If you are a landlord looking for a new tenant, chances are, some of your prospective renters will own a pet.
According to the latest data, there are almost 29 million pets in Australia today – more than the country’s estimated human population of 25 million.
A study from the Animal Health Alliance revealed that more than 63 per cent of Australian households own pets and more than 83 per cent of Australians have had a pet in their lifetime.
And pet ownership in the country continues to rise. The average number of pets per household in Australia has steadily increased over the past two years, with a jump from 1.3 to 1.4 dogs per household and 1.4 to 1.6 cats per household.
So it’s no surprise that pet-friendly rental properties are in high demand. But despite the rising number of pet owners in the country, Australia’s rental market is not exactly welcoming to pets.
Data shows that less than 10 percent of all Australian rental properties are listed as pet-friendly, resulting in a critical shortage of proper accommodation for pet-owning Aussies and a very real problem for residential tenants and their companion animals.
Recently, animal shelters in Western Australia reported that pets were being surrendered because of a shortage of pet-friendly rentals as Aussies are forced to give up their pets just to secure accommodation. Other states seeing tight rental supplies have also reported a rise in this devastating trend.
Living with an animal in your rental property is generally at the landlord’s discretion in Australia. Unfortunately, some landlords are deterred from renting their property to pet owners because of concerns that their furry friends will cause irreversible damage to the property.
But in reality, properties are more likely to be left with that kind of damage from summer storms or unscreened tenants.
Allowing pets into your investment property can be a great way to attract tenants and is an overlooked opportunity for landlords to earn more money – but only if proper preparations are made.
Before allowing pets in your rental, consider the following tips on pet-proofing your rental property:
1. Install pet-friendly floors
Make sure that your flooring is suited for pet cats and dogs. Consider installing flooring that will withstand the scratching, feces, urine, and other damage that can come with pets.
There are a variety of flooring options that will be suitable for pets. Particularly, porcelain tiles and vinyl flooring are a landlord and pet owner’s best friend.
This is because these are the most durable flooring options for rental properties. After all, nobody wants to deal with carpet stains, and wooden floorboard scratches are almost impossible to remove.
If you’re looking to rent your property to pet owners long term, it’s advisable to take out all of the carpets in the house or unit. But if you still prefer having the comfort of a carpet, maybe look into getting high-performance carpeting.
At the end of the day, the goal is to make it easier for your renters to clean and maintain the floors while they are there.
2. Protect other areas on your property
Beyond the floors, landlords can take other steps to protect their property from pet damage.
We all know that when dogs are excited to go for walks or go outside, they go straight to the doors. It’s no secret that dog scratches can do a lot of damage to doors – so it’s a good idea to find something to cover the bases of doors like a kickplate or some hard plastic.
Another practical solution is to install a doggy door. This way, there are fewer antsy scratches for you to deal with, and it acts as a big bonus for your new tenants.
You can also add Lucite or plexiglass panels to doors and windows to drastically reduce scratches from excited fur tenants.
While it feels stylish, avoid black finish paint because it’s too hard to clean. Instead, experts recommend going for the semigloss paint. Using a satin or eggshell finish for elegant, easy-to-clean paint is also a good way to go.
It’s not exactly unheard of for a rental property’s lawn to get a bit of damage and/or neglect over the years. But the reality is that pets and their leavings can totally destroy a lawn. Fortunately, there are a couple of things you can do to prevent damage to the lawn in the same way you prevent damage to property.
Firstly, you can include conditions in the lease that outline that the lawn and gardens are the responsibility of the renters.
If you want to go a step further – consider hiring someone to specifically tend to the lawns and gardens. This way, you’ll have peace of mind that you’re not going to have to pay to replace the whole thing down the road.
3. Have an entry report
The best way to protect yourself as a landlord is to have your documentation ready.
If you’ve got a property manager, they will be able to conduct a comprehensive entry report. An entry condition report is a standard document issued to a tenant at the beginning of a lease.
Often spanning multiple pages, it lists every room and area of the property, its fixtures and fittings, and clearly identifies exactly what condition the property is in.
If not, you can conduct one yourself. Take as many photographs as you can of doors, screens, floors, gardens and lawns, and note any existing damage. This way, if a tenant contests the damages – you have proof to fight back.
4. Don’t just screen tenants, screen the pets too
Just as you vet your tenants to ensure that they will not cause you and your property manager any problems, you should also take the time to screen potential pets that will live in your property.
These days, prospective tenants have started creating “pet profiles” or “pet summaries” when also applying for rental properties, which can be a great way for you to screen pets before you accept the tenant. Require your prospective tenants to submit a picture of their pet and a small description of what they are like.
You can also require applicants to provide proper identification/registration, licenses, and vaccinations. Applicants that agree to do this also show that their pets are important to them. This also indicates that the pets are well-cared-for and less likely to be subjected to neglect, which, unfortunately, is when the property damage tends to occur.
Make sure to also take the time to interview the owner together with the pet face to face. Check their reactions, behaviors, and manner and attitude before agreeing to let the pet stay.
It will also give you a chance to see if the applicant acts as a responsible pet owner during the interview and not just on paper. Remember that someone who doesn’t treat their pet well will most likely not treat your property well, either.
5. It’s okay to be choosy on what animal you allow on your property
Restrictions on the type of pets, breeds, number of pets, and size/weight are acceptable.
Because let’s face it – letting a Bernese mountain dog or samoyed stay in a small one-bedroom unit with insufficient space to run/move around will be a disservice not only to you as a landlord, but to the pet as well.
If any prospective tenants want to bring in exotic animals as pets, make sure to check state laws and regulations to make sure you don’t get in trouble with the law. Frankly, no landlord wants to deal with a second-rate, wannabee Steve Irwin in their rental property.
When setting restrictions, make sure that your pet specifications are fair and will not discriminate against certain breeds/ animals.
Before becoming a landlord who allows pets, it will also be a good idea to do your research about having animals in a home (if you have no prior experience of being a pet owner yourself) to know what you could be dealing with in the future .
6. Add pet policy or pet clause to the lease agreement
The best way to protect yourself from property damage as a result of a pet is to be clear and specific. Customize your lease to include a pet policy or pet-related clauses so that your tenants understand your rules for having pets.
For example, you can tell tenants with pets to:
- Put a leash on their pets while outside in the front yard and property sidewalks.
- The tenant must pay for all damage caused by the animal.
- The pet has all required licenses, shots, id, microchips etc.
- The tenant must clean up/dispose of all masses caused by the animal.
- You can state whether you want inside or outside animals.
- The pet will be appropriately enclosed within the property (cages for birds, correct size and height for existing fencing etc).
- You are free to change the conditions within reason at any time, as long as sufficient notice is given.
- Any violations may lead to termination of the tenancy.
If you update your lease agreement and/or pet policy, provide an updated copy to your tenants as soon as possible.
7. Charge additional fees for pets
For landlords who are concerned about the cost associated with maintaining a rental property with pets, it’s standard practice to charge pet owners an additional rental fee that is included in their bond or security deposit.
In Australia, landlords may also require tenants to pay a pet bond upon signing a lease. However, the rules around pet bonds are different across Australia.
A pet bond is an amount you pay above your normal rent bond to keep a pet in your rental property. This payment covers the higher costs associated with accepting a pet.
Currently, Western Australia is the only state where pet bonds are required. In other states with no guidelines/laws on pet bonds, most landlords will ask for an agreement to be signed enforcing certain rules and tenants are still liable for any damage caused by the pet.
Make sure to check your state’s provision for pet bonds before charging your tenants.
Disclaimer: The information provided in the article is general and should not be perceived as personal advice. It is highly recommended to consult with financial advice from a suitably qualified adviser.
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