Lifestyle - 6 May, 2020

Pets and apartments – the ultimate balancing act

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Those with a furry best friend know just how important it is to get a pet approved apartment, but for a number of reasons, it can be quite difficult to navigate.

Pet owners are often faced with problems like strata rules, inflexible landlords and specific government regulations. Here, we break down all you need to know about pets and home rentals. 


Getting ‘pet friendly’ properties

Finding pet-friendly rentals is not always a walk in the park. It is not compulsory for pets to be mentioned in rental agreements, so it’s usually at the owner’s discretion to what they will allow.

Some landlords/property managers will refuse to have pets in the property due to previous negative experiences of tenants who had destructive pets, or simply ‘just because’. There are also those who have a pet-friendly policy but do not publicly disclose this when advertising the property. That means they might allow one tenant to have a pet if they deem the owner is responsible enough, yet refuse another. It could also be the difference in animal types. For instance, a small bird might be allowed but not a dog.

pets and apartments - the ultimate balancing act

If you’re looking into a property for you and a pet, ensure that the rental is suitable first before approaching the landlord with the request. For example, a big, active dog would definitely be unsuitable for an apartment with no balcony space, and your request will be most likely rejected. If you deem the space to be suitable, approach the topic of pets with your landlord/property manager, and ask the question. You can even prepare a ‘pet reference’ that includes details of your pet such as age, temperament and vaccinations so that they feel more confident about letting your pet move in. If you were in a rental property previously, it would be beneficial to include references from a previous property manager or landlord who can speak credibly to your pet’s good behaviour.

Before moving into a rental property, all tenants must seek to have written approval from the landlord. This agreement details the number of pets that have been approved to reside in the residence. Without this, a tenant cannot allow any animal onto the property, and if they do so, they will be in breach of the rental contract. Even if the owner gives permission to have a pet on the property, there are certain By-Laws on Strata Title properties that can restrict dwellers from keeping pets. There are also restrictions on the areas that a pet can access. Therefore, tenants should make themselves aware of the By-Laws surrounding pet ownership before signing a rental agreement regardless of what the owner says.

What to consider before having a pet in an apartment

Pet energy levels

Pets with lower energy levels are easier to manage in small areas like apartments, especially those with no balconies. Active breeds of dogs like those who need more exercise and space are generally poorer choices because of the amount of exercise they require. It will also be harder to transport them to and from. Before you sign your agreement, have a chat with your vet about how much exercise is enough for your pet, and if the space is adequate enough for them.

Noise levels

Some pets are more vocal than others, which can cause problems in apartments with neighbours close by or with thin walls. Pets make noise for many reasons, including when they feel lonely, under-stimulated, hyper, or simply when they hear things going on nearby. If this is the case, you should consider looking at pets that are not known to be particularly vocal, such as rabbits and cats. On the other hand, there are also certain types of animals who are sensitive to loud noises – these would also not be suitable to apartment living.

The rental property

Before you commit to signing the rental agreement, you should thoroughly inspect the property itself. If you have a dog, check if the balconies are safe for the size of the dog and ensure that your pet cannot walk or fall within the gaps. Ask yourself if the flooring is suitable for your type of pet and if need be, check that there are nearby places for exercise. You should also discuss with your landlord if you are able to make pet-friendly modifications to the property if needed.

Related: Survival Guide: Fitting into your new neighbourhood

Toileting space for your pet

Consider accessibility to toileting space for your pet before having them in your unit. You will need to make any necessary arrangements for your pet if space is unavailable, especially for dogs as they cannot hold onto their bladder whilst you’re away from the property.

pets and apartments - the ultimate balancing act

The current laws in place for pet owners in each state

New South Wales:

There are currently no enforcing laws in the Residential Tenancies Act that prohibit you from having a pet in a rental property, but landlords can add their own rules and regulations into leasing agreements (that then become contractual binding). NSW Fair Trading recommends speaking to your landlord first prior to moving any pets in.

Victoria:

Recently passed reforms to Victoria’s State Tenancy laws will give renters the right to live with a pet. You will still need to seek permission from your landlord, but the new policies are in the favour of renters and will make it difficult for owners to refuse.

Australian Capital Territory:

The ACT government has recently passed new regulations to allow renters the ability to keep pets, regardless of the landlord’s decision. If a landlord wants to refuse a pet, they will have to seek permission from the government. 

Queensland:

Under the current laws, renters need to seek written approval from owners to keep a pet. However, the Queensland State government is expected to introduce changes to the Residential Tenancies Act later this year to allow all renters to keep a pet.

South Australia:

Renters must seek permission from their landlords to keep a pet or agree to certain conditions outlined in the rental agreement.

Tasmania:

The laws in Tasmania are the same as South Australia, in that renters must seek permission from their landlord before moving in with a pet.

Western Australia:

Renters can only keep pets in the property if the landlord consents and the pet is mentioned in the lease. Landlords are also entitled to charge $260 to cover the costs of any cleaning when you move out.

Northern Territory:

Much like New South Wales, there is no specific legislation that relates to tenants and their pets, so the decision weighs on the landlord. If there is a ‘no pet clause’, you can negotiate with the owner or appeal to the Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NTCAT)

What the RSPCA advises

There are many articles you can read on the RSPCA website that can give you useful insights into balancing pets and rental agreements. Before you decide to apply for an apartment rental or have a pet for your rental property, RSPCA recommends reading their publication, ‘Should I share my apartment with a dog?

RSPCA tips for those wanting to rent with a pet:

  • If you’re negotiating for birds, supply an image of their enclosure in your pet resume
  • Introduce your pet to your potential landlord so they feel more comfortable with approving them
  • Supply your landlord with a written agreement that you will pay for any damages that are caused to the property by your pet. You could also offer a pet bond or cleaning fee after the rental term ends.
  • Negotiate an agreement with your landlord for more frequent inspections if need be to ensure your pet has not caused any damage.

Tips to keep your pet entertained

pets and apartments - the ultimate balancing act

Establish enriching environments so your pet is adequately stimulated inside the property. Some ideas the RSPCA recommends to keep your pet entertained include:

  • Have a wide range of toys available to rotate daily so that your pet doesn’t get bored of the same activity every day.
  • Use a food-dispensing and treat toy to keep your pet active and curious.
  • Utilise a pet daycare service if your pet enjoys the company of others
  • If you have a dog, regularly take them to the park to socialise and play tug games/fetch.
  • Employ a walker to walk your pet if you do not have the time or during the day when you’re not at home.
  • If your pet is free-roaming, try scattering their food around the apartment for them to find, rather than having them eat from a bowl. This helps with stimulating activity and keeping them busy for the day (just be cautious of portion sizes if you have more than one pet). 
  • Freezing food with water in clean, empty containers for hot days whilst you’re at work
  • Take your dog to training classes and ensure to use positive reinforcement training methods when training at home.

Words by Joanne Ly

Related: Hacks to make your rental feel like home

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