Should you rent your property to a tenant who has a pet? Lisa Indge suggests how to avoid being dogged by problems
If you own an investment property, inevitably at some point you will be asked whether you will accept a tenancy application from someone with a pet.
Some landlords have a blanket ‘no’ which can, of course, exclude some good quality tenants from renting your property and thereby avoiding a potential vacancy or achieving a premium rental price.
It is getting harder and harder for tenants with pets to rent properties quite simply because some tenants with pets do the wrong thing. As such, it is quite likely that a potential tenant with a pet or pets may pay a premium rental price.
When it comes to considering an applicant with pets, the following issues need to be addressed:
• Are they good quality tenants?
• What sort of pet(s) do they have?
• How old is the pet?
• Do they have references for the pet?
First and foremost, they need to be high quality applicants and have sufficient income to pay the rent.
Then consider the age of the pet: If the potential tenant is thinking about getting a puppy or kitten, the answer must be no. If they do not yet own the pet this means they have no track record as pet owners. Puppies in particular take a lot of training and go through a fairly dangerous (for your property!) chewing faze. Experienced, mature pet owners are the best bet.
Exactly what are the risks of having pets?
• Damage from chewing, digging and urine stains on carpets
• Smells, fleas
• Wear and tear to your floor coverings
• Disruption of quiet enjoyment for your neighbours
You can mitigate some of these risks by having your agent complete a comprehensive condition report and take extensive photos of the property prior to the new tenant occupying with their beloved pet.
All Residential Tenancy Agreements that include pets should have an additional special condition to cover fumigation for fleas, steam cleaning carpets, deodorisation, rectification of any damage and the right to rescind the approval if necessary.
After you have put in place all of the provisions available to protect you and your property, what happens if it all goes wrong? For example, let’s say your agent completes a routine inspection of the property and finds the tenant’s dog has been digging in the garden or has scratched the back door.
You must advise your agent to act immediately.
Do not allow these issues to be left until the tenant vacates as you may then be put in a position where the tenant refuses and you must go to the tribunal. This is a cost to you and there is no guarantee that the tribunal will order the tenant to rectify.
These two examples are pretty clear as far as attributing blame is concerned; however, claw scratches on floorboards are a different story. The tenant may simply claim wear and tear.
We suggest the best action is to raise the issues with the tenant immediately and insist on rectification or a separate signed document agreeing to complete the required works and, most importantly, accepting responsibility for the pet having caused the damage.
Ask your agent to assess the risks versus the rewards for a particular scenario.
Here are some guidelines:
• Does the tenant work from home and therefore is able to care for and supervise the pet?
• Large dogs – say above 10kg – are likely to cause scratches to floorboards, so small dogs only
• Some breeds of dog do not smell or shed hair, such as poodles and poodle crosses
• Cats are generally low risk once they are past the kitten stage; urine stains on carpet are the biggest risk
In short, if there is a financial benefit to you such as a premium rent or minimisation of vacancy, then applicants with pets should be considered but only once the risks to your property have been assessed as low.
Remember, there are good and bad tenants everywhere regardless of whether a pet is involved. Don’t let it become a bone of contention; ensure your agent recommends the right type of tenants for you and your investment.
Lisa Indge is managing director of Let’s Rent – The Property Management Specialists