Renting with a pet: why your dog now needs a resume
Happily, not all landlords will ban your furry or feathered friend
Aussies love their pets, with almost two-thirds of households having at least one. What happens if you're renting, though - will you be able to secure a property if you have a cat or dog?
It is a common concern, says Ned Cutcher, senior policy officer with the Tenants' Union of NSW.
"Relatively few properties are listed as assuredly pet-friendly. Many simply say 'pets on application', meaning the landlord is hedging their bets. Prospective tenants never really know if they're wasting their time with applications that require a significant amount of personal information to be disclosed," he says.
If there are a variety of suitable applicants, a landlord may choose a pet-free tenant because they assume animals are more likely to cause extra damage or wear and tear to a property, admits Maria Milillo from Raine & Horne Group.
"However, a considerable number of landlords will consider pets depending on the type of animal and suitability to a property. Of course, landlords will consider the general tenancy history of the renter too when assessing applications," she says, adding that although it can be more challenging for pet owners to find the right rental property it's not impossible.
Even if the unit owner is happy for you to keep an animal, the strata by-laws might prohibit it, warns Milillo.
"So be sure to check the strata by-laws of an apartment or townhouse you intend renting," she says.
If you're looking for a new home, consider getting in touch with a few local real estate agents and putting out feelers. Tell them you're looking for a pet-friendly property and give them details of the pet so that they can keep you in mind if suitable properties come up.
So what can you do to boost your chances of securing a property?
Cutcher says it's important to be upfront about your pet and what they mean to you and your family.
"Mention their names and ages, how well trained they are, whether they live inside our outside. It doesn't hurt to mention microchip and council registration details if applicable, to show that you are a responsible pet owner," he says.
Milillo agrees, suggesting you include details of your animal in the application form. This is essentially a resume for your pet.
"Attach information such as a photo of the pet, its breed, age, its registration details, whether it's microchipped, vaccinated and so on," she says.
References can also help.
"To give your application a headstart, ask your current or previous property manager for a pet reference," says Milillo. Cutcher shares a similar sentiment. "If you have rented with your pets before, invite your prospective landlord to contact your previous landlords, who will confirm that your pets are just lovely and nothing to be afraid of," he suggests.
Consider offering to sign a special pet agreement. This could address what you'd do if your pet is being noisy and causing a disturbance, what you'd do if it accidentally damaged the property and what will you do if there is a problem, agreeing that you will clean up after you pet and to dispose of its waste, paying to get rid of, for example, any flea infestation.
You might think offering an additional bond will help get your application across the line but Millilo says that although pet bonds were common in the past now most states don't allow a landlord or a property manager, representing the owner, to request or accept a pet bond.
"Western Australia is the exception to the pet bond rule," she says.
If you are successful it's important to remember that you don't relinquish any rights just because you have animals.
"Things to watch out for are special conditions related to cleaning at the end of the tenancy agreement, simply because you have a pet - sometimes these can be enforced, sometimes not," says Cutcher.
"Tenancy legislation varies from state to state, so always check what the rules are in your own town or city. Get in touch with your local tenants' union or tenants' advocacy service if required."
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