New laws allowing pets into rental properties have granted much-needed relief to many of Victoria’s renters. However, if you’re a landlord and concerned about the effect a pet may have on your property, here are some protective measures worth considering.
Rental reforms in Victoria have loosened restrictions on bringing pets into rental properties. However, some landlords are worried about what this will do to the condition of their property. There are, however, simple and minimal adjustments that can pet-proof your place.
These simple changes will ensure you, your tenants and their pets can live happily ever after.
1. Chat to your tenant
The very first step should be to have a friendly chat to your tenant. What kind of pet do they have? Is it strictly an indoor/outdoor pet? Will it climb, fly, shed fur, scratch or chew?
Find out the needs of their pet in order to manage both of your expectations and perhaps you can tailor the property accordingly without having to invest too much.
Tenants with pets may require a little bit more thought for a landlord. Picture: Ellen Smith
Remember, it’s largely up to your tenant to repair any pet-related damage upon the end of the lease (unless it’s urgent), so this is in the interest of both parties.
Chatting to your tenant can also allow you the opportunity to give some pet-friendly tips, which will help keep the property in good shape, including:
Mats – a food bowl mat or rug can stop floorboards and tiles from being scratched when hungry dogs are tucking in.
Grooming – well groomed animals will leave less hair around the house, so a chat about coat care could protect your air conditioner filters.
Baby gates – encourage tenants to invest in baby gates to section off rooms. This limits the areas where damage can occur and is especially useful in houses with carpeted areas.
Toilet locks – tying the lid down will not only stop animals drinking from the bowl, a potentially hazardous water source, it will also reduce damage and scratching on the toilet seat.
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2. Get a dog door
Speaking of inexpensive adjustments, consider installing a dog door.
Dogs and cats are likely to claw at doors if they want to get in or out, so save a few scratched panels or broken fly screens with this easy fix.
It’s up to the tenant to reverse any pet-related damage to a rental property. Picture: Kate Hunter
In fact, a dog door is just one of a few simple fixes, which help keep a pet-friendly rental in better shape for longer.
Flooring – remove carpet and install tiles or floorboards to avoid allergens and lingering odours.
Improve tiling – raise tiles several inches up the walls in common areas to ward against furry friends who feel the need to rub their body or mark their territory.
Backyard – replace a section of the lawn with gravel. This will attract dogs and will help protect grassy areas.
Garage dog flap – if you are worried about security this trick allows your tenant to keep the dog comfortable in the carport, but will not create security issues as you cut off access to the whole house.
Scratch protection – attach acrylic strips to the bottom-half of doors to stop excited animals from scratching the wood.
Remove dangerous plants – poisonous plants can hurt pets as well as children. Make sure you remove them to avoid any chance of harm and possible legal action.
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3. Get insurance
Most landlords should have some form of insurance protection in the event of mishaps, but some companies have extended their policies to cover for pet damage.
They may be cute, but pets can cause serious property damage. Insurance protects against the inevitable. Picture: Kate Hunter
“Preventing where you can is great, but it’s good to have the insurance there if you do need to draw on it,” RACV Landlord Insurance spokesperson, Simon Hasell, explains.
“RACV Landlord Insurance covers pet damage to building and contents, so things like if a pet runs through a screen door, or chews on the bottom of a door frame will be covered, less the standard bond amount received by the tenant.”
Insurance is key for landlords but it is not the only safeguard when it comes to furry tenants.
Landlords can also adopt the following tips, so they do not fall short when damage occurs.
Deposit – include a pet deposit on top of the bond to pay for any damage caused by cats and dogs.
Puppy training – ask for evidence dogs have undergone a credible course to ensure they are house trained.
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4. Conduct regular inspections
Protect yourself by conducting thorough, regular property inspections, and make sure you have a clear, up-to-date condition report before new tenants arrive.
Once the tenant’s lease is up, they will be responsible for repairing damage beyond wear and tear, as well as cleaning and fumigating as required.
It pays for landlords to be thorough before an animal moves and property managers should:
Take photos – keep a record of what condition doors, floors, screens and blinds are in before a pet tenant moves in. This will provide back up if a tenant disputes damage.
Screen pets – don’t be afraid to request a meeting with any potential pet tenants to ensure they are suitable for your property.
Documentation – check vaccination records and council registrations are up to date, as this indicates a conscientious owner.
5. Look to the future
The Victorian rental reforms may not come into effect until July 2020, so if you’re building an investment property now and want a steady stream of renters (who may bring pets!) in the future, consider your choice of flooring, doors, windows and carpets.
Opening your property up to renters with pets could increase competition for your lease. Picture: Kate Hunter
Finally, it’s important to note that you’re allowed to protest having pets on your property. You can appeal to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal for your right to refuse, within reason.