Despite the fact that around 62% of Australian households have pets, it can still be difficult for pet owners to secure themselves a rental property, so much so that some first home buyers are leaving the rental market for property investment, and doing so with their pet as a key motivator. Landlords have various justifications about why they might not consider a prospective tenant’s pets as part of their lease agreements – some of them justified, some of them not so much.
Include pets in your search terms
When searching for a rental property online, you can start with a broad search in the suburbs you prefer and wade through hundreds of possibilities, or you can use specific criteria when searching, such as First National’s pet friendly rental search , which delivers listings where landlords have indicated they’ll consider applications from tenants with pets. You can further refine your search too based on your pet’s needs – for some pets an outside space is essential, or maybe you need a fully fenced property to keep your pet (and passers-by) safe. This might limit your choices to houses rather than apartment blocks obviously. For others, you may just need a nice corner that gets enough light and fresh air to the pet’s cage or hutch, so apartments, units or townhouses are fine.
Another good strategy is to think small. Try looking at rental homes and those managed by the owner, instead of large apartment complexes with various property managers and a complicated and potentially difficult Owners Corporation to deal with. Individual landlords may be more willing to speak with you and negotiate flexible arrangements, whereas property managers may have received direct instructions from their landlord clients expressly forbidding them to consider applications from tenants with pets.
Dig a little to reveal why a property has a no pets policy
If you do find the ideal property and discover no pets are allowed, it’s well worth asking why and seeing how much flexibility there is around the idea. It may be a bad experience the landlord had with a tenant and a pet in the past, or just something they think will be more troublesome than the reality your pet might present. State your case to allow your pet onto the lease as part of your rental application. Explain that you plan to stay for a long time as it can be disruptive for your pet to move too often and if you have pet references from a previous lease, make sure you let the property manager know that. Responsible pet owners can be great tenants as they have an extra degree of difficulty when it comes to moving and tend to be less transient tenants than non-pet owners. This won’t work in in all cases, but the landlord may just need a little reassurance to be confident you will be a responsible pet owner and the animal will not cause damage to property, or create problems for other tenants or neighbours.
Ask if the agency has a pet lease agreement
In addition to a normal tenancy agreement, some agencies also have a ‘pet lease agreement’. This might vary from one agency to the next but it will be about one page long and outline the landlord’s expectations with regard to the health, hygiene and behaviour of your pet, ending in your signature. This confirms your commitment to be responsible for the pet and be sure it’s presence in the property does not betray the terms of the pet lease agreement, just as a residential tenancy agreement does.
It’s also useful to know if an agency has a pet lease agreement as this may indicate they are overall a pet friendly agency. The very presence of the agreement means it is something they have dealt with before and are supportive enough of pets to have created and made the pet lease agreement available.
Include a ‘pet resumé’ in your application
This may sound like a strange idea but just as you provide personal information about yourself on a residential property application, it can be very useful to include information about your pet too. A super cute photo might be nice, but also add confirmation from the vet that they have been treated for fleas, that all of their vaccinations are up to date and they have been spayed/neutered where necessary. A copy of any obedience training, or awards (such as pet shows, grooming, breed awards etc) they have won could also be useful. If you have lived with the pet in a previous property, ask your last landlord/property manager to be sure to mention your pet, its good behaviour and the excellent condition you left the property in when vacating. Collectively these documents let the landlord know your pet is clean, healthy, is well trained and cared for and ultimately be a good ‘tenant’. If you do get approval for a property and confirmation that your pet can also move in, make sure you get approval for your pet to be there in writing, in case the real estate agency’s rent roll changes ownership and the new owner takes exception to your pet being in residence.
Do the right thing
There are many responsibilities that come with being a pet owner and one key value is to do the right thing – not just by your pet but for everyone that the pet comes into contact with or whose presence will be affected by it. If a property listing says ‘no pets’, but you enquire further and get a lukewarm response, then do the right thing and drop it. It’s ok to ask if there is flexibility but don’t push it if they say no. It’s the landlord’s property and you behaving like an entitled pet owner will not do you any favours. Move on and look for something else.
Once you do find the right property, have signed your tenancy agreement and the one for your pet also, be sure that you are clear on the terms within both of them. Keep an open and honest dialogue with your property manager and report if there is any damage. Do the right thing and resolve things quickly, then provide details about repairs, carpet cleaning or anything else you have done to address the issue; and that should be updated for the purposes of the condition report too. Failure to do this may mean part of your bond is retained when you vacate, but it also means your current property manager may not give your pet a favourable reference for your next rental.