ONE SMALL DOG Sharon Fox-Slater

DON’T LET ALL THAT TAIL wag­ging and cute fluffi­ness fool you! ‘One small dog’ is some­times all it takes to strike fear into the hearts and minds of land­lords and prop­erty own­ers ev­ery­where.

Elite Property Manager - - Contents - SHARON FOX-SLATER is the Ex­ec­u­tive Gen­eral Man­ager of EBM’s Ren­tCover, which in­sures 120,000 in­vest­ment prop­er­ties around Aus­tralia and cre­ates cov­ers specif­i­cally for the prop­erty in­dus­try. Sharon was also the first wo­man to be­come a Fel­low of the Na­tion

“WHAT ON earth do you think that one small dog is go­ing to do – trash the house?” That was the re­sponse I gave my hus­band when he asked what the risk man­age­ment and con­tin­gency plan was for the im­mi­nent ar­rival of our puppy.

For two years I had been ask­ing my hus­band to let us have a dog. Fi­nally he gave the tick of ap­proval and we were await­ing the ar­rival of one small Mal­tese ter­rier when he sur­prised me with his ques­tion.

Did he think that be­tween naps our lit­tle poochie would have noth­ing bet­ter to do than ruth­lessly plan and sys­tem­at­i­cally de­stroy our prop­erty? I doubted that our lit­tle ter­rier would bring with her a reign of ter­ror, yet his trep­i­da­tion echoed that of so many land­lords I have met over the years.

The gen­eral think­ing is that the prop­erty will be ru­ined if a land­lord al­lows pets, but ev­i­dence doesn’t sup­port that view.

While so many land­lords are quick to as­sume that al­low­ing a pet into a rental will surely re­sult in noise, fleas, odours and dam­age, the re­al­ity is that hu­man oc­cu­pants are the main cul­prits when it comes to prop­erty dam­age.

How many hor­ror sto­ries have you heard or seen of ten­ants trash­ing homes? Or worse still, us­ing the premises as a clan lab – the dam­age bills for drug lab clean-ups can reach well into the tens of thou­sands.

All ma­li­cious dam­age and the ma­jor­ity of ac­ci­den­tal dam­age to rentals is caused by peo­ple, not pets. Even most gen­eral wear and tear lies at the feet of the two­legged oc­cu­pants.

Far from shy­ing away from of­fer­ing pet­friendly rentals, I be­lieve more land­lords should con­sider al­low­ing pets.

We’re a na­tion of pet lovers and there are many ben­e­fits in shar­ing your life with a furry com­pan­ion. It can pro­vide com­fort, al­le­vi­ate lone­li­ness, give pur­pose to peo­ple’s lives, in­crease fit­ness and so­cial in­ter­ac­tion, pro­vide a sense of pro­tec­tion and sim­ply bring joy when you get home and are greeted by a wag­ging tail, a chirp – or just the fleet­ing ac­knowl­edge­ment of your ex­is­tence from the cat.

The RSPCA es­ti­mates that 63 per cent of house­holds have pets, which equates to about 25 mil­lion furry, feath­ered or scaly fam­ily mem­bers. While around 30 per cent of adults rent, the Aus­tralian Bureau of Sta­tis­tics’ fig­ures re­veal that just 2.16 mil­lion rent­ing fam­i­lies have pets.

Go­ing by the sta­tis­tics, there’s a good prob­a­bil­ity that a land­lord will have a pet them­selves, yet will deny the same to their ten­ants. So it would seem that most land­lords don’t think their pets will dam­age their homes, but their ten­ant’s pets are an­other story.

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 an­tidis­crim­i­na­tion laws, such as not al­low­ing as­sis­tance dogs.

De­spite most land­lords be­ing able to al­low pets, the num­ber who ac­tu­ally do is min­i­mal and renters who want to have pets find their op­tions limited. Data from REA Group re­vealed that ‘pets’ was the sec­ond most sought-af­ter fea­ture by prospec­tive ten­ants in 2016, with searches con­tin­u­ally on the in­crease.

The short­age of pet-friendly rentals was also high­lighted by a sur­vey by au, which re­vealed 42 per cent of renters found it ‘ex­tremely dif­fi­cult’ to find a place to rent that would al­low their pets and just 25 per cent of list­ings on the web­site spec­i­fied ‘pets al­lowed’.

The gulf be­tween peo­ple look­ing for pet­friendly homes and land­lords of­fer­ing such prop­er­ties presents a great op­por­tu­nity. 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.

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.

And far from be­ing prob­lem ten­ants, those with pets of­ten prove to be the best.

In speak­ing with the agents we work with, we have it on good au­thor­ity that peo­ple with pets in rentals are some­times bet­ter ten­ants. They tend to look af­ter the home bet­ter, keep it cleaner and even go above and be­yond to pro­vide a safe and happy home for their pets; that of­ten means pay­ing for im­prove­ments to the


prop­erty out of their own pock­ets, which ben­e­fits the land­lord.

For land­lords and prop­erty man­agers con­cerned al­low­ing pets will re­sult in dam­age, here are a few prac­ti­cal tips.

First, con­sider the type of prop­erty and what kind of pets may be suit­able. If it’s a small apart­ment a huge, bois­ter­ous dog may be a recipe for trou­ble, but a lit­tle dog, cat, bird or other small an­i­mal would prob­a­bly be suit­able. Land­lords con­cerned about the in­te­rior of a larger home – for ex­am­ple, car­pets get­ting stained or pol­ished wooden floors be­ing scratched – could spec­ify that the pet must be kept out­side.

Just as you would do a thor­ough ref­er­ence check on the hu­man oc­cu­pant, you should do the same for the prospec­tive four-legged ten­ant – so speak with for­mer land­lords and prop­erty man­agers about the owner and their pet.

Next, pro­tect the land­lord’s fi­nan­cial in­ter­ests. Un­less you are in WA you can’t ask for a pet bond, but you can draw up an ad­den­dum to the rental agree­ment that de­tails how the ten­ant and their pet will re­spect the prop­erty, what to do if there is a prob­lem with a pet, what hap­pens if the pet dam­ages the prop­erty and so on. You may also be able to re­quire the home to be pro­fes­sion­ally cleaned or fu­mi­gated af­ter the ten­ant and fluffy house­mate move out.

For an added level of com­fort, I rec­om­mend that land­lords take out com­pre­hen­sive and spe­cial­ist in­sur­ance cover. Although most ten­ants take re­spon­si­bil­ity for their pets and would make good on any dam­age, land­lords can fur­ther safe­guard their fi­nan­cial in­ter­ests with in­sur­ance – the right in­sur­ance.

It’s im­por­tant to make sure that the pol­icy pur­chased pro­vides cover for pet dam­age; so many land­lord cov­ers ex­clude this type of claim, have oner­ous con­di­tions at­tached to be­ing able to make a claim, such as re­quir­ing the pet to be named on the lease, or only of­fer min­i­mal fi­nan­cial cover.

With a bit of ex­tra due dili­gence, con­sid­er­a­tion and pro­tec­tion, land­lords could tap into a huge po­ten­tial rental pool by of­fer­ing their prop­erty as pet-friendly and reap the re­wards.


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