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Pet Owners Make Great Tenants

“I’m surrendering my pet because I am moving house.”

These are some of the saddest words we hear at RSPCA ACT and way too frequently. While Australia has one of the highest percentages of pet ownership in the world, there are still many people that would love to own a pet, but cannot because they are renting.

Last year, I spoke at a property management conference in Canberra. One of the questions I asked the audience was, “How many of you have first-hand experience with a pet causing significant damage to a property that you were managing?”  A show of hands only resulted in two people that could answer that question. When I asked, “How many of you have first-hand experience with children causing significant damage to a property that you were managing,” almost all of the hands went up in the room.

It is this false fear that many landlords have about pets that is reducing their potential candidates of great tenants and also displacing hundreds of pets a year in our community.  I can personally attest to this challenge as a renter myself. The difficulty of finding a decent home when you have a pet results in many people simple giving up and surrendering their animals to RSPCA ACT or other rescue groups.

At the same time, landlords are missing out on some great tenants and additional income by holding on to the notion that pets are bad for rentals. So here are 5 good reasons why landlords should consider pet owners as tenants:

  1. Pet owners are often willing to pay extra for the ability to bring their pets with them to a rental – people love their pets like family members. Many of them will willingly pay more for a decent home that allows them to take their pet with them.
  2. There’s more demand for pet friendly properties than people realise – during Canberra’s boom times, a landlord could put their rental on the market and have a phone calls within hours to see it. Today is more of a tenant’s market and therefore many properties are sitting vacant much longer.  By adding the words, “pets will be considered” to every advertisement, you’ll likely find a higher number of potential good tenants interested in the property.
  3. Tenants will generally want longer leases and to stay longer – it’s stressful for both the tenant and their pets to move and even harder to find another place that will allow pets. Therefore, a tenant with pets will likely stay longer. As an example, I personally signed a 6 month lease and have been in the same place for almost two years now.
  4. They tend to be more responsible since they are willing to take on additional responsibilities of a pet– with pet ownership comes additional responsibilities. While not all tenants will pass this test, individuals that have already demonstrated their capacity to care for something other than themselves tend to be fairly responsible.
  5. People who really want pets will have them anyway – Various studies around the world have said that 11 to 20% of pet owners who live in rental properties have a pet without their landlord’s permission. Acknowledging this and some of the other benefits above will remove the risk of this from occurring and could instead result in better tenants.

As I already pointed out, most horrible pet stories in rentals are exceptions that have turned into urban myths. If you are really concerned about this, there are easy ways to safeguard your property by adding a pet interview and agreement to your rental contract. Not all pets suit all homes, and therefore it would be silly not to do some sort of screening to ensure that you do mitigate your risks.

As with all generalities, there are certainly exceptions. However, it has been the case where the tales and tribulations of horrible pets in just a few tenanted homes has scared many landlords to the point that they are missing out on a valuable pool of reliable tenants that they will never meet.

Tammy Ven Dange is the CEO of RSPCA ACT. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram via @tvendange.