One of the contributing factors to the fact 100,000 dogs and cats are surrendered to the RSPCA each year is the inability for tenants to find pet-friendly housing. A recent overhaul of the pet laws for landlords and tenants by the Victorian government is not expected to come into place until 2019, but some agencies are looking to make the process easier for tenants with pets.
Currently only five per cent of landlords list their rental properties as pet friendly, yet almost 5.7 million Australian households reported having a pet at home. This suggests that a number of renters are keeping pets in their homes despite them not being approved by landlords.
At 62 per cent, Australia is the country with the highest household rate of pet ownership in the world, and in the next 12 months it is anticipated that 1.1 million Australian households will get a pet.
One of the agencies showing their support for the changes is First National Real Estate. As well as including a pet-friendly rental search option on their website, the network is urging their landlords to reconsider their stance on the issue.
First National Chief Executive, Ray Ellis says some of the best rental tenants are those with animals because they are committed to staying in a property longer, which reduces overall wear and tear and increases a landlord’s annual yield, and according to the Blue Moon Research & Planning, 2008 ‘Pets in the City – a qualitative and quantitative research report’ landlords may be able to achieve between seven and 14 per cent more rent to secure the tenancy.
“The experience of our members is that responsible pet owners are usually very well prepared, when they submit their applications. They frequently have already obtained references from former landlords and neighbours, confirming their pets are well managed and not an annoyance to the neighbourhood where they previously lived,” says Mr Ellis.
“We always remind landlords that flagging their vacant property “Pet Friendly” provides them a bigger pool of tenants from which to choose, that these types of tenants usually stay longer, and they’re sometimes willing to pay a little more, or sign some additional reasonable conditions on their lease, to offset a landlord’s concerns. We’re committed to the welfare of pets by encouraging landlords to consider applicants with pets.”
Western Australia is currently the only state allowing tenants to pay a ‘pet deposit’ or ‘pet bond’, but First National feel the introduction of this across the board could encourage landlords to open their properties to pet-owning tenants.
Bruce Oliver, co-founder of Melbourne-based Xynergy Realty, is quick to warn tenants and landlords that the new changes will drastically impact the way pets are allowed in property, but also that the changes may not in fact come into play at all.
Mr Oliver says that tenants need to be mindful of the investment to landlords, and be open to measures which protect that investment.
“When tenants complain about lack of pet-friendly rentals available, they need to acknowledge that the property is a valuable investment to the landlord. The owner is most likely to dismiss pets because of the potential damage, however there are measures that can be taken to prevent devaluing a property or loss of income as a result of damage,” said Mr Oliver.
“Pet clauses may be included in the tenant agreement to identify and limit the type and amount of pets that are allowed to be kept on premises. This manages the expectations of the tenant and legally protects the landlord in the event that damage occurs.
“The clause will need to include an exit arrangement, such as tenants are responsible for steam cleaning the carpet and flea treating the premises on vacating, and are responsible for all pet-related damage costs,” he said.
Mr Oliver also says the introduction of a pet bond nationwide could make the process of introducing pet-friendly rentals across the country.
“At the end of the day, pets can have a very positive influence on a home, therefore it’s one of the most important roles for the property manager to find a tenant and landlord that are compatible. Although proposed changes might change the ways in which pets are currently kept on a property, respecting the wishes of the other parties involved should stay the same.”