It’s official – we Aussies love our pets, especially the furry ones. The 2020 edition of the Household Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey polled people on pet ownership. And they found that almost two thirds of Aussies own at least one pet, with dogs being the most popular choice, followed by cats. And the age group most likely to own pets? People under 25 and aged between 45 and 54 are particularly well represented among pet owners.
So if you work with property owners who are reluctant to allow pets, for fear of potential damage to their asset, it might be worth getting them to think again. With many renters among these millions of pet owners, a rigid no pets policy could leave property owners fishing in a shrinking pool when it’s time to find a new tenant.
But before we look at making the case for pets – and some ground rules for making it work for both tenant and owner – let’s see what the law says for pets and rentals across the states:
QLD, NSW, SA and TAS
In these states, keeping pets at a rental property is at the discretion of the owner. Tenants will likely need written permission or a separate pet agreement to move in with their animal companion and certain conditions may apply. In Tasmania, for example, tenants with pets are required to carry out additional cleaning when they vacate the property.
WA is currently the only state where property owners can hold a pet bond, on top of the bond they would usually expect from a tenant. They can charge up to $260 if the pet is capable of carrying parasites that can be transmitted to humans – fleas on cats and dogs, for example. This also means the bond can only be used to fumigate the premises at the end of the tenancy.
In March 2020, new legislation came into effect to give tenants more freedom to keep pets. Tenants still need to complete a pet request form, but a property owner cannot reasonably refuse their application. And to stop a tenant from having a pet living at their property, the owner must apply to VCAT within 14 days of receiving the request.
Special circumstances apply if a tenant has a condition or disability that requires them to have an assistance or therapy animal living with them. Get in touch with the equal opportunities commission for your state or territory to find out more.
While property owners in most states still have the right to veto pets, it can actually be a plus to consider pets as a possibility:
Of course, pets can be a problem if they’re not trained or cared for properly. And some properties just aren’t a good match for a particular type of pet or the habits they have. Here are some guidelines for making sure tenants and pets can live happily ever after in a rented property, with minimal stress or cost to the owner:
Nowadays the right insurance policy can make sure property owners are covered in the event of damage caused by a tenant’s pet. Ask your owner to check terms with their insurer so they can be confident about the type of pets they can accept and any conditions the tenant should be made aware of.
Right pet, right property
Just like their human owners, some pets spell trouble for rental properties. Damage from bored or anxious pets can quickly become a very expensive problem. To give owners comfort that they’re not leaving the door open to unsuitable animals running rampant in their property, ask tenants for a pet resume. This should include references from a vet or previous property owner and details of their pet’s personality and habits, how it will be cared for and what arrangements the owner will make for their pet if they’re away on holiday or for work.
And before agreeing to accept pets, owners should run through their own reality-check on how pet-friendly their property actually is. Is there secure fencing to keep dogs from taking themselves on a walk? If the home is near a busy road, this can be a danger for both dogs and cats. For apartments, there may be strata or body corporate rules that rule out resident pets so ask your owner to check before they agree to a pet application.
It’s also a good idea to look at how practical floor coverings are for pets. If most of the property is carpeted, toilet accidents are going to be a much bigger problem. Carpets are also brilliant at holding on to the hair and odours that come with many pets, making a thorough clean at the end of the lease a must.
Clear expectations on both sides
This final point about cleaning responsibilities is important. Even the most well-behaved pets can leave a property a lot more fuzzy and lived-in. It’s important that tenants are 100% aware that permission to keep a pet comes with the responsibility of returning the property to the condition it was in when they moved in.