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Pets or No Pets?

Why is this decision so hard?

Horror stories. That’s why.

We hear of these awful compensation claims, properties with dogs the size of horses trapped indoors gnawing at the frames and faeces smudged in to the carpet. Why the hell would we want that for ourselves?

The harsh truth is; more than half of the population are pet owners, and most of them don’t own their own home, so a no pets policy is going to slash a huge line through your potential market.

Irresponsible pet owners (bad tenants) are the issue. Not the pets.

Some of my best tenants have pets, and I too have had the pleasure of mothering my very own doggo and still managed to keep an immaculate home. Chances are you have too, or you’d know someone who has. So why wouldn’t we trust anyone else?

Now I understand there are some buildings where a pet just wouldn’t be suitable, but for your average Australian home, do you really want to eliminate a perfectly fine family because keeping little Rufus means more to them than finding the perfect home?

Landlord insurance has come a long way, and pet damage is included in most good policies (specialist insurers are generally not more expensive, so do your research – maybe a topic for another article..!). In any case the tenant is just as responsible for the damage caused by their pet as they would be for their own or for any sub-tenant. So long as you and/or your property manager are being thorough, you’re covered.

Yes, there is still a heightened risk, but that goes with every tenancy (babies and young kids often cause more damage than pets!). As a property manager we can only base our recommendation to offer someone a property based on the searches we carry out during the application process.

With pets it’s always favourable to have a current rental agents reference, but there are ways of finding that peace of mind from photos of their current home, sales agent references, friends, family and neighbours. Facebook stalking is great too – if their profiles aren’t private, it’s public information!!

Make sure you’re seeing photos of each intended pet, and ensuring they’re desexed etc. if a dog has been through puppy or obedience school. Copy of the certificate is also great!

At the end of the day the pets’ behaviour is typically a reflection of the owner, so have a good conversation with your potential tenant about their pet and needs – are they too busy to walk their dog? If so, is the yard big enough for it to run around in or do they have a dog walker? Otherwise the dog might start digging. With cats – do they have a run/scratching posts or toys to keep them occupied? Otherwise your carpet might get a good clawing. Are they moving because their neighbours are complaining about their pets..?

A short chat can go a long way in to discovering what sort of tenant and pet owner a person is.

Now for the legalities:

– You can’t ask for it to be kept outside, and even if you do, you can’t enforce it.

– Here in SA you can’t ask for an extra bond (might vary in other states or countries)

– You can’t ask for extra rent, however if they offer extra there’s no problem!

– You cannot specify the tenants have areas professionally cleaned or sanitised. The tenants must return the home in the same condition they were presented it (given fair wear and tear) so have your carpets professionally cleaned and house and yards spotless beforehand. If there’s any variation after they vacate then you’re able to organise this work and be compensated.

– Make sure you include a photo of the pet in the lease agreement along with its and age, and strictly state no other pets without prior approval.

If you’re still undecided, leave your advert ‘pets negotiable’. You can always change your mind and reject any applications you’re not comfortable with. In the meantime, you’ll have more people show up to open inspections, creating a sense of completion and urgency. Usually resulting in a quicker letting process and sometimes above market offers!

At the end of the day the decision on who goes in to your property is always down to you, and don’t have to provide a reason for declining any applicants.

Does that answer your question?

Jennifer Norcliffe
Investment Specialist  |  New Business Consultant  |  Columnist for The Property Investor