BEING a pet owner on the hunt for rental accommodation in Australia can be tough.

By Hayley Bottrell

BEING a pet owner on the hunt for rental accommodation in Australia can be tough. Every year many renters find themselves left to choose between their ideal home and their furry friends in a market place where rental vacancies are at their lowest in recent memory.

Now a study to find out why landlords systematically say no to animals is being conducted by Dr Emma Power from the University of Western Sydney’s School of Social Sciences and Psychology. It involves several welfare organisations and the real estate industry.

Dr Power has interviewed almost 700 pet owners for the study, Renting With Pets In Sydney, and has discovered that for the pet-loving population, renting is tough.

“We know that about 60 per cent of Australians have pets and that about a third of households rent,” Dr
Power said.

“So something I’d like to get to the bottom of with our study is; why wouldn’t agents and landlords want to be pet-friendly when it can really be a competitive advantage for your property?”

“I come at this from the angle of households. It has been proven in many studies that pets do actually increase the health and wellbeing of individuals. And with the rise of single-person households in Australian cities, pet ownership is becoming more popular.

“One of the big things to come out of the study so far has been that 64 per cent of those surveyed said that looking for a rental property while owning a pet was significantly more difficult than before they had an animal.”

Susannah Anderson of Di Jones Real Estate said “pet bonds” and “pet resumes” are becoming more common in Sydney as pet-lovers do what they can to find appropriate accommodation.

“We try to explain to our landlords that they want a top tenant who will pay good money and take care of their investment and just like tenants need to put on an application form how many people will be moving in, they should include animals too,” she said.

Ms Anderson said the pet-lover’s problem even extends beyond tenants, because buyers purchasing in apartment buildings that are not ear-marked as pet-friendly are also struggling.

“What I’ve found is that buyers want to be absolutely sure that they can take their pets with them and will do what they have to do prior to purchasing. It’s like finance, you wouldn’t buy a place unless your finance had been approved. They want to know that no body corporate will go back on the pet-friendly status,” she said.

But buyers and renters should be aware that pet bans can be overturned.

Troy Gunasekera, from the Property Club investor group said the answer for tenants and buyers was to be prepared.

“Tenants and buyers need to be aware that bodies corporate cannot absolutely prohibit the keeping of any animal in any circumstances,” he said.

“It’s true that not everyone likes pets, but `no pet’ policies are not hard and fast. We are starting to see more of independent adjudicators ruling against bodies corporate.”

* Know your local council restrictions: A standard rule is for a property of less than 600sq m, the maximum number of dogs that can be kept is two, regardless of size.
* Seek permission first: An applicant must have body corporate approval before bringing a pet into a scheme.
* The body corporate must be fair and reasonable: A refusal to grant permission for a pet should be based on consideration of the wellbeing of the animal, not the owner (eg refusing approval to house a miniature pony in a three-storey walk-up is reasonable).
* Check your lease agreement: Clauses could already be available in your lease for you to challenge the body corporate or landlord.
* Check with the owner: Before you go to the body corporate, you must first have the agreement of the landlord.
Source: The Property Club

Vet and director of Vetico, Ben Willcocks said pet references and pet bonds could help people convince landlords to be more pet friendly.

“I’m surprised the idea of a pet bond hasn’t gone through to the courts,” he said. “In a way it could be considered a form of discrimination because everyone has the right to enjoy home life as they want to whether they’re renters or not.”

Breed choice: Choose your breed carefully. You want to choose a breed which is suitable for most living arrangements. Criteria may include small to medium size, non-shedding, responsiveness to obedience training and so on. As a rule, any of the “oodles” are generally rental-friendly pets.

Obedience training: Take your pup through puppy pre-school and advanced obedience training, to ensure they are well behaved, house-trained pets.

General pet care: Ensure you maintain regular visits to your pup’s veterinarian, groomer, hydrobath, and so on. Keep the documentation, so you can show your potential landlord that you look after your pet, just as you will look after their apartment.

Preventable health: Keep your pet on regular worming, flea and tick prevention, and make sure you keep the documentation to show to your potential landlord if necessary.

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