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Pets in Rental Properties

What's the Story?

Summary

  • Approximately 70% of applicants for Leah Jay rental properties have pets
  • The NSW Residential Tenancies Act currently permits landlords to include a ‘no pets’ clause in tenancy agreements. Body corporate by-laws usually prohibit pets from being kept in strata buildings
  • Several parties have recently proposed changes to the current legislation, suggesting that ‘no pets’ clauses be disallowed
  • If these changes were introduced, landlords could no longer place blanket bans on pets, but would have a say in the kinds of pets they allow in their properties
  • Benefits of pet-friendly properties include increased appeal to a wider range of prospective tenants, long-term leases and higher rents

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In the Leah Jay team’s experience, approximately 70% of applicants for rental properties have pets. Those who don’t are often considering getting a pet in the future.

It’s interesting to pair this with statistics from the RSPCA, which state that around 63% of Australian households have pets – and that 53% of Australians who don’t own pets would like to do so in the future. (Source)

So what do these numbers mean for investment property owners, and for the future of renters with pets?

Here’s a breakdown of the current situation and the potential for change in the future.

What’s the current stance on keeping pets in rental properties?

In the current NSW Residential Tenancies Act (2010), there is no legislation that prevents tenants from keeping pets, or that requires tenants to seek their landlord’s permission to keep a pet.

However, most landlords include a clause in each individual tenancy agreement that prevents pets being kept in their property. Landlords are currently well within their rights to include such a clause.

Furthermore, body corporate by-laws usually prohibit pets from being kept in a strata scheme, such as a block of units. Sometimes, pets can be permitted if written consent is obtained from the owners corporation, but permission cannot be granted by individual landlords alone in this instance.

Assistance animals, such as guide dogs, are exempt from these restrictions.

What are the proposed changes to the current legislation regarding pets?

Recently, several parties have proposed motions to disallow ‘no pets’ clauses in rental contracts, including the Tenants Union of NSW and a faction of the NSW Labor Party. An online petition has even sprung up, gaining almost 50,000 signatures so far.

In June 2016, the NSW Residential Tenancies Act underwent review, and several submissions making the above proposal were considered. However, it was ultimately decided that the existing rules be kept in place for now.

What would these potential changes mean for owners of investment properties?

If changes are eventually made to the Residential Tenancies Act and ‘no pets’ clauses are disallowed, landlords won’t be able to place a blanket ban on pets in their properties.

However, owners would have a say in the kinds of animals they allow in their rental properties. In a similar process to selecting tenants, landlords could request a ‘pet resume’, providing an overview of the proposed pet and its size, age, temperament, behaviours, and so on.

What are the most common apprehensions about pets in properties?

Common apprehensions voiced by landlords include property damage, neighbour annoyance and hygiene/health concerns.

If the proposed changes came into effect, methods of ensuring compensation or repair in the case of damage caused by pets would likely be determined on an individual contract basis. Specialised pet agreements may be drawn up between landlords and tenants, outlining specific guidelines for housing the pet and preventing/rectifying any damage or nuisance.

The introduction of an additional ‘pet bond’, which is currently not legal in NSW, has been suggested. However, it’s more likely that pet-inflicted damage would be treated the same as any other damage inflicted on the property by tenants – withheld or reduced bond returns, compulsory payments for repairs needed, and so on.

What are the benefits of pet-friendly properties?

While some owners may be wary of the idea of allowing pets into their properties, doing so may actually present a range of benefits.

Demand for pet-friendly rentals is always high – and owners can significantly increase their appeal to a wider range of prospective tenants simply by being willing to consider pets.

Tenants with pets may be more likely to maintain long-term leases, and higher rents may also be achieved.

Importantly, pet-friendly properties also encourage honesty in tenants and minimise the risk of pets being secretly kept in homes.

The current difficulties faced by renters with pets are sometimes combated by keeping an undeclared pet. If tenants are unable to find a property that allows them to keep animals, they may do so in secret to avoid having to give up their pets.

However, if the ‘no pets’ clause was abolished, this may no longer be an issue. Instead, landlords would have detailed knowledge of the animals kept on their properties, and a specific pet agreement that the tenant must abide by.

So while there’s no change on the horizon just yet, we encourage property owners to be aware of both sides of the ongoing debate.

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