Pet-owner tenants; Weighing up the risks and benefits

Posted by
on Apr 07, 2016

There’s no doubt that here in Australia, we love the outdoors. With warm sunny weather throughout (most of) the year, many of us opt to have a furry friend or two with whom we can enjoy those long days at the beach, park, or to simply play with in the backyard. However, as landlords and property managers, we often cringe at the thought of tenants having their four-legged companions living with them in the property, given we are so concerned about safeguarding it against potential damage. As the Australian Companion Animal Council points out, “over 60 per cent of Australian households own a pet, yet it seems almost automatic for the majority of Australian landlords and managing agents to have a ‘no pets’ policy on rental tenancies.” With that in mind, allowing tenants with pets to rent your property may have its benefits, including higher rental yields, longer tenancies, and potentially happier and more responsible tenants. We’ve offered a few insights into how allowing tenants to keep pets can actually be a positive experience for everyone involved, along with some tips to ensure that everything goes smoothly along the way.

Why allowing pet-owners to rent a property can be a good idea

The list of potential negatives are fairly obvious to most landlords and property managers, and generally revolve around concerns about mess and damage caused by teeth and claws, and the costly repairs associated with any damage to the property. However, there can be a number of benefits that studies and anecdotal evidence from many property managers claim to be true, including:

  • Higher rental yields - Would-be tenants with pets know all too well how hard it can be to find a place that will accept them and their companion. For this reason, they are often willing to pay a higher price per week for the privilege of having their pet come and live with them. You may also be able to hold a slightly larger security bond if the tenant has a pet.

  • Rent your property quicker - For similar reasons as above, pet-friendly properties tend to rent quicker, as pet-owning tenants are more likely to accept a lease quickly and move in as soon as they find somewhere suitable.

  • Sign tenants on for longer leases - In a recent interview with Domain.com.au, Amanda Lynch, Chief Executive of the Real Estate Institute of Australia (REIA), pointed out that "renters with pets frequently sign longer leases and are less likely to move as it can be disruptive to the animal."

Tips to ensure things run smoothly for you and your tenants

Despite the potential benefits of allowing your property to be tenanted by pet-owners, there are of course a few things to keep in mind to ensure things run smoothly.

Check if your local council has rules about certain types of animals

While the most common type of pet is usually a dog or cat, keep in mind that some people may prefer to keep the company of rabbits, guinea pigs, birds, snakes, lizards, turtles, chickens and/or horses. Despite your personal preferences and limits (you may not want a Shetland pony in your backyard, for example...) some councils have guidelines and restrictions about the types of domestic animals you can keep at your property. For example, chickens can be seen as an animal that can attract vermin to an area, so ensure you check the rules before saying “yes” to any animal that’s a little more uncommon. Ashfield Council in NSW, for example, has an “approved” list of animals that it allows its residents to keep, while anything not on the list must be specifically discussed with them first.

Screen your tenants thoroughly

As with any tenant, it’s important to thoroughly check their rental history and background, and ensure that you can trust the owner first, let alone the pet! Some related posts on the PropertyMe blog provide tips on finding good tenants, and how to reward good tenants.

Ensure you advertise that your property is pet-friendly

You can list your property on sites such as rentwithpets.com.au, who also happen to offer some sound advice on finding great tenants with pets, as well as maintaining a healthy landlord-tenant working relationship.

Consider making small renovations to your property

Easy-to-clean floors and secure fencing will go a long way in keeping your home (and your neighbours’) as clean and damage-free as possible when there are animals living inside it. If you’re already renovating your place in order to make it tenant-friendly, this is a perfect time to consider whether to make renovations that will make your place more pet-friendly.

Formally note down the presence of pets in the lease

Keep a paper trail (or digital trail if using PropertyMe) of all things related to the tenant's pet/s, including agreements on how many animals, the type, and any alterations made to the house. This ensures you have plenty of evidence and documentation in the event that anything does go wrong.

Don’t discriminate against those with service animals

Keep in mind that a service animal is not a pet. There are laws that exist to protect individuals who use service animals, like guide dogs, from being discriminated against when looking for a rental property. To ensure you don’t exclude anyone who needs the assistance of a service animal, see more on the government’s policies and laws in the area of discrimination when renting.

Ensure your landlord’s insurance covers damage by pets

Despite the best intentions and planning, accidents do happen, making it paramount to ensure you or your client are covered in the event that damage occurs to the property. Check your insurance policy thoroughly, and ensure there are no loopholes that may allow the insurance company to avoid claims for any damage caused by little critters. Further reading: