Pet friendly rentals: should you ever lease to a pet owner? Is it worth it?

Property management

Are you struggling to decide your approach to tenants with pets? It’s a tough question to resolve. Pets tend to have a poor reputation with landlords, either for damaging property or becoming a noise nuisance. This has the potential to reduce the value of your property over time or it will end up costing you in repairs.

But, there is another side to consider. Pet owners are generally more responsible, earn more on average and are more likely to look after your property.

So before you make a knee jerk decision, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of renting to pet owners.

The pros of pet owners as tenants

 
Before you write off pet owners as tenants, take the time to consider the following pros in their favour:
You will have more tenants to choose from if you include pet owners in your selection criteria.

Pet-friendly rentals are not as common, so a pet friendly policy is likely to make your property more sought after – so you can charge more for rent for it.
Statistics show that pet owners are more likely to have a good, regular income than non-pet owners.
Pet owners are more likely to be long-term tenants, primarily because they value the opportunity to have a stable home for their pet. For you (the landlord) that translates into lower vacancy rates.

This also means you can get pet owners to sign longer leases, or renew an existing lease more easily.
And if you have a happy pet owning tenant they are more likely to look after your property.

The cons of pet owners as tenants

There are still some potential downsides to having pet owners as tenants, including:

  • Inconsiderate pet owners could let their animal chew, scratch and foul your property into a rather sad state, which ultimately could cost you in repairs.
  • There is more likelihood a pet causing foul smells to permeate the proximity of your property, which could lead neighbours to complain.
  • Neighbours are likely to complain about a noisy pet, and you will have ensure the matter is dealt with. This is especially true for a high density strata complex.
  • A disruptive or dangerous pet could harm neighbours or other tenants, and you could be held liable.

What are your tenants obligations?

 
By law your tenants are obliged not to cause a nuisance or damage your rental property. If your tenants have a pet that makes a lot of noise it is possible that this will breach your tenancy agreement. Whether the noise caused by their pet is reasonable will depend on the particular circumstances, including when it happens, how often and who it bothers.

The law and pets in strata/rental properties

 
The rules on pets in rental properties and apartments vary from state to state. In NSW for example, the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 (NSW) does not prohibit tenants from keeping a pet. They also don’t have to ask you (the landlord) to keep a pet. You can however ensure you have pet clause in your tenancy agreement to restrict them from keeping a pet.

If your property is in a strata scheme it will have a by-law about the keeping of animals. This often requires tenants to obtain prior written permission from the owners corporation. In some cases it may even prohibit animals being kept. As a landlord, you or your property manager/agent are obliged to provide your tenants with the by-laws for your strata scheme, typically when they move in.

Types of pets

 
What pets may you encounter? Besides the obvious dogs and cats, other popular pets include reptiles, fish and birds. Birds can be surprisingly noisy and messy, so you should look to establish what type, and the number of birds, being kept. Reptiles can also be an issue, especially if they pose a hazard to people, as in the case of a venomous snake.

Many reptiles are protected by law and are not allowed to be kept in captivity. You should also note that guide dogs, otherwise known as assistance animals, are not classed as a pet and you cannot refuse a tenant who depends on them.

Looking after your interests and your property

If you’ve received a great application from a potential tenant who has a pet and you’re weighing up the pros and cons, you can do the following to help you make a decision:

  • Request a pet resume (it’s more common than you think) – they usually list out things like the breed,, temperament, any training it’s had, as well as a statement or letter from a vet re: what treatments the the animal has had. For example, regular flea treatments.
  • A reference from previous landlords or property managers
  • Find out what the breed is – for example, some dogs are hypoallergenic and don’t shed hair. These dogs typically don’t have a typical dog scent, so are favoured by pet owners who live in apartments.

 
If you do decide to welcome pet owners to your property, make sure you protect yourself by:

  • Meeting the tenants with their pet to confirm it is suitable for your property.
  • Requesting references from your tenants if they want to keep a pet. These could be from a previous landlord or an Owners Corporation.
  • Setting out clear guidelines in your lease what will happen if the pet is excessively noisy, a nuisance, causes damage to the property or is dangerous.
  • Requesting they notify you immediately if the pet causes any damage.
  • Taking out landlord liability insurance to protect yourself from being liable for personal injury caused by your tenants pet.
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