

Despite these high numbers, the survey by Apartments.com found that it may still be hard for renters to find a pet-friendly unit.

Nearly two-thirds of pet-owners in 2014 reported having some difficulty, but the rental listing website said that may be changing.

"We see the rental industry moving toward accommodating the needs of this important and growing segment of renters," Tammy Kotu­la, spokeswoman for Apartments.com, said.

Pet policies played a major role in the decision about where to rent for nearly 9 out of 10 pet owners, the survey found.

Seventy percent of pet owners said their choice was influenced by nearby amenities, such as parks, veterinary facilities and pet stores.

"We believe these trends may increase demand for new apartment construction that includes innovative pet-friendly spaces, amenities and policies," said Brad Long, president of Apartments.com.

In downtown Los Angeles, for example, the newly opened Avant South Park Apartments is hoping to appeal to dog owners with amenities such as a "bark park" and a dog grooming station. It also has a dog walker and groomer on site.

"It's not like a make-or-break deal," said Adam Schaller, a leasing agent at the building, which held its grand opening at the end of June. "It's just an extra perk."

Schaller said a little under half of the apartments had been leased so far and around 35 percent are occupied. He estimated that about one-quarter of the resi­dents own pets.

Pet owners at Avant pay a deposit and monthly fee per pet, Schaller said, which the survey found was not unusual. Nearly 80 percent of respondents said they were required to pay a deposit — up from about 60 percent in 2013 — and about a third said they had to pay monthly fees.

The majority of pet owners paid more than $200 annually in deposits and fees, the survey found. But renters split on whether these charges made them less likely to rent from a particular property, with slightly more than half, or 53 percent, saying it would.

A new luxury high-rise in downtown Los Angeles has a rooftop dog run and partners with local businesses to provide pet-sitting, dog-walking and in-home grooming, said Josh Lloyd, West Coast vice president for Wood Partners, which owns the development.

Lloyd said the company does research to determine what amenities it will provide, and pet ownership has been a growing trend affecting those decisions. He said up to 30 percent of residents now own pets — not just cats and small dogs, but large dogs as well.

"You have to adapt to that," Lloyd said. "You want to be able to support that as a housing provider."

Michael Dillon, president of Dillon Media, which publishes an annual report on the pet industry, said pet ownership and spending in the U.S. are at record highs. Buildings that feature innovative pet amenities could be in "huge demand," he said, because pet owners still face challenges when it comes to finding housing.

Lloyd said that several years ago the trend among property owners was more restrictive toward pets, but that's changed. "Now it's almost like the other way around, where people go out of their way to accommodate them," Lloyd said.

Apartment.com's survey included more than 3,000 apartment renters and was conducted by email with users who had visited the site within the prior six months. The sample did not factor in age, gender, income or city.

Chad Garland, Los Angeles Times






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