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Latest Concession for High-End Rentals: More Than One Dog

By Amy Zimmer | May 3, 2017 7:53am
 Fiona Luong managed to find a West Village rental that would take both Harper and Oliver.
Fiona Luong managed to find a West Village rental that would take both Harper and Oliver.
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Instagram/Harper and Oliver

MANHATTAN —  Real estate agent Anna Sankova braced herself when her clients told her they had two dogs, Harper and Oliver.

The couple, relocating from Boston, didn’t have much time to hunt for apartments, and Sankova thought it would take a while to find a building willing to take both pooches.

She was wrong.

Not only did Sankova find several landlords receptive to more than one dog, some were even willing to lower pet fees.

“We found them an apartment within one weekend while they were visiting,” said Sankova, of Mirador Real Estate. “More landlords, especially in condos, were willing to take two dogs, which was surprising to me. It was not the case before.”

With the current rental glut, especially in the high-end of the market where prices are slipping and concessions are rising, dog-friendly policies are the latest incentive to lure tenants, experts say.

Landlords have become increasingly pet-friendly over the past few years. But many are now upping the ante on pro-dog policies, accepting multiple pets, becoming more flexible on weight or breed restrictions or waiving or lowering pet fees, many said.

The Boston couple moved in this month to a West Village building, which charged a $20 yearly fee for one dog and no fee for the other, a service dog, which landlords are required to accept even in no-pet buildings under the city’s Human Rights laws.

Those fees were significantly lower than others where fees ranged from about $500 to a month’s extra deposit, Sankova said.

Still, Fiona Luong, Harper and Oliver's owner, was still surprised that her housing options were constrained because of her two mini Australian Labradoodles.

"It was more challenging than I expected given the fact that there are dogs everywhere in New York City," she said. "Some of the places we wanted to look didn’t allow pets, or only allowed cats or only allowed one dog. I found it really strange that there was a ‘two cat or one dog’ rule. If buildings are allowing one dog, what’s the difference of two?"

But experts say the landscape has vastly improved when it comes to pet-friendly policies.

“Over the past six to 12 months, you’re seeing in some instances, landlords changing pet policies or for some that have always had such policies, they’re marketing it front-and-center now,” said Caren Maio, founder of Nestio, a real estate tech firm that essentially provides a database for rentals.

Through her cloud-based software program — which allows a way for landlords to communicate apartment openings, concessions and other information — she has seen a dramatic increase in landlords emphasizing their pet-friendly bona fides within their broker marketing materials.

Landlords now specifically mention pet fees in their email marketing materials to brokers about a quarter of the time, up significantly from about 1 percent three years ago, according to data Nestio compiled for DNAinfo.

There’s also been a steady rise when it comes to landlords stating in their marketing materials that pets were allowed either building-wide or on a case-by-case basis. Her firm found about a 20 percent increase in such mentions in marketing materials from 2016 to the present.

“I think it’s an indicator that New York is becoming more pet-friendly to differentiate themselves and to provide a value-add,” Maio said.

The past few years have seen a rise in the number of new buildings catering to pets, and that trend is still going strong, with developers looking for ways to be pet-inclusive, from building elaborate pet spas to offering a "mudroom" to wash your pet before returning to your apartment.

At 525W52, in Midtown, for instance, the developer Taconic plans to offer full-service pet care, including on-site daycare facility for group play sessions, “yappy” hours and agility courses, a full grooming spa, and a veterinary clinic for sick days or check-ups. The facility, run by Throw Me a Bone, will also provide door to door dog walking services, in-home puppy visits, cat sitting, overnight stays and dog training.

TF Cornerstone’s first Brooklyn residential property, 33 Bond in Downtown Brooklyn, is tapping into the borough’s dog-centric lifestyle with with an on-site self-service pet grooming space with a custom pet sink to let tenants wash their dogs instead of having to use their own bathrooms, whether for a full wash or a quick clean-up.

Karla Saladino, co-founder of Mirador, said that new, luxury high-rises that are equipped with high-speed elevators have an easier time loosening their restrictions.

“The bigger buildings have more elevators to handle the dogs,” she explained. “A dog needs to go in the elevator at least three times a day [to be walked]. A lot of people don’t realize how much elevator usage that is.”

It’s especially tricky after work when people are coming home and rushing to get their dogs outside, she said.

At a Murray Hill building, where Saladino’s firm handles the rentals, the management company noticed an elevator backlog and thought it was because the building had too many roommate shares. The problem persisted after a crackdown on shares — and they realized it was because of dogs, Saladino said.

Now, the buildings is no longer allowing new applicants with dogs.

But new luxury towers are better equipped to handle that — and need to fill units, Saladino said.

“It used to be maybe one dog was allowed in, and ‘We’re going to weigh it, interview it and analyze it,’” Saladino recounted. “Even a year ago, it was very hard to find something if you had a 40-pound dog or a Lab retriever. It was like, ‘What three buildings can we visit?’ Now it’s like 10 buildings."

And some will even take two dogs as large as Labradors, if the unit is big enough — like Kips Bay's Eastland Apartments, she added.

"Landlords want to get the higher-end clientele, who may be moving in from Long Island or Westchester and may have larger dogs or multiple dogs," she said.

While some dog owners might irk neighbors by leaving barking dogs home all day, many are "passionate" about their pets and often treat them like their own kids, Saladino said.

"There are dogs in my building we all know by name, and the doorman gives them treats. It cheers people up," said Saladino, who lives in the Flatiron, "and happier people equal kinder human beings.”