The benefits & Risks of pet-friendly rentals

Australians are undoubtedly major animal lovers, as 61% of the entire population owns a pet. Dog owners make up the largest group — 40%, and cat owners second largest — 27%. While these are the two most common animals kept as pets worldwide, some people like to keep more unusual pets like birds, lizards, hamsters, guinea pigs, just to name a few. Despite the fact that so many Australians own pets, property managers and landlords are still quite strict when it comes to no-pets policies. 

To an extent, the no-pet policy is understandable – one of the main priorities of both property managers and landlords is to protect the property against potential damage. However, could allowing pet owner tenants have its benefits? 

There’s data that suggests that some of the main tenant target groups own pets in large proportions.  For example, ¾ of families with small children have pets, as well as 70% of generation Z (18-24 year-olds). These tenants go through a serious struggle finding pet-friendly apartments, as many landlords are not willing to open their property’s doors for pet-owners.

In this article, we’ll sum up some of the potential benefits of opening up rental properties for pet-owner tenants and also outline the risks as well as give you some advice on how to mitigate them, so you can decide whether renting to pet owners is ultimately worth it. 

The benefits of pet-friendly rentals 

First, let’s take a look at some of the benefits of renting pet-friendly properties. 

Lower vacancy rates 

Pet-friendly properties tend to rent out quicker, as pet owners struggle to find accommodation and usually accept the first offer they run into.

Higher rent yields

For a similar reason as mentioned above, pet owners are aware they don’t have much choice, and they are willing to pay higher rent for the privilege of having an animal in the apartment or house. Besides rent, you can also take a higher deposit, that will ensure that you can cover any pet accidents. 

Longer leases

When a tenant with a pet finally finds a pet-friendly property to rent, they probably won’t be very willing to leave soon. You can probably sign longer leases with them easily, for a period between 3 and 5 years, with a solid chance of prolonging. 

A larger pool of potential tenants

In case the property you want to rent out is not in a very desirable location, or there are some other reasons why it doesn’t fit your current target tenant group, expanding the pool of potential tenants can always help. Pet owners have a hard time finding a place to stay with their animals, and they would probably make compromises over e.g. location, or some other aspect that makes the property less attractive to other tenants. 

The potential risks of renting to pet-owner tenants

After listing the benefits, let’s just recap the potential risks that come with managing pet-friendly apartments and houses. 

Property damage

This is a very plausible scenario when you have an animal allowed to move around the house. In the US, for example, cats are the most commonly allowed pets in renting homes, as easy-to-maintain pets. Nevertheless, they still run around the house, climb up shelves, and might try sharpening their claws on the sofa. 

The possibility of increased liability

Higher legal responsibility is a possibility, which is why you should check your local law regulations. In most cases, the owner is the only one responsible for the pet’s behaviour, but consider taking a glance at the regulations, just to be sure. 

Increased insurance costs

Consider advising the landlord you work with about the insurance policies that cover some pet damage. Be careful with these, as they may cost a bit more. Also, it’s a good idea to get informed about what kind of damage they cover. 

Potential complaints from neighbours

In case the property you are managing is inside the building, you might have some nagging neighbours. It’s not rare that people complain about noise, and if your tenant has a dog, for example, it may bark or run around the house which might cause unpleasant noise. 

Allergies

Guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils, cats, and some breeds of dogs are on the list of highly allergenic animals. The pet-owner tenant with eventually leave, and the tenants that come after might be allergic to some animals, so you may need to arrange extensive cleaning of the property. 

How to reduce potential risks 

The risks we mentioned above are easily mitigated, but it’s important to keep them in mind so that you can address them properly. 

Thorough tenant screening 

The first step you can take towards managing pet-friendly properties is building trust. Detailed screening can help you with that. Apart from going through the tenant’s rental history and background, here are some pet-related questions you can pose to any potential pet-owning tenants:

  • Is the pet vaccinated and do you have veterinarian documentation?
  • Did you spay or neuter the animal?
  • Can you describe your pet’s behaviour?
  • Has your pet undergone any obedience training?
  • How does it get along with people and other animals?
  • May I contact your previous landlord to confirm details about your pet?
  • May I check in on the pet after you move in?

In Australia, there are platforms for connecting pet-owners with pet-friendly landlords. These platforms provide detailed information about tenants and could help you connect with reliable people. They also offer advice and checklists with responsible pet owner characteristics

Check the local laws

If any landlords decide to take the step towards allowing pets in the properties you manage, make sure you check local regulations, guidelines, and restrictions about the types of animals that can be kept as domestic animals. There are some comprehensive Australian law guides available online that include an approved list of animals, like this one for New South Wales

Pet-friendly renovations

We mentioned above that some of the risks of renting to pet owners are furniture damage and allergies. These may be easier to address with some pet-friendly home remodelings. For example, you can put some easy-to-clean floors, but also washable wall paint. If the property you’re managing is a house with nearby neighbours, you might want to consider fencing to protect the neighbour’s lawn. 

In case the owner of the property is ready to make further investments into pet-friendly renovations, you can also consider integrating washing stations, built-in beds, or feeding stations. 

Discrimination is a big no: don’t reject tenants with service animals

First of all, these animals are not typical pets, rather life companions who assist people with different disabilities, for example – the blind. There are certain laws about service animals in Australia and you should be familiar with them.

Paperwork protection

Even if you decided to go for the pet-friendly option, built a high level of trust in your tenant, and made arrangements to protect the property, there are still additional things you can do to protect yourself from unwanted responsibilities. 

Mention the presence of the pet in the lease agreement 

In case something goes wrong, you should have proof about the agreement you made with the tenant – so we advise that you formally note down details like the number of pets, their type, or if any changes were made in the property. You can note these details on paper, or digitally if you’re using property management software

Find landlord insurance that covers pet-caused damage

We already mentioned that this may cause additional charges, but it may pay-off as your rent will probably be higher. Make sure you do your research and inform yourself about landlord insurance companies that are willing to cover damage caused by pets. 

Summary

Taking a step towards making your properties pet-friendly is bold, and may come with certain risks such as property damage, additional insurance costs, neighbour complaints, or increased liability. 

But, on the other hand, it can also bring some benefits like lower vacancy rates, higher rent yields, longer leases, and larger customer target groups. To ensure that both you and the landlord are protected in case of any pet-related accident, you can try taking additional steps towards mitigating the listed risks as well as providing a better living experience for the tenant. 

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