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ACT is pet-friendly, unless you’re renting

By Alexandra Craig 17 November 2015 54

cat

Canberra was recently found to be one of the most ‘pet friendly’ cities in Australia. Overall the ACT took out the crown for the most dog-friendly place in Australia and the third most friendly for cats.

The survey looked at things like outdoor spaces for pets, such as off-leash dog areas and dog parks, animal welfare provisions, rights for tenants with pets and availability of businesses for pets like groomers and dog walkers.

A lot of this I would agree with, except for the point about rights for tenants with pets. Last week I decided to have a quick browse of rental properties out of curiosity, and about 95% of them said ‘no pets’ on the advertisement. I am constantly seeing people trying to rehome pets because their new home won’t allow pets.

The Residential Tenancies Act 1997 does not mention the word ‘pet’ once. Nor does it mention ‘cat’ or ‘dog’. It’s not in there at all. So, as far as the legislation is concerned, Canberra does look pretty pet friendly. However it seems that a lot of property managers and investment property owners are extremely anti-pet. Often new tenants are made to sign an additional clause by the real estate agent that they will not have a pet. I find this really, really disappointing.

A few years back, I was renting an apartment in Kingston. I lived by myself and I was so lonely, I really wanted a cat. But I had signed the clause to say I couldn’t have a pet. I checked out the legislation and found that there was nothing in there stopping me from having a pet, so I took this up with my property manager. I told her straight up that I wanted a cat, was aware of the clause I had signed, but the legislation says nothing about this. I had been a great tenant so far, so in my mind there was absolutely no reason why they could deny me the right to have a cat. Fortunately, I was lucky that the owner of my apartment allowed me to have a cat on the condition that I got the apartment fumigated when I moved out. And my little ginger Penny came into my life.

I don’t know why more property managers and property owners aren’t more reasonable. Isn’t the whole point of having a rental bond being to pay for any damage at the end of a lease? Isn’t the whole point of rental inspections to keep an eye on things and identify any damage along the way?

RSPCA ACT CEO Tammy Ven Dange recently wrote a blog about the benefits of allowing pets in rental properties, telling of the time she spoke at a property management conference here in Canberra and asked the audience how many times a pet has caused significant damage to a property, and only two people put their hands up.

It was easy enough for me, because I already lived in a property before I got the pet so I was able to negotiate. For people who already own a pet it is very tricky, especially when the rental market is so tough. The property manager will simply pick someone with no pets over someone with a cat or a dog.

I think that property managers shouldn’t be able to refuse reasonable requests to bring pets (obviously if someone has a lot of pets and wants to move into a one bedroom apartment there will be a bit of a problem). Pets should be accepted if the prospective tenant has good rental references. I think most tenants would be more than happy to pay for fumigation or similar at the end of their lease if they were able to bring their pets.

Until there’s a greater amount of pet-friendly properties available, I don’t think the ACT can claim to be a pet-friendly city.


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ACT is pet-friendly, unless you’re renting
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ashmaree 11:05 pm 09 Feb 16

I’m aware of the difficulties in finding a pet-friendly rental, even more so after reading the comments on this thread, but I was wondering if anyone has any practical advice on how to find a pet friendly rental? Are there any agencies, apart from Distinct, who encourage landlords to consider pets? Is it better to look for a private rental – given some agencies appear to have blanket bans on pets? I have one cat and can provide a good reference from my previous rental on my responsible ownership/care of the property.

Maya123 10:31 am 23 Nov 15

MarieTherese said :

Spare a thought for your landlord. If you want to keep and help lots of cats you really need to get the landlord’s approval first or buy your own house.

Even without cats, it takes a lot of time, money and effort to bring a rental property up to a good standard after tenants have vacated. There is always a lot of maintenance and routine wear and tear that requires attention.

As a land lady I take a lot of trouble to make sure that the house is as homely and comfortable as possible for the new tenants. I have worked so hard to buy the rental house. It has taken years of hard work and saving.

To have someone move in and not consult with me first about keeping cats makes me so disappointed and sad. I would be even more disappointed if the tenant then thought that they could do as they pleased and bring more cats in without telling me that also.

Also, my rental house is opposite a reserve which is home to many small animals and birdlife. As cats are predatory animals all these small animals lives are at risk if cats kill them.

As a land lady I pay a land tax, rates, managing agents fees and then I am taxed on what little is left. I think all these costs take about 80% of the rent money. I need the small amount that is left after the rent to help pay for my children’s schooling, food and clothes.

If I have to repaint, recarpet and remulch the garden after the tenants with cats have left it would make life even harder and could take me years to pay off the damages.

If my tenants decide to have cats into the house without my permission, it will leave me nothing to live on. I would rather have the house vacant that have cats staying there that I know nothing about.

Fumigating the house when you leave simply won’t be enough. Spare a thought for your land lord and all their costs.

I do agree that a tenant needs to get permission to keep a pet before they bring one into the house, but what you describe that is needed after a pet has been there is exaggerated, unless it has been a bad tenant and then there will be other, likely worse issues to deal with. I suspect your reaction to tenants having a cat as a pet is how you feel about cats personally and it’s colouring your reaction to them (you didn’t mention dogs). I too have had a rental property and I too have had tenants that have had pets there, two tenants had dogs without permission and in one case, (two very large dogs) with permission. The house never needed fulminating or special cleaning because of the pet. The first tenant turned out to be a bad tenant and the dog was the least of the worry. Broken window and holes in the wall put the dog into perspective. The next tenant who kept the dog there without permission didn’t do any harm to the house by having the dog there and left the house clean. The third tenant who kept the two large dogs there (with permission) was a ‘dream’ tenant and the house was kept immaculately. The house never needed extra cleaning because of the pet, and the biggest issue I had with a house being left unclean, was with a tenant who had no pets.

oh_ 11:01 pm 22 Nov 15

OK, not a pet story, but as a former landlord, you unfortunately do need to err on the side of caution. My last tenant the agent said was very nice and worked as ‘a waitress and a dancer’. I suspected stripper but thought “don’t be judgemental, its a legal profession and she’ll make good money and be fine with the rent”. A few months in she fell behind and it never really got better. Dodgy boyfriend punched holes in a door, kept bins in the stairwell, scuff marks on the ceiling, garden dead, damage to some of the furniture (it was partly furnished). and god knows what else because my neighbour said “I wish i had your number overseas”. Still get debt collectors letters. I deducted the bond but it wasn’t enough for everything, so in future yes I will be judgemental and cautious. Sad but you do need to assume the worst and be pleasantly surprised if that’s not the case.

gooday 1:07 pm 22 Nov 15

While not the responsibility of Distinct granted so this is not a dig at this company, we have not had much luck getting said fence repaired. The tree’s that have started the fence on it’s downward spiral are not on our property.

Can you please send an email to act@distinctpm.com.au so I can look into the issues you are having with the fence for you.

MarieTherese 5:29 am 20 Nov 15

Spare a thought for your landlord. If you want to keep and help lots of cats you really need to get the landlord’s approval first or buy your own house.

Even without cats, it takes a lot of time, money and effort to bring a rental property up to a good standard after tenants have vacated. There is always a lot of maintenance and routine wear and tear that requires attention.

As a land lady I take a lot of trouble to make sure that the house is as homely and comfortable as possible for the new tenants. I have worked so hard to buy the rental house. It has taken years of hard work and saving.

To have someone move in and not consult with me first about keeping cats makes me so disappointed and sad. I would be even more disappointed if the tenant then thought that they could do as they pleased and bring more cats in without telling me that also.

Also, my rental house is opposite a reserve which is home to many small animals and birdlife. As cats are predatory animals all these small animals lives are at risk if cats kill them.

As a land lady I pay a land tax, rates, managing agents fees and then I am taxed on what little is left. I think all these costs take about 80% of the rent money. I need the small amount that is left after the rent to help pay for my children’s schooling, food and clothes.

If I have to repaint, recarpet and remulch the garden after the tenants with cats have left it would make life even harder and could take me years to pay off the damages.

If my tenants decide to have cats into the house without my permission, it will leave me nothing to live on. I would rather have the house vacant that have cats staying there that I know nothing about.

Fumigating the house when you leave simply won’t be enough. Spare a thought for your land lord and all their costs.

Maya123 6:30 pm 19 Nov 15

User777 said :

gooday said :

I own a Real Estate Agency (www.distinctpm.com.au) and we encourage owners to consider pets on application. Every pet, just like every tenant is different. Some of our best tenants have pets. Some owners just don’t want pets in their property and we respect that also.

Pets, just like children can cause a lot of damage. Some tenants try not to accept responsibility when their kids damage a property and some do the same with pets. It comes down to picking the right tenant in the first place. I can’t stress this enough, check everything twice!

It also comes down to tenants understanding their responsibilities at the commencement of the tenancy and being reminded of these during routine inspections. If a pet or a child causes damage at a property, regardless of the amount of bond on hand, the tenant is still responsible for any costs that exceed the bond. Agents and Owners should be prepared to go to ACAT (Tribunal) to get an order for any additional costs to be paid that aren’t covered by the bond, regardless of how the damage was caused, pet or otherwise. Another way to protect yourself is to have good landlords insurance (which you should have anyway).

We explain to tenants when they take on a property with a pet that they need to ensure that any droppings are collected, the pets must not annoy the neighbours and if they have a cat or a dog and it pees inside, the tenant may be required to replace carpet and underlay and even cover the cost of sealing the floor underneath if the damage has gone through. We also check behind window coverings for fur and in gardens for missing/damaged plants.

If you are worried about wear and tear, then pick a tenant with a pet that’s right for the property. If you’ve got a brand new property then I wouldn’t recommending a pet that would cause high wear and tear (like a big high energy dog), if you’ve got an older property with carpets that are already pretty tired then what’s the harm?

A great condition report is essential to protect yourself, if your condition report is full of ticks and crosses and doesn’t include photo’s or have much of a description then you are asking for trouble.

We do know a large number of Agents in the ACT have blanket “No Pets” policies, regardless of the owners preference – I do think that’s a little silly.

Having said all of the above, a pet is just another family member and the people on the tenancy agreement are responsible for the property and if its damaged by a pet, visitor or child the liability still remains with the tenant.

Not all pets are good, not all tenants are good. Picking a pet that suits the property is just as important as picking a tenant that suits the property.

The best way to protect your investment is to know your rights, be thorough in your inspections and work in partnership with your tenants for a positive outcome. Pick the right tenants and pets won’t be a problem.

The right tenant will actually report and fix any damage before you even become aware of it.

As a side note, did you know that ACAT treat every tenancy as ‘pets allowed’ unless a specific ‘No Pets’ clause has been added. ACAT have approved a no pets clause for use where additional endorsement is not required. If you don’t want pets at the property make sure it is clearly stated on the lease.

I generally wouldn’t recommend taking a brand new puppy or kitten into an investment property, but pets that have been toilet trained and are through the kitten/puppy stage (approx 2 years old) are generally OK. Even better if they come with their own pet reference.

I encourage owners to advertise “Pets considered on application” or “Pets suitable for apartment living will be considered” as this means the little old lady with a 15 year old lapdog that sleeps in the sun all day and is her only companion isn’t excluded.

Pets considered doesn’t mean you have to accept a pet, it just gives you an opportunity to see whats on offer. You may be pleasantly surprised.

Just my two cents worth 🙂

Cheers Chris

Hi – I actually live next door to a rental managed by your company.

The previous 2 tenants next door both had dogs. The last occupants had a large and small dog.
There has been ongoing issues with the tree’s/bushes growing thought the fence, said dogs pushing parts of the fence over and their dogs getting into our yard and making a right mess.

While not the responsibility of Distinct granted so this is not a dig at this company, we have not had much luck getting said fence repaired. The tree’s that have started the fence on it’s downward spiral are not on our property.

As dog owners ourselves, I’m not worried about renters next door having dogs so long as the owner of the property maintains the fences, does not allow tree’s to become entwined in said fence etc etc. We now need the fence replaced, are up for at least half of the cost obviously but said owners do not want to fix fence so now we have to put up with any dogs getting into our yard again and it just looks atrocious. Again not really a problem for Distinct our issue is with the owner it seems.

I take it that it is a wooden fence? Can you drill and screw it back together? My old wooden fence had MANY boards that had come adrift and there were large gaps. It appeared a mess. I purchased screws and drilled holes and then drilled in the screws. It was amazing how it improved, from desperate, looking very much like it needed replacement, to neat and sound. A few boards were replaced with new ones. Saved a lot of money. And if I can fix a fence, so can most people. The trees growing through are a bigger problem, but can often be cut back and hacked into. At my last house we had big privet bushes in the neighbouring (rented) property destroying the fence. It was easy to get to, as they had pushed boards off. The privet was hacked back, (and, um, strangely a large section of the weed then just died) and the boards were screwed back into place. I never asked for payment from neighbours as the cost was not huge and the hassle of claiming half of the small cost was not worth it. Besides, it makes for good neighbourly relationships.

Ghettosmurf87 3:26 pm 19 Nov 15

MarkE said :

Back on the pets issue. We need a tenant to sue a landlord over the pet issue on a human rights violation. Pay me a million dollars over the depression you caused me over the loss of my pet. Anyone out there feeling depressed, talk to your lawyer.

They wouldn’t have a leg to stand on as there would have been no loss of pet. The homeowner would have had to sign the contract acknowledging that they would not have pets, but have the option not to sign the contract and live elsewhere. No one holds a gun to their head and says “you must live here” and therefore you have to get rid of your dog.

MarkE 3:17 pm 19 Nov 15

My wife and I sold our house in Sydney and successfully rented with 3 dogs. You simply disregard what the advertisement says and put in the application noting our 3 elderly poodles do no damage.

After the impending property crash we will buy a property portfolio and make pet ownership compulsory in our properties.

What? You didn’t know the property market is about to crash, falling 30% to 50% and remain down for years? The ‘elephant in the room’ for world interest rates is the US 10 year bond that is currently running at 2.2% (not good for a 10 year investment. The US 30 year bond is only 3.0%.) When the US bond market crashes world interest rates will rise and that will push mortgage rates up quickly. It would only take a few months for Australian interest rates to rise above 9%. The property market will be immediately flooded with mortgage defaults and there is nothing the Reserve Bank or anyone else could do about it.

Back on the pets issue. We need a tenant to sue a landlord over the pet issue on a human rights violation. Pay me a million dollars over the depression you caused me over the loss of my pet. Anyone out there feeling depressed, talk to your lawyer.

Kat_ACT 2:51 pm 19 Nov 15

I have never had a problem renting anywhere with two dogs, although they both had passed away before I moved to Canberra. One real estate in QLD required three references specifically for my dogs and this has worked in my favour ever since. Everywhere I’ve lived I’ve asked vets, real estate agents, neighbours, dog trainers, etc for references and I’ve never been refused any rental I’ve been interested in.

Wherearetherealliberals 1:27 pm 19 Nov 15

We’ve had 3 different rental properties in Canberra over the last 20 years and have always allowed our tenants to have pets. I’ve found that people are so grateful that we don’t have a problem with pets that they take particular care of the property. Haven’t had a bad tenant yet.

User777 12:57 pm 19 Nov 15

gooday said :

I own a Real Estate Agency (www.distinctpm.com.au) and we encourage owners to consider pets on application. Every pet, just like every tenant is different. Some of our best tenants have pets. Some owners just don’t want pets in their property and we respect that also.

Pets, just like children can cause a lot of damage. Some tenants try not to accept responsibility when their kids damage a property and some do the same with pets. It comes down to picking the right tenant in the first place. I can’t stress this enough, check everything twice!

It also comes down to tenants understanding their responsibilities at the commencement of the tenancy and being reminded of these during routine inspections. If a pet or a child causes damage at a property, regardless of the amount of bond on hand, the tenant is still responsible for any costs that exceed the bond. Agents and Owners should be prepared to go to ACAT (Tribunal) to get an order for any additional costs to be paid that aren’t covered by the bond, regardless of how the damage was caused, pet or otherwise. Another way to protect yourself is to have good landlords insurance (which you should have anyway).

We explain to tenants when they take on a property with a pet that they need to ensure that any droppings are collected, the pets must not annoy the neighbours and if they have a cat or a dog and it pees inside, the tenant may be required to replace carpet and underlay and even cover the cost of sealing the floor underneath if the damage has gone through. We also check behind window coverings for fur and in gardens for missing/damaged plants.

If you are worried about wear and tear, then pick a tenant with a pet that’s right for the property. If you’ve got a brand new property then I wouldn’t recommending a pet that would cause high wear and tear (like a big high energy dog), if you’ve got an older property with carpets that are already pretty tired then what’s the harm?

A great condition report is essential to protect yourself, if your condition report is full of ticks and crosses and doesn’t include photo’s or have much of a description then you are asking for trouble.

We do know a large number of Agents in the ACT have blanket “No Pets” policies, regardless of the owners preference – I do think that’s a little silly.

Having said all of the above, a pet is just another family member and the people on the tenancy agreement are responsible for the property and if its damaged by a pet, visitor or child the liability still remains with the tenant.

Not all pets are good, not all tenants are good. Picking a pet that suits the property is just as important as picking a tenant that suits the property.

The best way to protect your investment is to know your rights, be thorough in your inspections and work in partnership with your tenants for a positive outcome. Pick the right tenants and pets won’t be a problem.

The right tenant will actually report and fix any damage before you even become aware of it.

As a side note, did you know that ACAT treat every tenancy as ‘pets allowed’ unless a specific ‘No Pets’ clause has been added. ACAT have approved a no pets clause for use where additional endorsement is not required. If you don’t want pets at the property make sure it is clearly stated on the lease.

I generally wouldn’t recommend taking a brand new puppy or kitten into an investment property, but pets that have been toilet trained and are through the kitten/puppy stage (approx 2 years old) are generally OK. Even better if they come with their own pet reference.

I encourage owners to advertise “Pets considered on application” or “Pets suitable for apartment living will be considered” as this means the little old lady with a 15 year old lapdog that sleeps in the sun all day and is her only companion isn’t excluded.

Pets considered doesn’t mean you have to accept a pet, it just gives you an opportunity to see whats on offer. You may be pleasantly surprised.

Just my two cents worth 🙂

Cheers Chris

Hi – I actually live next door to a rental managed by your company.

The previous 2 tenants next door both had dogs. The last occupants had a large and small dog.
There has been ongoing issues with the tree’s/bushes growing thought the fence, said dogs pushing parts of the fence over and their dogs getting into our yard and making a right mess.

While not the responsibility of Distinct granted so this is not a dig at this company, we have not had much luck getting said fence repaired. The tree’s that have started the fence on it’s downward spiral are not on our property.

As dog owners ourselves, I’m not worried about renters next door having dogs so long as the owner of the property maintains the fences, does not allow tree’s to become entwined in said fence etc etc. We now need the fence replaced, are up for at least half of the cost obviously but said owners do not want to fix fence so now we have to put up with any dogs getting into our yard again and it just looks atrocious. Again not really a problem for Distinct our issue is with the owner it seems.

rubaiyat 9:00 pm 18 Nov 15

Zultan said :

Seems weighted in favour of landlords to me.

Landlord keeps bond == comes out of renters pocket.
Landlord replaces carpet == tax deduction
Landlord repaints == tax deduction

And usually the landlord loses a fist full of money because the bond does not cover the cost of repairs, repainting and lost rental.

Replacing the carpet or repainting too often is not something the ATO accepts and you make it sound like the tax deduction pays for the whole deal, it is only a fraction of the cost and even worse may have to be depreciated over up to 10 years so only a small deduction over a long period of time.

I got rid of my rental property exactly for these reasons, and advise against rental properties as an investment. Too many bad tenants, too much unlet gaps and expensive repairs. Tenants are their own worst enemies and do not understand why landlords would rather have no-one in the place than someone who is going to cost them a lot of money, time and trouble. Believe me we love good tenants, if only they weren’t so hard to find and keep.

Vehs 7:16 pm 18 Nov 15

Alexandra Craig said :

– one from someone who has an indoor cat, one from someone with no pets, one from someone who has a small dog, and one from someone who has a giant dog. Obviously the giant dog is not a good match for this property so they are ruled out and that is fair enough. If the person with the cat and the person with the small dog both have good rental references, why potentially lose the chance for a good tenant just because they have a pet?

Shows how much you know about dogs, if I had a townhouse with a choice of a Greyhound or a JRT in my yard I’d choose the Greyhound 😉

I had a German Shepherd Dog when I was living with my parents and rather than try to find a rental I just bought a house, I’ve since rented that and other properties out to people with pets and, in line with what others have said, it’s the kids that have caused more issues and will be something I consider going forward.

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