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Renting with Pets

According to the Bureau of Statistics, the number of Australians renting has increased.  This might be because they want to invest their money elsewhere or the greater flexibility of lifestyle that it can provide.  But, as with home owners, many tenants would love to have pets in their home for companionship and relaxation and sadly, some are even forced to leave their pet behind with friends or family.    

Finding pet friendly rental accommodation is not always easy.  Some landlords have become wary due to previous experiences of tenants with destructive pets and others feel that in a tight market they are sure to find a non-pet owning tenant anyway so they don’t need to take the first person that comes along.

There are landlords who have a pet policy but not openly advertise it.  They might allow one tenant to have a pet as he displays the habits of a responsible pet owner and yet refuse another that doesn’t.  They might even allow a cat or bird but not a dog or perhaps a little dog can live in the premises but not a large one.  Given that pets are not mentioned in any Rental Agreements, it is at the discretion of the owner or property manager as to what they will allow.

Before approaching the landlord, consider whether the property is even suitable for the pet that you own or would like to keep.  A large, active dog is not going to suit a unit with almost no backyard and a noisy parrot may not be welcome if the neighbours share a common wall.

All tenants are required to have written approval from the landlord before pets are allowed in the rental property.  In many cases this will identify the number of pets or even name the pets that have been approved in the residence.  Without written approval, a tenant cannot allow animals onto the property or in the home and if they do so, will be in breach of the contract.

Sometimes Body Corporate By-laws on Strata Title properties do not allow pets to be kept on a property or may set restrictions on areas that they can access.  The tenant should make themselves aware of the By-laws before signing a rental agreement, even if the owner does give permission for pets.

Convincing a landlord that you are a responsible pet owner and reliable tenant is possible but takes a little preparation.  Of course, actually having a well trained pet that is clean and well cared for is important too as any damage or destruction caused in the property by the animal will be paid for by the tenant.

PETS WITH CAGES OR ENCLOSURES
Small animals and birds come with their own set of issues for a landlord.  Although the animal itself may be small and cuddly, to a landlord these can be gnawing, noisy animals that damage woodwork, wiring and timber.

Rodents are especially difficult for a landlord with the potential for them to escape so it is worth bringing images not only of the pet but also its enclosure or cage.  Include dimensions and descriptions of the systems that you have in place to prevent their escape.

FISH TANKS AND AQUARIUMS
It is quite possible that a landlord will baulk at allowing a tenant to bring a fish tank into the home.  They fear the damage resulting from hundreds of litres of water spilling onto the floor or the carpet.  Again, being a responsible pet owner and tenant is important.

If you have permission to bring a fish tank into the house, be sure to set it up correctly to reduce any risk of the glass cracking or the seals leaking and always cover the floor with plastic before doing any water changes.

For information on setting up a fish tank or aquarium correctly, visit any Better Pets and Gardens store.

MAKING FIRST CONTACT
Where possible, raise the subject of pets in person with the owner or property manager.  At this stage you should have made a good impression with your own appearance and personality which will make them more confident in your abilities as a pet owner.  Avoid asking about pets on the telephone as it is very likely that the landlord will say no before they even get to meet you or the pet.

Speak with the property manager, rather than a receptionist at the estate agency.  The receptionist will really only be able to refer to the information in the listing where as the property manager will know the landlord and be aware of whether there is some room for negotiation.

PUTTING THE BEST PAW FORWARD
Prepare a resume of your pet to present to the landlord or property manager at the face to face meeting.  Include a friendly photo of the pet, all medical and vaccination records and any certificates obtained from puppy classes or obedience school.  Written references from past landlords and neighbours are important as is a letter from the veterinarian describing the pet’s temperament.

Offering to sign a pet agreement will help to develop the owner’s confidence in your sincerity.  This will clearly define what is appropriate for the pet in the rental premises and may include things such as the areas that the pet may access, any fencing requirements (at tenant’s cost) and noise restrictions.  It will also state that the tenant is liable for any costs incurred as a result of damage or injury caused.  It will probably also ask for details of an emergency caretaker for the pet, should it be required.

It may help to put the landlord or property manager’s mind at rest if they are able to meet the pet.  This is a good opportunity for you to explain to them all the things that you do to make yourself a responsible pet owner.  For example, it might be the number of times that you walk the dog and bath him or the fact that the cat is house trained and not able to roam the streets.  Landlords will also want to know what arrangements you would make if you were to go on holidays and whether the pet is noisy when you are away at work during the day.

If there are two pets, make the landlord aware that this may be a positive thing.  Companionship helps to alleviate an animal’s boredom by giving them someone to play with.

When meeting the landlord or manager, let the pet put his best paw forward making sure that he is bathed, well groomed and very well behaved.  Clip his nails, especially if the house has timber floors, and make sure that he is not drooling and has been to the toilet just before the meeting.  If possible, choose a time after the pet has burnt off some energy and perhaps had a big feed so that he is calm and almost a little lazy.

In Western Australia, landlords are able to request an additional pet deposit of up to $100 to cover any costs resulting from pet damage or behaviour.  Don’t assume that the landlord is aware of this so offer the pet deposit as a show of good faith.

It’s not always easy or responsible to bath a dog in a rental property without making a huge mess or causing damage and yet it is important that the pet remains clean and flea and tick free.   Every Better Pets and Gardens store is equipped with a DIY Dog Wash allowing you to wash, treat for fleas and blow dry your pet ensuring that he is the perfect tenant as well.

PET DOORS FOR RENTALS
For rental properties where a dog or cat is allowed inside, cutting a hole in the door to fit a pet flap is going to be impossible.  A brilliant way to overcome this is to fit a self-contained panel which fits into the track of a glass or screen sliding door, providing an instant pet door.

These patio pet doors lock in place securely through an adjustable and spring loaded top section and don’t interfere with the sliding door which can still be used by residents.  They are made from aluminium and the clear panel is tempered safety glass.  There are different size cat and dog flaps to suit most pets and they will adjust in height to suit any sliding door.

Patio pet doors do not require drilling or attaching so will not damage the property and of course, when you leave, they can be taken out ready for the next house.  Every Better Pets and Gardens store has a display and the team can demonstrate how to fit them into any sliding door.

BEING A RESPONSIBLE TENANT
If given permission to keep a pet, you must commit to making sure there is no damage or destruction.

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