When it comes to allowing or keeping pets in a rental property, here’s what both landlords and tenants need to consider.
Australia has one of the highest rates of pet ownership in the world, with an estimated 29 million pets nationwide, according to the RSPCA. Dogs are the most popular at 40 per cent, followed by cats at 27 per cent.
Given our devotion to our fur babies, it’s unsurprising that rental properties that allow pets can sometimes attract more tenants and sometimes even higher rents – not to mention happy tenants who are likely to stay longer if they can keep their pets.
However, not all landlords are keen to have pets in their properties. They are often worried about maintenance issues and potential damage, both for the rental property itself and for any common property if it’s a strata complex. Noise issues also mean that some strata buildings have been less willing to accommodate pets than others, depending on their residents’ preferences.
A change to strata laws
October 2020 saw a significant change to laws regarding pets and apartment living, with the NSW Supreme Court ruling that a blanket ban on pets through strata by-laws is “harsh, unconscionable or oppressive”.
At the centre of this decision was Angus, a 14-year-old miniature schnauzer. In 2015, his owners challenged the blanket ban in their apartment building in Darlinghurst, and the case wound its way through the courts over the years, ultimately leading to the change in law.
However, while this was a significant win for pet owners in strata complexes, the ruling has not removed all restrictions regarding pets and rental properties, only the ability for strata to institute a blanket ban. Landlords can still choose if they allow pets in their strata apartments.
Where does this leave pet-owning tenants?
The law change only affects strata bylaws for units, townhouses and villa complexes. It doesn’t prevent landlords putting a clause in their property’s lease prohibiting pets – and this includes landlords of houses as well as strata complexes. So, if an advertisement for a rental property you are interested in does not specify that it’s pet-friendly, it’s important to find this out upfront.
Some landlords make decisions on a case-by-case basis, so it can be worth including information about your pet and their behaviour in your rental application. Some pet owners even compile a separate pet CV. Either way, include information about your pet’s age, breed, temperament, any training they’ve had, references, or any other information that will help reassure prospective landlords that your pet will not cause problems. A cute photo of your pet can sometimes melt even the hardest hearts.
If the rental market you’re looking in is competitive, you might want to consider offering a bit of extra money each week to give yourself the edge. You should definitely reassure the owner that you will pay for any damage your pet may cause, but while some landlords ask for additional ‘pet bonds’, be aware that these are not lawful in NSW.
What landlords should consider
As a landlord, you are within your rights to prohibit pets if you don’t feel comfortable about them being in your property by including a clause in a property’s lease. However, it’s worth considering if you will attract more tenants, and possibly tenants who will stay longer term, if you allow pets. Pet-friendly properties may even attract higher rents if there are a shortage of units in the area that allow them.
Think about whether your particular property is likely to suffer significant damage from a pet that can’t easily be fixed upon a tenant vacating. Replacing expensive hardwood flooring, for example, could prove far more of an issue than a fresh lick of paint.
If you are unsure, be open to talking to applicants about their pets. A responsible pet owner should be able to allay your doubts. If they can’t, they may not be the right tenant for you anyway. Seek advice from your property manager as they’ll know the likelihood and costs of any potential damage.
Regular property inspections by your property manager can put your mind at ease if you have any concerns. We successfully manage many pet-friendly rentals.
It’s important to note that it is illegal for either landlords or strata to refuse to allow a tenant to keep an assistance animal, as defined under the Companion Animals Act 1998 (NSW). Assistance animals are specially trained and registered to assist persons living with disabilities.
Both landlords and tenants can find more information through the Tenants’ Rights Manual – NSW or by speaking to one of the experienced property managers on the Altitude team.
If you’re looking to buy or sell or rent in Lake Macquarie or Newcastle contact our team today.