Dogs and cats and birds – oh my!

The risk of damage – it’s one reason why so many landlords say ‘no’ to pets. But now the risk is mitigated for our policyholders.
 
In AustraliFamily With Peta, we love our animals – in fact, the RSPCA estimates that 63 per cent of households have pets; that’s about 25 million furry, feathered or scaly family members. But we’re also a nation of renters, with around 30 per cent of adults renting. And sometimes the two facts are incompatible. ABS figures reveal that just 2.16 million renting families have pets.
 
Allowing pets in a rental is usually at the discretion of the owner, except in strata properties where the by-laws may prohibit pets or where denial breaches anti-discrimination laws such as not allowing assistance dogs. But for many landlords there is a fear that pets mean problems, in particular the potential for damage.
 
The result is a shortage of pet-friendly rentals for pet-loving tenants. A recent survey by rent.com.au found that 42 per cent of renters found it ‘extremely difficult’ to find a place to rent which would allow their pets and just 25 per cent of listings on the website specified ‘pets allowed’.
 
Recently, a number of advocacy groups (including those for tenants, animal welfare and mental health) have started calling for ‘pets allowed’ to be the norm instead of the exception.
 
This action aside, offering a rental property that is ‘pet friendly’ can give a landlord a competitive edge. Data from REA Group revealed that ‘pets’ was the second most sought-after feature by prospective tenants in 2016, with more than 65,000 searches nationally.
 
By offering a property as pet friendly, the potential tenant pool immediately increases. Great demand and wider appeal has the flow on effect of very short vacancy periods and tenants who stay longer. Anecdotal evidence from PMs suggests that some of the best tenants are those with pets.
 
The take-out? Offering a pet friendly home is a real opportunity for landlords to get good tenants into their properties.
 
People with pets understand that securing a rental is more difficult when they have their furry family in tow, so they are often willing to comply with a few extra conditions (and even pay more).
 
To help safeguard the investment property, an addendum to the rental agreement could be added to include:
  • A specific pet agreement that details how the renter and their pets will respect the property, what to do if there is a problem with the pets, what will happen if the pets damage the property, etc.
  • Detail what kinds of pets and the number that are permitted (and whether the pet must stay outdoors).
  • The requirement for professional cleaning and fumigation after the renter and pet vacate the premises.
  • References from previous landlords and/or personal references that indicate the tenant is a responsible pet owner and there have not been any previous incidents with their pet.
  • Proof the renter maintains the pet’s medical care, e.g. de-sexing certificates, vaccinations, council registration, etc.
  • Presentation of a pet résumé, which includes breed (and breed traits), weight, height, age, care habits, behaviour traits, training background and contact details for the vet.
  • The addition of a pet bond to cover any potential damage or clean-up costs (if this is permitted in state/territory tenancy legislation).
  • Additional maintenance fees and/or willingness to update the property to suit their pet (e.g. more secure fences, doggie doors, laying vinyl floors, re-painting with easy clean paint, installing blinds instead of curtains, making the outdoors pet-friendly, or improving ventilation).
Landlords and/or their PMs could also meet the pet before making a decision.
 
It’s a decision that may now be a lot easier for RentCover policyholders to make, with up to $65,000 cover for pet damage now automatically included in all new & renewal policies.
 
The new policy feature makes RentCover one of the few landlord insurers to offer cover for pet damage, and in particular to such a high limit. In addition, we do not need the pet to be named on the lease but it must be owned by the tenant. The other requirement for this cover is that the landlord or their agent must inspect the property within six months of the initial lease and then at least annually thereafter.
 
With peace of mind in knowing that damage caused by a tenant’s pet is covered by their insurance (if the tenant does not ‘make good’), landlords and PMs could unlock access to a whole pool of potential good tenants eagerly awaiting a place to call home with their fur babies!