It’s a turbulent time in the Australian property market. With ongoing pessimism in the media scaring the pants off homeowners everywhere, it’s easy to see why renting is becoming a more attractive solution for many. However there has been one stumbling block in the past that in some cases has even driven Australians to buy beyond their means, rather than rent property, and that is pet ownership. Even though for many families their pet is as much a part of their family as anyone else, landlords have historically rarely agreed and pet friendly rentals have been difficult to secure. However, with changes to legislation already made in Victoria, and other states starting to take notice, it’s only a matter of time until tenants can live in strata and have their pet too.
According to Petcare Information and Advisory Service (PIAS) resources, more than 60% of Australian households have a pet and less than 5% of rental property listings are pet friendly. This leaves a lot of people in limbo as to what to do regarding their chosen place of residence, as well as a lot of pets in life and death situations. More than 20,000 pets are euthanised each year after being handed into shelters by owners who don’t have the capacity to care for or house them anymore.
Governments and legislators are starting to acknowledge that contemporary living has changed and that many laws are actually unduly harsh when it comes to peoples’ day to day needs. Change is in the wind, as understanding increases around the value of emotional support animals for people with autism or PTSD and the necessity for many special needs people to have assistance dogs or companion animals. Aside from those specific categories, there is also recognition that current laws are simply oppressive to people’s freedoms and discriminate against renters, who should have similar basic habitation rights that owners do, where property residential behaviours are concerned.
There are lots of good reasons landlords should approve a tenant with pets, which are outlined below. It is important however to be sure the agreement concerning care and responsibility for the pet, whilst within the property and its boundaries is clear.
1. Tenants with pets offer better rental opportunities for landlords
Because the availability of pet friendly rental properties is so low, there are almost always good quality tenants who have been looking for months and in some cases for almost anything – as long as they find a place where everyone in their family – including their pets - can live together. The lack of options may mean they are willing to pay more rent, with research showing tenants will willingly pay $25 or more a week extra rent, to be sure their pet can stay too. They also might prefer a longer lease, because of the difficulties they experienced in finding suitable pet friendly properties in the past. Tenants who are looking to find a pet friendly rental property tend to offer a much more comprehensive application too, giving you a real insight into their potential as a great tenant over the long term.
2. Pet owners tend to be better tenants!
The fact that someone has decided they can take care of a pet and all the obligations and expenses that come with it, certainly says something about them and their capacity to be responsible. Whether it is a single woman with a puppy or a goldfish, or a blended family with dogs, frogs, fish and guinea pigs – the need to care for the animals, feed them, manage their health, diet and exercise needs and pay for their food and medical bills is a commitment. Just like children need to be transitioned into a new environment, so do pets, so pet owners will generally prefer longer leases, through reluctance to unsettle their pet by moving too often. Many pet owners may even supply a CV with their pet as part of their application. It sounds strange but they know what they are doing – after years of rejected property applications, they know that a few details around vaccinations and graduation certificates from obedience training schools, or recommendations from previous real estate agents they’re rented from, can make all the difference.
3. Being pet friendly gives you a point of difference
The rental market can be tough and getting any tenancy applications in, much less good ones, could become increasingly difficult for those standing their ground where the ‘no pets’ rule is concerned. Larger family homes tend to be more attractive to families and the majority of Australian families have a pet of some kind (pet rocks not included). If your 4-bedroom suburban rental with a big backyard and a no pets policy has remained vacant for some time – your attitude to pets could be the problem. It’s also becoming increasingly uncool to reject people because of their pets, especially with unnecessary animal euthanasia numbers climbing ever upwards.
4. Becoming a ‘pet friendly’ landlord is easier than you think
There are of course issues to consider, such as what kind of pet it is, how much noise and waste it will make, and what kind of mess and damage it will create. You can request pet references from prospective tenants if you like. But for the most part, becoming a pet friendly landlord is simple. Speak to your property manager about additional clauses to add to your lease agreement relative to animals and their behaviours. You can also mark your property as pet friendly in your listing so that it will show up in First National Real Estate’s ‘pet friendly listings’ search. When listing your property for rent you can capitalise on your points of difference by pointing out the ‘large dog friendly yard’ or the ‘sunny corner ideal for a chook shed’ in the property description. You should also finish the description by signing off with “will consider applications from tenants with pets”.
On any given day, about 5.7 per cent of First National Real Estate’s vacant rental properties are available through the network’s Pet Friendly Rental Search feature, with the most Pet Friendly states being Queensland and Tasmania – equally offering 12.5 per cent of vacancies as Pet Friendly. The network assisted Dr Emma Power’s University of Western Sydney 2013 research – Renting with Pets in Sydney – and has cooperated with the PIAS in the creation of educational booklets and the promotion of socially responsible pet ownership. It encourages landlords to discuss their concerns with Property Managers and weigh the merits of all applications.