Pets and renting and how it affects me

Despite Australia’s reputation for being an animal-loving nation, when it comes to finding a pet-friendly rental, it can be challenging.

Landlords are often nervous about potential damage or the hassle of pet tenants, and it’s estimated only 10 per cent of rentals allow furry housemates.

However, attitudes towards pets and renting are changing.

Our 2014 Tenants and Sharers report found landlords are open to accepting furry friends if tenants paid slightly more rent.

The data also shows four out of five landlords will say yes, as long as there are guarantees in place, such as insurance and compulsory flea fumigation at the end of the lease.

Some tenants may try to have a pet and not inform their property manager.

However, if caught, which is likely with regular property inspections, you risk being evicted and blacklisted.

Discuss with your landlord

If you want to let with your pet, we recommend asking, even if there are no pet-friendly signs. 

Just because a property isn’t marketed for furry friends doesn’t mean the landlord won’t let you bring in those family members.

If you have been a good tenant, then it is most likely they will allow a pet as replacing a renter is a lot of effort, so you have a lot more power than you may think.

Organise to chat with the landlord or property manager to see if it’s an option.

But remember, not all landlords will be able to say yes to pets. 

Their first obligation is to maintain the property – and some rentals are not compatible with animals. 

But with renters starting to have success by kicking off the conversation, we think it’s worth asking.

Reforms 

Having an animal in a rental property is mainly at the landlord’s discretion in Australia.

However, with more than 60 per cent of households having a pet, matched with a dropping rate of homeownership, more renters want pet-friendly accommodation.

This has resulted in legislation making it illegal to refuse an assistance animal, and at least one state government has introduced a separate pet bond.

Encouragingly in  2018, Victoria became the first jurisdiction to overhaul rental legislation completely, making it easier for tenants to have animals.

It has been a widespread reform, and we expect more states will follow.

Changes in the Tenancy Act pet lovers should know about

Times are changing when it comes to landlords and pets, with many states becoming more flexible toward furry tenants.

Victoria 

Recently, Victoria took the unprecedented step of giving tenants the right to have a pet. 

According to the new laws, tenants must get permission to have an animal.

However,  landlords wanting to reject a pet tenant must plead their case before the state tribunal.

The reforms have not yet come into force but are part of a suite of rental changes to be progressively implemented by July 1, 2020.

New South Wales 

Pets are allowed in rentals in NSW, but you must have the consent of the landlord.

It is the renter’s responsibility to ensure the property is suitable for their animal, and they are liable for any damage caused.

Furthermore, if you have a pet that is excessively loud or a nuisance interfering with the peace of your neighbours, it can be deemed a breach of your lease. 

However, if a landlord carries out a rental inspection, they must take care of an animal on the lease.

For example, if they fail to do so, they leave the gate open, and a pet escapes, they can be held liable.

Queensland

In Queensland, 62 per cent of households have a pet, but only one in ten rentals allow animals.

Currently, a tenant must have permission in writing for their furry tenants.

Landlords are often reluctant, highlighting damage and issues with pets attracting fleas as the main reasons.

But with an increasing scarcity of pet-friendly accommodation, attitudes are changing, and rental laws relating to pets are currently under review.

Western Australia

This is the only state in Australia where a pet bond is enshrined in law.

Landlords are allowed to charge up to $260 to cover the cost of fumigation at the end of the lease.

This is on top of the average bond.

Pets must be included in the rental agreement, stating the number and type of animals allowed and whether they must be kept inside or outside.

South Australia

Keeping pets in rentals in SA is up to the property owner.

It is estimated two out of three households have pets in the state, and it appears landlords are increasingly accepting animal tenants.

It is recommended renters submit a pet application, and a pet agreement must be signed before the animal moves in.

Pet bonds cannot be charged.

Tasmania

According to the Residency Tenants Act of 1997 (Tasmania), a tenant must not keep pets without their landlord’s permission.

There have been recent calls to review the rental rules to make it easier for renters; however, the government has ruled out changes at this time.

If you are a pet owner, you are responsible not only for your animal’s welfare but also for how they behave at home.

While many rentals will have “no pet” clauses, sometimes a simple discussion with the landlord or property manager can convince them to change their mind.

Tenants must get consent in writing and need to carry out additional cleaning when leaving the property.

While it may be daunting, landlords are increasingly accepting animals, and it’s worth having the conversation.

Nine hazard zones for pets around the home

When a new baby comes home from the hospital, we quarantine the home within an inch of its life.

Gaps in stair rails, marble benchtops with square edges and that industrial dining table with the nails poking out – they’re all declared danger zones in need of buffering or replacing.

But what happens when you bring home a brand new puppy or kitten?

As most pet owners will testify, an equal amount of vigilance is required when caring for furry members of the family – and that includes the way you keep your home.

Like babies – once they’ve worked out how to crawl – puppies and kittens can get stuck in the weirdest places.

Here are nine hazard zones your pet might come across in the home – and some ways to make them safe.

1. Kitchens

Leave food lying around, and your pet will find it. A tidier kitchen means a healthier pet. Toxic foods for animals include Chocolate, avocados, grapes, raisins, garlic and coffee. If you can’t trust yourself to leave a tidy kitchen, you can always install a baby gate.

2. House plants

Indoor plants can be a great way to insert life into an otherwise stale indoor environment. But did you know houseplants – especially those in the lily family – can be highly poisonous to cats? Keep dangerous plants out of reach to avoid a trip to the vet.

3. Bathrooms

Most bathrooms are storage vessels for cleaning products, medications and sanitary products – all of which can be fatal if swallowed by your pet. According to the Lost Dogs Home Victoria, a single paracetamol tablet can kill an adult cat. If your dog finds a stash of those beef-flavoured doggie pain killers – they could be left with potential stomach ulcers, bleeding or kidney damage. Always store these products in out-of-reach, closed cupboards.

4. Bedrooms

If you use mothballs to keep your clothes intact, make sure you permanently close the doors of your wardrobe. If a curious cat (or dog) comes in contact with one, they are toxic and could result in a trip to the vet. It could be a good idea to keep your shoes behind closed doors as well – more for the sake of the shoes than your pet.

5. Lounge room

Nothing paints a cosier picture than a golden lab in front of an open fire, but naked flames and flying ashes can hurt animals just as easily as humans. Your pet will learn soon enough that fire is not as friendly as it looks. If you’d rather them not have to find out the hard way, invest in a simple screen.

6. E-bar

Study nook, e-bar, whatever you want to call it. This is the place where electricity travels back and forth via cords – cords that can be tempting for an unassuming pup to chew on.

This can give them a nasty electric shock. Tidy up your cords – it will look better too!

7. The garden

As with indoor lily plants, several plants are toxic for pets. According to the RSPCA, the following plants are poisonous for pets:

  • Varieties of the Castor Bean or Castor oil plant
  • Yesterday-Today-Tomorrow Brunfelsia bonodora

If you’re the proud tender of a veggie patch, you’ll probably want to keep that area in lockdown for selfish reasons. But certain fruits and vegetables are also not very good for your pet. Luckily, lots of dogs will turn their nose up at veggies once they’ve sampled the taste of meat!

Suppose you keep a compost bin, good on you! Compost is nature’s way of restoring organic waste into the earth, but keep it lidded and out of reach if possible. Some dogs will stop at nothing to get a taste of this wormy mulch – and funnily enough, it’s not very good for them.

8. Trees, balcony & deck

We all know cats are excellent climbers – dogs less so. But there are some places the little critters can’t climb their way out of. If a domestic cat climbs up a tree with overhanging branches, it can end up in public out of your protection – exposed to roads, cars, and if you’re in a rural area, animal predators like foxes.

Try putting chicken wire around the trunks of the trees your frisky feline has taken a shine to.

Have you ever had the misfortune of trying to pry a stubborn cat out from under the house?  If you live in a raised property, like the ones in North Queensland, then make sure any latticework is in good repair so animals can’t sneak in where they’re not meant to be.

9. Pools

Keep your pets away from the water. Even if they can swim, they will likely not get out unless you help them. If you’re not around, they could drown. Gated fencing for your pool area is your best option.

How a pet resume helps secure a rental property

Chances are if you’ve ever tried to rent a house or apartment with a pet in tow, you’ve likely met a fair bit of resistance from landlords. 

After all, they have their pristine carpets, spotless walls, and landscaped garden to worry about.

But there’s a growing number of renters who are going the extra mile to promote their furry friends to prospective landlords by creating a separate ‘pet resume’ and attaching it to their rental application.

Agents say it’s often the difference between a landlord allowing a pet to move in and refusing them entry.

Currently, rental application site 1form allows tenants to upload a cover letter and pictures of their pets.

So, if you’re putting together a pet resume, what should it include?

Pet resume basics

Sam Nokes from Jellis Craig South Yarra says that your pet resume should, first and foremost, have a cover letter that includes as much information about your pet as possible.

“Size, weight, breed – those things are convenient,” Nokes says.

“It is something the landlords appreciate when they’re considering it. It’s a great way of swaying a landlord that’s pretty 50-50 about pets.”

References

Nokes says independent references are probably the essential thing to include in a pet resume.

“Things that are good are letters or a note from [your current home’s property manager] to say that the property’s been good with inspections and that there’s been no pet damage, no smells or anything like that,” Nokes says.

“A note or reference from the neighbours is always a good one, saying they haven’t had any issues with the pets – they’re the main issues, so it’s really about addressing those: Noise, damage and smells.”

Photographs

Without an indication of what a pet looks like, an agent or prospective landlord might be reluctant to accept an animal.

Biggin & Scott Richmond’s Jenn Durling says attaching a couple of photos is the best way to demonstrate a dog’s size and show that it’s unlikely to cause any property damage.

“It’s certainly helpful. I don’t know anything about dogs; I’m not a dog person. So, when someone says they have a dog on an application, it means nothing to me. But if I can see a photo, and I can see it’s a small dog, then I can relay that information to the owner,” Durling says.

Nokes adds that it also pays to include a photo of the area the dog sleeps in to show that the site is well kept.

A personal touch

Both Nokes and Durling also suggest including a memorable piece of information in your application, not only to endear the animal to your prospective landlord but also to push your application to the front of the agent’s mind.

“We often see funny photos,” Nokes says.

“We might see the last three years of the Christmas card that’s got the dog in it, or we’ll see the wedding photo that’s got the dog in it. They’re just trying to show you that this isn’t a dog that they just leave at the property; this is an animal that is part of their life, which they respect and look after.”

Durling says she’ll never forget some of the applications that cross her desk.

“Some of them make them look like dating ads. They put a real story behind it, and they’re very, very witty.”

“When I’m just looking at application after application when someone puts something in that’s a little bit amusing, I quite like it, and it sets them apart.”

Pick up the phone

Durling also advises renters to call agents and explain their pet situation.

“If you’re sending you’re dog off to your mum and dad’s while you’re at work, that’s essential information for the owner of the property to be aware of,” she said.

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