Should landlords rethink the ‘no pets’ clause to gain satisfied tenants interested in staying put for longer? The clause is standard in most tenancy agreements because landlords fear expensive property damage by cats or dogs. However, large numbers of urban dwellers now turn to the rental market to find their long-term abode. Landlords who recognize it is better for business to provide a place that feels like home rather than just four walls and a ceiling, are positioned to capture long-term renters. Kate Hoetler from The Lost Dogs Homes in Melbourne has great advice for landlords. “Tenants with pets are probably happier tenants,” she says, “and may be even more responsible than others due to the minimal numbers of properties available that allow pets.”
Pet ownership vs Renting
The fact is, pet ownership is part and parcel of the Australian lifestyle. According to the RSPCA 63% of Australian households have cats, dogs, birds or other kinds of pets. Of the 37% without pets, 53% would like to invite a pet into the family in the near future. Welcoming pets in a rental property enhances the attractiveness to the majority of would-be tenants. When searching for a home, renters would rather pass on a superior property than give up a beloved pet. In fact, some tenants will pay above asking price for a long term lease. As a landlord, pet owners become a smarter choice.
Unfortunately, when pets are forbidden on the tenancy agreement, it is the animal who wears the impact. “Sadly, it is quite common for people to surrender their cat or dog to the (Lost Dogs) Home for re-homing due to rental property permissions,” said Kate Hoetler. The situation is reflected in sad figures reported by The Lost Dogs Home. In 2015, 448 dogs and 490 cats were handed over to their shelter by tenants “because their current landlord did not allow pets or they were moving to a rental property that would not allow pets.” Of course the true number of pets separated from their owners is higher as some are re-homed through other shelters or personal networks instead.
Pets and Tenancy Agreements
The ‘no pets’ clause exists because some landlords worry about the damage a pet can do. A cat or dog scampering across polished boards can cause scratches, but so can stiletto heels or footy boots. A pet may tear carpets yet humans can cause the same damage.
To avoid missing out on a great tenant, request a reference for the pet. The pet’s vet or a previous landlord can tell you if the animal’s energy levels are suitable for the dwelling or if they have any behavioural issues that are likely to cause a headache down the track. You can also request any obedience or behaviour training certificates from the prospective tenant. Alternatively, you might consider a separate and additional bond that covers any damage specifically caused by the pet. If you encounter problems, such as loud barking at night, you can take action. Landlords can ask the tenant to solve the problem within 14 days. If the problem persists you are within rights to request a compliance order from VCAT.
Are Pets Suitable for your Property?
It is Kate Hoetler’s opinion that deciding if your property is suitable for a pet comes down to the personality of the individual animal “…If a dog is regularly walked, has plenty to keep them stimulated and happy during the day they can often live contently in smaller properties…and there are quieter dogs and older dogs that are happy in smaller spaces.”
She shares a positive outlook on cats too, “fortunately, cats are highly adaptable and suit nearly all properties.” As any cat owner would know they are naturally clean, low maintenance creatures. If you are sure that your prospective tenant is a responsible pet owner you can only benefit from their residence and rental fees.
To so many, pets are synonymous with quality of life. No-one wants to give up that feeling of arriving home to a loving pet because they rent. Landlords can permit tenants to enjoy the benefits pets bring to daily life. They benefit too, as “generally speaking, tenants with pets will remain longer in rental accommodation.” Kate Hoetler shares a last word, “if there were more rental properties available allowing pets, fewer owners may find themselves having to make the heart breaking decision to give up their pets.”