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Come to the dog side

The key to making money is spotting a gap in the market. And there’s a large pet-shaped hole in Australia’s rental market.

More than 60 per cent of Australian households have a pet these days, yet it’s reported only about 10 per cent of rental properties allow them.

It’s become more of an issue recently, with lockdowns highlighting the important emotional support role pets play. In the past two years, several Australian States have introduced new pet-friendly rental laws restricting the ability of landlords to exclude tenants with fur babies.

But financially, it’s not a smart move to lock out the pet market either, because surveys have shown people who keep pets:

  • Earn more money, on average, than those without.
  • Are willing to pay 7-14 per cent more than standard renters.
  • Often lock in longer leases, so can make more stable, responsible tenants.

To maximise rental yields, landlords should think about not just accepting pets, but actively chasing the fur dollar by making sure their property has a bit of animal magnetism.

Choose wisely

If you’re thinking about buying an investment property but haven’t taken the plunge, consider outdoor space and access to dog parks. These will make your home more attractive and valuable to the pet market.

Pull the rug out from under them

Carpeting is not easy to maintain in any rental property, but particularly one with pets.

Laminate ticks plenty of boxes as an alternative. It’s inexpensive, but can be stylish. It is also hard-wearing, easy to clean and non-porous, so it’s not going to let any accidental spills seep down to the floorboards.

Show them the door

Installing a dog or cat flap can help seal the deal for pet lovers and may help limit potential damage from animals scratching at doors to be let in or out. An outlay of a few hundred dollars can add the wow factor of a smart pet door. These pair with a collar-worn sensor to lock and unlock the door flap as pets approach.

Fence it

A secure, fully fenced garden is a huge selling point for people with pets (and toddlers).

While you’re at it, it may also be worthwhile checking your yard for common plants that may be toxic to animals. Many types of lilies, the popular purple and white flowering tree yesterday, today and tomorrow (Brunfelsia pauciflora) and agave can all cause illness if ingested.

Be open to suggestions

Let your tenants know you are open to them installing pet-friendly additions, provided they get permission. Done correctly, these may add value for future tenants.

Target the market

There are specific websites for pet-friendly rentals. Ensure you advertise on these to maximise your market and rental income potential.

Keep it simple

Supplying useful equipment can make a big difference, particularly to maintaining your property. If you have a lawn you’d like looked after, make it simple by providing scoopers and even a doggy compost system. There are several types of compost bins designed specifically to break down pet poo. Here’s a fun fact – in the US pet droppings in common outdoor areas of rental properties are such an issue that companies (including one called PooPrints) actually make money linking stray poos to pets via DNA analysis. The system is used to police large apartment complexes, where all pets must submit to a cheek swab for reference when they move in.

Cover your assets

Lastly, check whether your landlord’s insurance covers you for any damage caused by pets. With more States passing pet-friendly rental laws, coverage for pet-related incidents is being offered as standard on some policies. Do your homework to make sure you don’t end up holding the doggy bag. Thinking of investing? Call to run through a range of options for getting into the rental market.

What’s the state of the State’s rental laws?

ACT: In 2019 pet-friendly tenancy laws were enacted, which meant landlords could not refuse tenants the right to keep pets unless they applied to a State tribunal and demonstrated reasonable grounds, such as undue risk of injury or damage.

Victoria: In March 2020 new laws came into effect allowing tenants to keep pets, unless the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal upholds that the landlord has reasonable grounds for prohibiting them.

NT: In January this year the Territory adopted a similar system to Victoria and the ACT, with landlords needing to argue their case before a State tribunal to refuse tenants the right to keep a pet.

NSW: In August 2021 the Government moved to prevent blanket bans on pets in apartment buildings. Instead, there are limited grounds – such as damage to common property, menacing behaviour, persistent noise and odour – under which an individual apartment owner may be prevented from keeping pets. However, renters in both apartments and houses still face the obstacle of landlords. While existing laws don’t prevent pets, or require tenants to ask permission to keep them, landlords can, and often do, include a no-pets clause in lease agreements.

Queensland: State Parliament this month passed amendments that require landlords to give “reasonable grounds” for refusing to allow a tenant to keep a pet. Landlords would be able to impose reasonable conditions on pet leases, including that a pet be kept outside and the property fumigated and carpets cleaned at the end of tenancy.

WA: Landlords can refuse pets without a reason. WA is the only State with a pet bond of $260 to cover fumigation costs.

SA: Tenants must ask permission and landlords can refuse pets without giving a reason.

Any advice contained in this article is of a general nature only and does not take into account the objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular person. Therefore, before making any decision, you should consider the appropriateness of the advice with regard to those matters. Information in this article is correct as of the date of publication and is subject to change.