Pets or no pets? The landlord’s conundrum

Living in Northern NSW lends itself to having a very outdoorsy lifestyle which often includes four-legged family members. Many landlords recognise that allowing pets can actually be beneficial to their investment strategy.  In some locations in Australia the rental laws do not permit tenant applications to be rejected due to pets. Overall a huge percentage of households now own pets, especially since COVID changed our lives, pet ownership has increased even further.

Pets and rentals – what’s all the fuss about?

Unfortunately, due to the odd horror story, some people have a view that pets and rentals don’t mix for these reasons:

  • Pets can damage your property (e.g., they can chew on carpets and scratch furniture).
  • Pets can be noisy and disrupt the neighbourhood.
  • Pets can be a liability if they hurt or bite people.
  • The presence of pets might turn off tenants who have allergies.
  • If pet owners are not meticulous about caring for their pets and household, the presence of pets can lead to unpleasant odours, among other things.

As with most horror stories, they are usually rare and have been blown out of proportion. Your risk of having a human do the same level of damage is probably greater than a pet. So it’s best to give everyone a fair go and know that the vast majority of people will do the right thing by you and respect their and your home.

Fortunately, there are also effective ways of safeguarding your assets while respecting the rights of pet owners.

Should you allow pets in your rental property?

All landlords want good model tenants who know how to care for their household and keep their area clean, and this applies whether or not a tenant has a pet. In fact, some of the best tenants who not only take care of their home but are also responsible, clean, and stay for the long term are pet owners.

Good fur parents know how to teach their pets to behave well and are also willing to take responsibility for the consequences of their pet’s behaviour. Aside from this, there are several other reasons pet owners can be viable tenants:

You’ll have access to a bigger number of tenant prospects: More than 50 per cent of renters are pet owners, so by considering those with pets, you’re also giving yourself access to a higher number of prospective tenants.

Pet owners are usually financially stable: Pet ownership is a tremendous responsibility as pets need specific food, vaccines, and healthcare. So, it is highly likely that your potential pet-owning renters have the income to cover these. Of course, this shouldn’t stop you from conducting a credit check to be certain.

Pet owners stay longer in rentals: Unless they buy their own property, pet owners are likely to ask for longer lease agreements as they usually have a tough time finding a decent pet-friendly rental.

You might be able to charge extra for allowing pets: If you’re in an area where pet-friendly options are limited, you might be able to ask for higher rents, as there is less supply and more demand.

Pet owners are happier: Having happy people around is good for everyone, and pets are known as stress relievers. You can keep your tenants happy without doing much; just let them keep their pets.

Tips to protect your rental

As a landlord, you want to balance being fair and respectful of the rights of pet-owning tenants and protecting your property assets from possible damage arising from pet behaviour.

To ensure your property is protected, you should:

Check if you can get insurance coverage for having a pet-friendly rental. Make sure you work out the finer details of your insurance so you know what you can and cannot allow in your pet-friendly property.

Have a clear landlord pet policy included in the lease and get it signed by your tenant. Your pet policy must clearly spell out which kinds of pets are allowed in your property and what building and community rules pet owners need to follow. Any violation of the terms in the pet policy would constitute a breach of contract by the pet owner.

You can also ask your property manager to take detailed photos of the property prior to your pet-owning tenants moving in. You can then agree with your tenant in writing that if and when they do not renew the contract or decide to terminate the lease, the property should be handed back over to you in more or less the same condition.

So, landlords and pets can mix. In fact, having a pet-friendly property doesn’t mean letting your asset go to ruin. By applying the tips mentioned here, you might just be making better decisions as a landlord.

If you need help to make your property pet-friendly or professional advice in formulating a pet policy, please reach out to us.