Originally published – Property Options Australia Blog © 2006 – 2009
In this installment we will continue to look at aspects of buying a new home in Australia that will be a perfect fit for both you and your pet.
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Having A Bigger House Will Help With Lots Of Pets
If you do have a lot of animals living in your home then you will probably want to find a home with as much square footage as you can comfortable afford. Having more room in your home will make it easier to give everyone in your home enough space and ensure that you are not tripping over each other.
When You Need A Yard
Larger yards can be a huge asset if you have pets. The extra room that a yard provides can be a huge benefit to you as well as your pet. Another benefit of having a yard is that your pet will have a place to relieve himself without you needing to take him or her out for a walk. This can be a big time saver for you. Having a fenced in yard is an even bigger asset because it will help keep you pet contained and safe.
When You Can’t Get A Yard
If you are not able to get a property with a yard for your pets due to the area where you are living or your budget then is will be important to find a house that is in close proximity to a park or other area where you can take your pet for a walk several times a day. Living close to a park or other grassy area will make your life as a pet owner much easier.
Using these tips and ideas will make finding a pet friendly home in Australia easier than ever.
For pet-owners, the need to find a rented property where their four-legged, eight-legged, no-legged, winged or finned friend will be welcome adds an extra twist to the house-hunting process.
Not all landlords are amenable to the idea of taking on tenants with pets, fearing that they will damage furniture, fixtures and fittings, or leave flea infestations when they depart. It can pose a serious challenge to pet-owners looking to rent, especially in properties in popular urban areas. So how do you go about finding a home where your pet will be welcome?
No pets, no fair
Since the Office of Fair Trading published a welcome set of guidelines on fair and unfair terms in rental contracts in 2001, it’s no longer quite so common to come across upfront ‘no pets’ specifications in lettings ads.
Many reputable letting agencies have added to their contracts words to the effect that landlords will not withhold consent for a pet unless it’s unreasonable.
And although many landlords still won’t entertain the idea of dogs inside their properties, it at least gives you the chance to ask. According to Amanda Hodgson of John D. Wood Lettings, the best approach is to be upfront and honest from the start:
“If someone says, I want to take the house, this is my offer, this is my start date and by the way I have a dog, then we just tell the landlord and they can consider the whole offer.
“But when someone waits until they get the contract that says ‘no pets’, to say that they have a dog, it looks like they’ve been trying to hide something. And that makes it more difficult to negotiate.”
Premium pet rate
At John D. Wood, like many lettings agents, they increase pet-owners’ deposits from six weeks’ to ten weeks’ rent, in order to cover possible repair and maintenance costs post-tenancy.
And a strict ‘pets’ clause in their lettings contract covers every eventuality, from damaged carpets and curtains to scratched floors, and from flea infestations to territorial spraying – with no ‘save wear and tear’ caveat for damage or wear caused by pets, but instead a presumption of replacing new for old when necessary.
But even with all this built-in protection for the landlord, it isn’t always easy for pet-owners to find a suitable place or, sometimes, any place at all.
“We’ve currently got a tenant looking for a one-bedroom flat,” Amanda explains, “but they’ve got an Alsatian, and since one-beds tend to be quite small, it’s been hard to find them anything.
“We do have one property, but you have to go through the flat to get to the garden, and that landlord’s not particularly happy to take an Alsatian in case it comes in with muddy feet.”
And it isn’t only for dogs that renting can turn out to be a dog’s life. Ground-floor flats can spark stiff competition between cat-owners, keen to be able to allow their cats in and out with ease, and it’s not uncommon for cat-lovers to specify properties on the ground floor, according to Sean Banister of Haart Lettings.
“Cats are easier to rent to than dogs are, and then anything that’s not a dog or a cat – snakes, spiders, reptiles – isn’t really a problem, because they’re all kept confined in glass cabinets and so on”, he says, “and that’s fine for landlords. Anything that’s not hairy and isn’t going to scratch the floors or the furniture is usually fine.”
And he points out, lest animal-lovers become offended by a landlord’s refusal to allow them pets, that since many landlords are themselves leaseholders, with a freeholder specifying the terms of the lease, it isn’t always their decision to make.
“In the majority of circumstances, landlords are businessmen and aren’t going to jeopardise a future let and more money for the sake of just being difficult.”
Investment landlords, with less emotional investment in their property than owner-occupiers, can sometimes be more amenable to pets indoors; and some tenants have also found that money talks, higher deposits aside.
As Sean Banister says, “If a tenant can offer a bit of extra money to help with the costs of post-tenancy work, or say £10 more than the asking price, then the landlord’s probably going to say yes.”
At County Homesearch, which specialises in seeking out suitable properties across the UK for clients relocating from near and far, managing director Jonathan Hawood finds finding properties with pet-friendly landlords something of a headache.
“A tenant who has a pet is restricting the properties available to them significantly,” he says. “There are dog-friendly landlords about. But not as many as there are non-dog-friendly landlords.
“And it isn’t only the narrower choice of properties open to pet-owners that worries him, on behalf of his clients, but also the quality of property they can expect to find.
“The properties are not up to the calibre of non-pet and non-children properties,” he says.
“People have to put up with furniture that has been weed on, clawed and plucked; doors which are scruffy and carpets which are stained. And much as I like dogs, there’s also that smell of dog to contend with.”
With the new ‘pet passports’ easing the way for tenants from abroad wanting to bring their beloved pets along too, agents and specialists such as County Homesearch are seeing increasing numbers of prospective renters from the USA, France and elsewhere, who want to rent homes where their pets are as welcome as they are.
And if pet passports sound like a case of bureaucracy working overtime, written references for pets are another form of wacky new paperwork that, while it may sound absurd, has a very useful purpose.
References, written by a previous landlord to confirm that your pet has been no trouble in a previous tenancy and that the property was left in a good state on your departure, have been known to swing a prospective landlord in favour of a pet-owning tenant.
You’d better just hope that your own glowing references aren’t outshone by your paragon of a pet’s written credentials.