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Almost 5.7 million Australian households reported having a pet at home, and yet only 5 per cent of landlords list their rental properties as pet friendly.


With such a high-rate of pet ownership in Australia and such low rates of pet-friendly properties available to rent, it is no surprise that Victorians are eagerly awaiting the proposed changes to the Residential Tenancies Act in relation to  animals in a rental property.


In the current climate, landlords are entitled to include a no pets clause in the lease agreement, although this is not enforceable by law.


The changes proposed by the state government in 2017 are set to overhaul current laws to allow animals in properties by default. This would mean pets are allowed in any rental unless landlords can prove their property is unsuitable for pets.


Although many Australians will welcome the change, it is important to be mindful that proposed changes are not expected to come in until 2019 and even then, tenants need to be wary of the possibility that the changes may not come through at all.


The proposed changes will allow more tenants to keep pets in their home and will ultimately reduce the amount of people who are lying about having a pet when applying for a property.


But what happens to tenants who are already caught in such a position, or to landlords who have tenants hiding pets in their property? Tenants who are currently keeping a pet against the wishes of their landlord are unlikely to understand the consequences of doing so or their rights.


Keeping a pet on property is likely to damage the property.


Tenants will argue that their pets are well behaved and will not cause any damages to the property, and yet pet damage that is found during routine inspections is the most common indicator that there is a hidden pet on the property.


Animals will typically leave tell tale signs such as animal paw prints on the walls, pet hair on the couch or inside sliding door tracks.


These are the kind of damages that can be easily fixed however pet damage can also be permanent. This kind of damage includes permanent stains to floors and carpet from pet urine, as well as bad odors which may be extremely difficult and expensive to remove.


Regardless of whether the proposed changes are passed, tenants need to be more conscious of the condition and be wary of potential damages to the rental property.


There is the additional risk of pet infestations as pets can carry fleas, ticks or other parasites from outdoor areas. These are just some of the considerations that tenants must be aware of with their animals, regardless of whether a property is pet friendly or not.


There is a process when caught with a pet or the pet causes unreasonable damage


Minor scuff marks on doors, walls and the floor is the kind of damage caused by pets that would generally be considered to be reasonable wear and tear.


The issue with this is that the rental bond might not be enough to cover the damage, and not all landlord insurance policies cover damage by pets, or they only cover up to $600. Tenants may be issued a Notice for Breach of Duty if the property has not been kept in a reasonably clean condition due to pets, or if the pets are causing a nuisance or damaging the property.


If the issues are not rectified within 14 days, the landlord can apply to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) for a compensation or compliance order. If the issue persists, the tenant may be served a Notice to Vacate due to these damages.


There are ways for property owners to allow pets and to keep their investments protected  


When tenants complain about lack of pet-friendly rentals available, they need to acknowledge that the property is a valuable investment to the landlord. The owner is most likely to dismiss pets because of the potential damage, however there are measures that can be taken to prevent devaluing a property or loss of income as a result of damage.


Pet clauses may be included in the tenant agreement to identify and limit the type and amount of pets that are allowed to be kept on premises. This manages the expectations of the tenant and legally protects the landlord in the event that damage occurs.


The clause will need to include an exit arrangement, such as tenants are responsible for steam cleaning the carpet and flea treating the premises on vacating, and are responsible for all pet-related damage costs.


Another way to protect the property is with a pet bond, whereby tenants may pay a pet bond in addition to their usual bond. This is in order to provide more security to landlords who accept pets into rental properties and be can be anywhere from two to four weeks rent, depending on the weekly rent amount.


For landlords, a pet bond can create reassurance that the tenant is willing to take responsibilities for damage caused by pets. It also helps increase tenants’ chances securing rental properties.


At the end of the day, pets can have a very positive influence on a home, therefore it’s one of the most important roles for the property manager to find a tenant and landlord that are compatible. Although proposed changes might change the ways in which pets are currently kept on a property, respecting the wishes of the other parties involved should stay the same.


About the author:


Bruce Oliver is the co-founder of Xynergy Realty, a Melbourne-based real estate agency with offices in Australia and Asia.



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