Shift in attitude on pets in rentals – The West Australian

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Tamra CarrThe West Australian
Pet bans have been less prevalent in the last three or four years, according to Ray White Whiteman & Associates Principal David Whiteman.
Camera IconPet bans have been less prevalent in the last three or four years, according to Ray White Whiteman & Associates Principal David Whiteman. Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto.

Pet bans are gradually becoming less common across Perth, according to industry figures, as landlords slowly change their attitudes towards accepting man’s best friend into their homes.

Already challenging the idea that pets are messy is the Australian Capital Territory, Northern Territory and Victoria, which have all forced landlords to permit pets on properties unless they have a good reason for refusal.

The Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) has also suggested there is little rationale for banning animals in homes, with its recent report claiming property damage in households with pets was no more likely than damage without pets.

Ray White Whiteman & Associates Principal David Whiteman, who has an energetic blue heeler named Reggie, said many property owners were coming around to the idea of allowing pets in their rentals.

“Pet bans have been less prevalent in the last three or four years, especially as people grow to be more understanding around mental health and the benefits of having pets around,” he said.

“Pets these days are considered to be a member of the family and an important part of peoples’ lives, so it’s no wonder these attitudes are changing.

“That said, ‘no dogs in the house’ rules are pretty common.”

Mr Whiteman said a big reason property owners were hesitant about pets was because they could contribute to the wear and tear of the home and it might frustrate landlords by digging through gardens which had been maintained to the tune of thousands of dollars.

He said there were shocking stories that made owners wary, but if the time was taken to find responsible tenants then a lot of potential issues could be avoided.

“You can minimise a lot of problems if you do your due diligence in the tenant selection process,” Mr Whiteman said.

“I think the writing is on the wall when it comes to pets in properties, and we’ll start to see action like we’ve seen in Victoria.

“If so, we’ll work out how to manage it best with responsible pet owners.

“It’s not the boogeyman people think it is.”

According to the AHURI research, some 60 per cent of Australian households have a pet and about 15-25 per cent of surrenders are because an owner can’t find an accommodating rental.

About 52 per cent of people who give up their pets are tenants and 40 per cent are homeowners who have typically bought into strata.

Swinburne University of Technology Lead Researcher Wendy Stone said choosing to offer pet-friendly housing could actually strengthen a landlord’s ability to regulate and monitor activity in their properties by reducing the likelihood of tenants keeping pets without consent.

“While landlords frequently cite concerns about property damage for refusing pets, there is little evidence to support this,” she said.

“There are mechanisms, such as insurances and pet bonds, available to manage risks and these costs are currently borne by tenants.

“Indeed, there is some evidence that pet-friendly rentals return higher rents and are leased more easily than equivalent-quality properties that do not allow pets.”

While attitudes among Perth property owners may gradually be changing, the State Government may speed up that process with its current review of the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA).

The review, which was launched last year, looks to update the state’s landlord-friendly legislation.

“Given the increasingly long-term nature of renting for many in the community, a proposal in the RTA review – currently open for submissions – aims to give more certainty to tenants,” Consumer Protection Commissioner Lanie Chopping said after the review was launched.

“It is proposed to bring Western Australia in line with Victoria and the ACT by allowing tenants to keep pets at the premises unless the lessor applies for an order confirming it would be unreasonable within 14 days of receiving the request.

“The proposal would continue allowing lessors to charge a pet bond to cover any potential pest infestation.”

The consumer protection moves have been opposed by REIWA, with President Damian Collins claiming the current practice was fair and reasonable.

“Unfortunately there have been times where pets have significantly damaged a property, and all you’re allowed to charge is a $260 additional pet bond,” he said.

“We don’t think there should be any change, but if there are changes, there needs to be some strict safeguards for landlords because ultimately it’s their property and they’re the ones who get the bills for damages if they can’t recover it from the bond or the tenant.”

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