Celebrate the Year of the Dog – go
By embracing the Year of the Dog this Lunar New Year, landlords and PMs can reap the benefits of allowing pets in rentals.
For many Aussies, a house is not a home without a furry companion. Nearly five million or two-thirds of Australian households have pets, according to the Animal Health Alliance, and pets outnumber humans by a ratio of 3:2 (33 million pets to 22 million people). Figures from the Australian Companion Animal Council Report found 36 per cent of households have a canine fur baby and 23 per cent have a feline housemate. And with around one-third of all households renting, there is incredible demand for pet-friendly accommodation.
Yet many landlords and PMs are hesitant about allowing pets in investment properties. A REIA survey of landlords found just 32.4 per cent would allow pets, while 39.3 per cent would not and another 28.4 per cent were undecided. A tragic outcome of this reluctance is a shortage of pet-friendly housing, which in turn is forcing owners to make the heart-breaking decision to surrender their animals. According to the Australian Veterinary Association, 30 per cent of dogs and cats are surrendered by owners who are unable to find accommodation suitable for their pets. Devastatingly, approximately 79,000 pets are euthanised by the RSPCA each year.
It is well documented that having a pet can have very positive outcomes for owners including physical and mental health benefits. Recent research from the Uppsala University (Sweden) found that dog ownership is linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and death, with single dog owners 33 per cent less likely to die from heart disease than non-dog owners. Owning a pet can also improve mental wellbeing – providing companionship, purpose, social interaction and sense of security. The upshot for landlords: a happier and healthier tenant, which can mean less problems and financial hiccups.
Other benefits in allowing pets in investment properties include:
- Increased prospective tenant pool (with more applicants, the landlord/PM can be very selective and choose the best tenants)
- Competitive advantage over those that have ‘no pets’ policies (especially in inner city locations where there are fewer pet-friendly properties on offer) – pet-friendly rentals can often receive up to twice as many enquiries
- Properties are highly sought-after and rent quickly (reducing time and costs of advertising)
- Short vacancy periods due to high demand (limiting pauses in cash flow)
- Higher rents can be realised due to supply (lack of) and (high) demand (tenants with pets are often willing to pay more for a home that fits their needs)
- Longer lease terms (tenants tend to stay longer due to the difficulty in finding another pet-friendly property)
- Lower turnover (tenants staying put equates to steady rental income for the landlord)
- Better upkeep (tenants who feel ‘at home’ are more likely to look after the property and may be willing to improve the home at their own expense)
- Responsible pet owners make excellent tenants who adhere to housing rules
- Safety and security (the presence of a dog at a property reduces the chances of it being burgled)
A survey by rent.com.au, which offers Pet Résumés, found dogs were the pet of choice for most renters across Australia. Based on the percentage of pets with a Pet Résumé, it was found that 74 per cent of all pets in the NT were dogs, 71 per cent in NSW, 69 per cent in Queensland, 64 per cent in WA, 63 per cent in Tasmania, 62 per cent in Victoria and 61 per cent in SA.
So, with 2018 being the Year the Dog, perhaps it’s time for landlords and PMs to go pet-friendly. These tips can help make a property more suitable for renters with pets – and reduce the risk of damage (at RentCover we’ve found that while fear of damage is the main reason landlords don’t want to allow pets, the reality is that it is uncommon for pets to damage property):
- Flooring: tiles or linoleum are more practical than carpet (easier to clean, do not pick up odours, fur or stains) or floor boards (less likely to scratch or stain)
- Window treatments: install blinds instead of curtains (less likely to be clawed or chewed)
- Fencing/barriers: ensure outdoor spaces are securely fenced off or feature suitable barricades such as on balconies in apartments
- Security screens with pet doors: installing doggie-doors/cat flaps can reduce the potential for damage as the pets don’t need to scratch at the doors or windows to get in/out
- Wall finishes: use easy-clean paint
- Ventilation: improve ventilation (such as exhaust fans, whirly-birds, security on windows so they can be left open etc.) to reduce the risk of odours lingering
- Outdoor areas: ensure outdoor areas are pet-friendly such as avoiding planting toxic species or installing easily-damaged items like water features
- Insurance: a landlord policy that specifically covers damage caused by domestic pets can be a great safety net if the tenant doesn’t make good (a pet agreement can cover off responsibilities for the pet owner from damage to cleaning to more inspections and noise controls, specify the type and how many pets are permitted and where they are housed etc.). RentCover policies provide up to $65,000 in cover for pet damage, which provides great peace of mind and may help tip the balance in favour of allowing pets.
If you’d like a copy of our ebook “Increase your income – The Pet Friendly Advantage” to share, get your copy here.