Should You Allow Pets in Your Rental Property?

Tuesday, November 1, 2016 / Property Investment, Property Management

It often goes without speaking that an investment property is a no pet zone. If you scroll through the countless rental properties available at any given time, there is a good chance that a giant percentage of these properties will be labeled as 'no pets' or quite often the slightly apologetic 'sorry no pets'.

Given that Australians tend to love pets, this can be a rather strange turn of events.

39% of Australian house holds have a dog, whilst 29% of households have a cat. That is not to mention the number of households that have other pets such as birds, rabbits and so on. 

When we also know that around 30% of Australian households are renting, these proportions can make for an interesting conundrum. 

It is quite well known that pet owners in Australia often find it more difficult to find a rental property, and even feel a lack of housing security.

This all begs the question however, of should you allow pets into your rental property?

Why You Potentially Wouldn't Want Pets in Your Rental

Given the sheer fact that there are so many properties that do not allow pets there must be some sound reasons to think that a property would be better off without these furry (perhaps even feathered) companions living there. 

We have heard many reasons over the years that people may not want their tenants to have pets in their investment properties, lets run through a few now.​

Potential to Cause Damage to the Property

For many landlord's there is a never ending worry that their rental property is going to be damaged and require repairs. Even the greatest rental yield can be seriously downgraded if a sizable repair bill comes up during the tenancy or between tenancies. 

Many property investors simply decide that when it comes to mitigating the risks of damage to property that one of the safest and fastest ways to do this is to restrict pets from living in the property. 

Potential to Cause Damage to Furnishings

Once again, if your investment property is coming fully furnished or partially furnished then there may be the ever present fear that a pet will cause damage to this. 

We have heard many reasons over the years that people may not want their tenants to have pets in their investment properties, lets run through a few now.​

Laws and Regulations Surrounding Pets and Tenancies

Each state of Australia has their own regulations surrounding tenancies with pets. However it is worth noting that across the whole of Australia you can not discriminate against a service animal that is assisting a person who is living with a disability (such as a guide dog).

There is no legislation or regulations that safe guard a tenants right to have a pet, despite numerous calls for such legislation over the years.

Australian land lords have the right to decline a tenancy on the presence of a pet.

Reasons Why You May Want to Consider Allowing Pets in Your Rental property

There are quite a few great reasons to consider allowing pet owners to sign on as tenants in your rental. 

Some of these are a little controversial in some respects, whilst others are ones that we often find that our landlords have simply not considered.​

You Can Fill Vacancies Quicker

There is very little worse than having a rental property sitting there untenanted. Every week that you are paying he loan but not collecting rent is a week in which your rental yield is walking directly backwards. 

Depending on where your property is located you may be battling a high vacancy rate for the area. This rate is an indicator of how difficult it is to find a tenant within an area.

Allowing tenants to apply for your property who have pets can be a great way to get a tenant faster, even in an area that has a reasonably high vacancy rate. This is because the demand for pet friendly rental properties tends to consistently be higher than the supply. By advertising your property as pet friendly it will make itself onto the shortlist of most tenants who are looking for pet friendly accommodation. 

Your Tenants With Pets Will Frequently Stay Longer

Everybody knows that moving house can be a pain, but moving house with a pet is just that extra degree of frustration. When this is combined with the difficulty of actually finding a rental property that will allow a pet the result is that when a tenant finds a good land lord in a property that allows them to have their pets they will quite often stay for a much longer time than a tenant who does not have a pet.

The benefits of longer tenancies are less periods in which your property is not generating a rental return, less re-letting fees​ and less rounds of advertising fees. (even if your Property Manager has a flat fee system in place you still benefit by having less rent free periods).

Tenants With Pets Will Often Be Willing to Pay a Little Extra Rent

If you are prepared to allow pets into your rental, quite often this will allow you to list the property for a higher rent than you otherwise could. In the classic supply and demand scenario the odds are stacked in the favor of the landlord who is prepared to allow pets.

As there are significantly more people looking for pet friendly accommodation than there is accommodation, this will often drive up the rental prices.

This is the simple rule of supply and demand allowing you to glean just a little more for your property, whilst helping to make sure a pet owner doesn't have to relocate their companion to another home.

Pet Ownership Often Makes for More Responsible Tenants

Keep in mind that a tenant who is used to being responsible for another living breathing being is quite often going to be a little more responsible than others. This is obviously not a hard and fast rule, but it does bear some consideration. You can validate and clarify the responsibility factors by checking with such questions as:

  • ​is the pet registered
  • is the pet vaccinated
  • is the pet trained

The qualities that make a responsible pet owner are often similar qualities that you are looking for in a responsible tenant. 

You Won't End Up With 'Secret Pets' 

Lets face it, under the current system in which there is far more housing that is not available for pets than there is; the result is quite often tenants lying to their landlords about whether they have a pet or not. 

This can be incredibly hard to predict during your initial screening process, and is something that almost every property manager has experience with encountering. ​

Allowing pets from the get go will simply mean that more honesty can be in place, as well as the adequate agreements on what type of pet is allowed and where they are allowed within the property. Allowing pets simply gives you the greater control to be able to control for the types of pets that you are happy with in your investment. ​

Pets Don't Necessarily Cause Additional Damage or Maintenance Needs

As much as the catch all policy of no pets seems like an easy way of minimizing the amount of damage that may occur, it is still far from a perfect methodology. 

In all fairness there is just as high (if not a higher) chance that children or teenagers will cause additional damage to your property.

Whilst it is true that a bored dog may dig, an agitated cat may scratch and so on, this says more about the pet owner than the actual pet. ​These are all things that your property manager will be able to screen during the application process. They will be getting an understanding of the potential tenants pets in much the same way that they are getting an understanding of the tenants themselves. Screening questions such as are they trained, registered and vaccinated will allow your property manager to get a good understanding of whether the animal is going to be left by itself getting bored and damaging things. 

Considerations For Your Property to be Pet Friendly

Sometimes it is not as simple as just changing your advertising to 'pets considered' or 'pets negotiable' and then instructing your property manager to make sure that they are now vetting the pets appropriately. There are certain things that you may want to address in the property itself that will allow for a better experience for yourself and your pet owning tenants.

Consider Easy to Clean Flooring Rather than Carpets

Having tiles, lino or floorboards in your property will help to reduce the amount of pet fur that can be collected within a carpet. This will help the tenant to keep the property clean, a well as minimize the effect of any 'accidents' the pets encounter inside. 

Even if your property does have carpeted areas, it is common to be able to request that the tenants keep the pets out of these areas all together. Most pet owners will be grateful enough that they are able to keep their pet that they will honor this request.​

Make Sure The Backyard is Escape proof

Even if you don't decide to take it upon yourself to make the back yard escape proof, you wil want to be prepared for a tenant to come in and make alterations as necessary. There are benefits in being able to advertise the property as escape proof in the back yard already, but it may not always be a deal breaker for each and every dog owner. 

If you do end up requiring the tenant to make the back yard escape proof, make sure that you have set agreements on what this will look like, and the removal of any modifications (such as fencing) at the end of their tenancy should you wish. You will also want to ensure that any modifications do not cause damage or value reduction to your property (such as a hastily prepared fence made out of building site scraps). ​

Low Maintenance Garden

You may want to make sure that your garden is not high maintenance or something that can be easily damaged from having a pet roaming about.

Whilst most dog or pet owners will do everything that they can to ensure that their animals do not dig up or damage a garden, it is still not a great idea to have a pristine prize winning floral display in a backyard that is going to have pets. 

Lease Agreement Considerations

If you decide that you will allow pets in your rental then you will need to make sure that details of the allowance are explicitly spelled out within the lease agreement itself. 

We can tell you from experience that those investors who have successfully rented property out to pet owners (or anyone for that matter) are those who have had us help them to create an iron clad and completely clear lease agreement.

The lease agreement is the document that the ongoing relationship is measured against, so it is always worth making sure any negotiations surrounding pets is mentioned within the agreement.​

Create a Specific Pet Keeping Agreement

The pet keeping agreement will go into details on what is allowable within the lease agreement, and what stipulations must apply.

Some of the details the agreement will cover are:

  • what types (and limits) of pets are allowable
  • where the pets are allowed on the property (e.g outdoors only)
  • Expressly making the tenant res​ponsible for any damages
  • How many pets are allowable

Charging an Additional Pet Bond

Even though there was a push for this a few years ago, as an effort to try and open more properties up for rent by pet owners, this is not actually allowed to be charged in any state other than Western Australia.

Any property management agency that attempts to tell you otherwise is actually pushing you into a grey area that could cause regulatory issues down the track.

If you have any doubts at all about what you can or can not do in regards to pets and tenants, we encourage you to give one of our friendly experts a call!​

Additional Inspections for Pet Owners

Depending on what state you live in there will be different laws outlining the frequency within which you can inspect a property. 

In South Australia you may not inspect more frequently than once every 4 weeks, even though this is still far more frequent than the industry average of once every quarter.

If you have never rented to a pet owner before and are still a little unsure, you may decide that increasing the frequency of inspections (even just in the beginning) may help to alleviate some of your anxiety regarding the pets. Many pet owners will not mind this at all if it means that they can have a lease that allows them to live with their pet. ​

Choosing the Right Tenant and Pet Combination

Even though you are not making the agreement or interview with the pet itself, you can still request a little more information about the pet. Things you may consider asking about are registrations, vaccinations, obedience class participation and so on. It is not uncommon to request a 'pet cv' before leasing a property, and even doing some reference checks to other property managers or landlords who can provide some rental history for the tenant duri9ng a period in which they had the pet.

At the end of the day, your property manager will do the best job they can to assist you in finding a great tenant and pet combination by using all the same skills in which they vet all other potential tenants.

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