High-Rise Living Goes to the Dogs (and Cats)


By Laura Drucker

In today’s condominium and apartment market, the era of cats and dogs has arrived. Furry residents are no longer the bane of every property manager’s existence; in fact, they’re regularly being welcomed—filthy paws and all.

It wasn’t too long ago that pets were shunned in apartment buildings. Landlords and condo boards set up roadblocks to keep animal companions out, while pet parents were often forced to settle for a select few buildings, often without any pet-friendly amenities (save a patch of grass outside the lobby).

Times are changing, though, and trends in the apartment market show a clear shift toward providing pet parents and their furry family members with an increasing number of amenities. Finally, management companies and landlords are picking up on what we already knew: Pets really are part of the family.

This year, development company Related Midwest opened up 500 Lake Shore Drive, a luxury condominium located in Streeterville that serves as the city’s first completely pet-friendly residential building. There are a host of amenities designed to please even the pickiest furry residents—everything from on-site groomers and pet sitters to nutritional counseling and door-to-door deliveries of custom pet meals.

The craze is picking up all over the country. A recent Forbes article on notable housing trends mentions the massive MiMA development in New York City, which comes complete with “Dog City,” where residents can have their dogs walked, groomed, and even set up on play dates.

It’s no secret why buildings are increasingly taking the pet-friendly route. As of 2012, 46 percent of U.S. households had at least one dog and 39 percent had at least one cat, according to the 2011-2012 APPA National Pet Owners Survey. Apartment building and condo management companies have realized that many of their potential residents are pet parents, and it’s better to accommodate them than to turn them away.

“We believe pets are very important to people,” says Peggy McGrath, director of sales and marketing for Luther Village, a pet-friendly retirement community in Arlington Heights. “Our community recognized this bond when we were developing Luther Village, and didn’t want people to have to make a choice about moving to [our building] or leaving their pet.”

Fortunately, it’s not only high-end buildings that are offering pet amenities. More and more urban residences are including on-site dog runs so that residents don’t have to walk city streets at night or travel far for canine exercise areas. An apartment building in Denver even went so far as to build a roof-top pet park complete with a toy area, obstacle course, and a doggie drinking fountain.

Buildings without the funds or space to provide on-site amenities are often turning to third-party services, such as pet concierges that can set up play dates, bring in sitters, and offer discounted grooming and care.

Management companies are also showing pet parents and their furry counterparts some love by throwing events—such as Yappy Hours and, as in the case of one building in Minneapolis, a fashion show chockfull of the latest trends in pet clothing.

If you’re planning to make the move to one of these pet-friendly buildings, expect to sign an addendum to your lease that will outline expectations for you and your pet. Typically, this will cover issues like elevator usage, leash requirements, and limits on the size and number of pets you can have. You may also be required to obtain renter’s insurance or pay a pet deposit or higher monthly rate, just in case your dog or cat causes any damage to the unit.

A few other important issues to take note of:

Make sure the building is right for you and your pet.

The term “pet-friendly” isn’t always as all-inclusive as you might think. Sometimes a building allows cats but not dogs, has a weight limit on acceptable pets, or accepts all pets except certain breeds. Further, some buildings allow unit owners, but not renters, to have pets. It’s crucial that you understand your building’s rules, otherwise you may be opening yourself up to fines, disciplinary action, or worse, the eviction of your pet.

If renting, get written approval from your landlord.

Even if a lease says that pets are okay, it’s best to have written consent from your landlord or management company. You’ll be able to rest a little easier knowing that you have concrete approval, and it will come in handy if anybody ever questions your right to have a pet.

Don’t try to sneak your pet in.

Some rules are not meant to be broken, and this is definitely one of them. If your apartment building does not allow animals, either move or find a new home for your pet. If you’re found to have a pet in spite of the rules, you and/or your pet will likely be facing eviction.

Know how to find a pet-friendly apartment building.

If you’re planning a move with your pet, look for buildings that expressly allow residents to have animals. Check out Rent.com/Pet-Friendly-Apartments or Apartments.com/Pet-Friendly-Apartments for listings.

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